BBC series "Episodes" goes viral in Israel after machine translation error

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:31
Chinese to English
Every language is special... Jun 19, 2012

...but "my" language is just a bit more special than others.

I hate this old canard of "language X is more difficult to translate (by machine) than [French] because Y".

Hebrew is hard to translate by machine because every language is hard to translate by machine; because there aren't acres of decent training texts; and because machine translation users don't have the rudimentary knowledge that you have in French, to at least spot whether the words are upside down or not.


Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:31
Hebrew to English
Agree (and my language is Hebrew). Language wasn't the problem. Jun 19, 2012

Whilst Hebrew obviously holds a very special place in my heart and I'd love to pedal the belief that it is more troublesome, more complex to translate than X language because of whatever intricacies, it just isn't fair or accurate to spin it like that.

Any and all languages have the potential to come out of Google Translate in a laughable state. I think the likelihood increases if there is massive divergence between the source and target languages, and agreeing with Phil, if there aren't massive amounts of decent texts to capture for analysis.

In this case, GT's inadequacy did play a part, but only a small one.

GT by itself is pretty bad, only good in most cases for gist reading. It's a tool, which even in the right hands is only partially effective. However, a tool is only as good as the person who wields it....and this tragedy was clearly brought about by the fact that the person in charge of set design clearly had no inkling about Hebrew (and probably knows nothing about language in general).

They took something defective and just made it more defective.

So I really think that the media's focus on GT being at fault is misguided, the fault should at least be split 50/50.

[Edited at 2012-06-19 14:41 GMT]


Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:31
Dutch to English
+ ...
My experiences with Bing Jun 19, 2012

are better than with GT but nonetheless, you would think that they would ask a translator to at least verify the inscription, wouldn't you? I mean, the wages that they pay any of the people who worked on this (even the catering) would be a lot compared to reading a few words and correcting them. Would it even take five minutes?

And then gist reading depends on the language. French and German is doable, but try Polish and you really wonder what the gist actually is (depends on the style). I've tried Polish Wikipedia and it is hard sometimes...


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BBC series "Episodes" goes viral in Israel after machine translation error

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