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Survey: Machine translations and revision of MT pre-translated texts
Thread poster: Barbara Wiegel

Barbara Wiegel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:15
English to German
+ ...
Dec 4, 2007

Dear fellow-translators,

I have received a message from one of the agencies I work with regarding machine translations and my experience with it. Since I do not have ANY experience whatsoever with regard to MT, I thought it might be a good idea to ask fellow translators about theirs.

Here comes the message:

"The Common Sense Advisory Group, who provide detailed reports on trends in the translation industry, have sent us a report saying the following:

'We found the translations (done by Google Translate) to be of surprisingly good quality...If translators are not using Google Translate to pre-process their jobs today, they are doing too much work. MT is here to stay. As Common Sense Advisory has predicted for years, automated translation will be the disruptive player in the language services market.'

Could you let me know:

1. If you currently use machine translation to pre-translate documents?
2. If we were to provide an MT pre-translation of source documents, would this be useful to you?

Please do not take offence, we are NOT trying to replace you!! We do however want to provide you with the best possible tools to keep our service competitive."


My reply was that (1) No and (2) I do not know (due to lack of experience). I simply pointed out that I find it hard to imagine a MT pre-translated text to be easier and/or quicker to proofread than a text translated by a person and that probably a lot depends on the subject matter of the text, its style, register and intended use/target audience.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Have any of you proofread/revised MT pre-translated texts and if yes, would you do it again? What would you have replied to those two questions?

I have send the agency a link to this discussion so that they can find out what other translators think. I claimed that in a community as diverse as Proz.com should be a least a couple of colleagues who have valuable input with regard to this subject.

Looking forward to hearing your opinion!

Best regards,
Barbara


[Edited at 2007-12-04 10:49]


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:15
English to Dutch
+ ...
1. No 2. Don't think so Dec 4, 2007

Personally, my experiences with the translation of web pages by Google Translate are not so good. I don't use it for my work.

From what I've seen, Dutch is - for now - too complicated for MT. In language pairs where syntax and sequence are very different in source and target, it would probably be faster to just translate. MT translates almost every word separately, and so it basically keeps the syntax and sequence of the source language.

I've tried Google Translate for web pages and found that less common words are simply not translated, the machine probably does not know them. So it would not reduce the time needed for terminology research.

I do agree that MT is here to stay, but it is too early in its development to start using it professionally and depend on it.


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Barbara Wiegel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:15
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That's what I noticed too Dec 4, 2007

Margreet Logmans wrote:

I've tried Google Translate for web pages and found that less common words are simply not translated, the machine probably does not know them. So it would not reduce the time needed for terminology research.


Thanks, Margreet, for your comments.

This morning, during my coffee break, I fooled around a bit with Google Translate and noticed that some words were indeed left as they are.

I took a German translation (done by me) of an English source text and had it back-translated by Google Translate into English. In the English source text, there was a Christmas Party mentioned which I translated as "Weihnachtsfeier" into German. The back translation into English left the German word "Weihnachtsfeier" just as it was. So much for "less common words"...

What I noticed when I had the English source text translated into German was that there were lots of grammar mistakes that just wouldn't have been made by a person (e.g. sex/number of adjectives and nouns didn't match).

I fully agree with you that it is way too early to use MT professionally and depend on it.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:15
English to German
+ ...
Translation is not about words, it's about making sense. Dec 4, 2007

Just for fun, I ran a part of your entry through Google Translate. The result is quite hilarious:

"Wenn Übersetzer, die nicht mit Google Translate vor - Prozess ihrer Arbeitsplätze von heute, sie tun zu viel Arbeit. MT ist hier zu bleiben. Als Common Sense Advisory seit Jahren vorhergesagt, automatische Übersetzung wird der störende Spieler in der Sprache Markt. "

No further comment.

Edit: Sorry, obviously I took offense. I have no idea what kind of lab animals were exposed to the MT-results to come up with those "surprisingly good results". Tadpoles, perhaps.


[Edited at 2007-12-04 12:27]

2nd Edit: The answer two both questions would be "no."
How can you possibly edit a text that doesn't make sense? No language on this planet is ugly enough to deserve that.

[Edited at 2007-12-04 12:32]


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Aline Canino  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:15
Member (2007)
Chinese to French
+ ...
No and no ! Dec 4, 2007

I agree with Margreet and Nicole. Translation process takes a lot of facts in account and it's something MT can't do. The day a machine will be able to provide a complete, meaningful and "human" translation, it will be really frightening.
I don't use these tools but I tried to enter short texts in my pairs (japanese and chinese) and the result is quite funny.
so : 1 No 2 No


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Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
Italian to English
+ ...
No; probably not Dec 4, 2007

Hi Barbara,
Interesting topic.

My answers:

1. No, I don't currently pre-translate documents using MT and I never have done.

2. Probably not, for three reasons:
i) I can't say for certain until I've tried it, but agency MT has landed in my inbox before, and on the basis of that I'd have to say that at present I see no benefit in using MT in the translation process because I believe that recrafting the pre-translated MT text would take me just as long, if not longer, than translating it myself from scratch, and the margin for error (extra/missing sentences/words, mistranslations) would be greater. My translations are generally in marketing and the arts: I'm not sure whether the case might be different for technical work.

ii) The move from vocabulary-based MT to more sophisticated statistical- and corpus-based MT is a step in the right direction but it's precisely the elements that MT is unable to capture--"nativeness" (here we go again ), nuance, turn of phrase, acute awareness of context--that, together with the right vocabulary, make a quality translation. In this sense a good human translator is irreplaceable.

iii) Call me a cynic, but does "to keep our service competitive" mean "we'll be needing a discount from our providers for this"? It reminds me a little of CAT repetition discounts. Those fuzzies still need to be reviewed, changed, compared, checked, whatever. Just like MT. On the flip side, CAT discounts work out lucrative for some translators, and so might client-provided MT. It's a business decision like any other--take it or leave it.


Incidentally, I've just run my last translation (FR to EN) through Google Translate, and I have to say (I'm surprising myself here) I was fairly impressed with what it spat out. It has certainly come on. You'd be a fool to use it as is in a professional context and it would need serious reworking, but it has a lot going for it. If you can use it to your advantage then why not? I just hope we're not going to witness a plethora of "please-send-best-rates-plus-MT-discount-tariff"-type job requests, or jobs advertising what should be translation projects as "MT proofreading": anyone who has ever had to "proofread" a rough non-native translation will understand my concerns! Maybe we'll just have to sell our expertise harder, which is no bad thing. Time will tell. But like Margreet, I think it is too early to be depending on MT.

Best,
Amy

[Edited at 2007-12-04 13:19]


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:15
English to Dutch
+ ...
No; No way Dec 4, 2007

If you even consider using MT, first try this website:
http://tashian.com/multibabel/
It's great fun for those days that you don't have a job at hand, but if you have anything useful to do, ANYTHING, stay away from MT. It just doesn't work.

BTW, I ran above text through above website and got - without Asian languages:

_ if taken care of you well-taken from the uniform, in winch of M.Ue.
when using of the order, explosion in the first east place site of the
Web: the safeguard of http://tashian.com/multibabel/ is great during
the days, not a that one activity in the course, but, if you
something, sojourn distant moved far from M.Ue. has everything to give
the form him will be useful. The uniform does not work.

If I DO include Asian languages the result becomes even more interesting:

If the M.Ue. of the use to consider the verification in the first east
place site of the Web: HTTP: It has each possible of the useful
material //tashian.com/multibabel /, if, will be the pleasure these
data, where it is effect one on the material in the great work of
M.Ue. in him aid something to nonartificial participates. All do not
close the average work of the value.

It's somewhat fun to try and analyze where certain errors came from. E.g., that uniform, where did that enter the equation?


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 18:15
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
here is an example Dec 4, 2007

Take a gander at this forum thread, in the French Forum: http://www.proz.com/topic/89992

Sometimes you can make out (interpret) what the message should be; sometimes, it's just beyond comprehension... MT still needs a few years yet.

Nancy


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
This dream is as old as computing Dec 4, 2007

Nicole Schnell wrote:

Just for fun, I ran a part of your entry through Google Translate. The result is quite hilarious:

"Wenn Übersetzer, die nicht mit Google Translate vor - Prozess ihrer Arbeitsplätze von heute, sie tun zu viel Arbeit. MT ist hier zu bleiben. Als Common Sense Advisory seit Jahren vorhergesagt, automatische Übersetzung wird der störende Spieler in der Sprache Markt. "

No further comment.

For a machine translation, this is surprisingly good - you can nearly understand half of it! And for a translator who needs to look up every second word in the dictionary, it would certainly save time.

But seriously:
From time to time I did receive such texts for "proofreading" - always from new clients, mostly young agencies or end clients.

Then, after taking a deep breath, I use to tell them that it looks like a poor machine translation and needs to be re-translated from scratch, because editing would take more time than a new translation.

In most cases I convinced the clients, in other cases they simply did not have enough money for a decent translation, so they postponed or abandoned their translation plans completely.


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Melzie
Local time: 00:15
French to English
+ ...
thank's for the laugh Jan Dec 4, 2007

Jan Willem van Dormolen wrote:

If you even consider using MT, first try this website:
http://tashian.com/multibabel/
It's great fun for those days that you don't have a job at hand, but if you have anything useful to do, ANYTHING, stay away from MT. It just doesn't work.



Great for a laugh on the translation I'm doing at the moment. And No, I haven't really got time to be fiddling about with this

it only took it three jumps to go from

Owned by the ***** family since 1917, Château de ****** is wonderfully situated....

to

Ch__teau de ******* has had is based narcotic on forms you of....


[Edited at 2007-12-04 14:23]


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Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
Italian to English
+ ...
point? Dec 4, 2007

Jan Willem van Dormolen wrote:

BTW, I ran above text through above website and got - without Asian languages:



Yes, we've all had a laugh at botched MT and run it through different languages until it becomes unrecognisable, but what relevance does that have to the use of MT in a professional context, which is what we're talking about here?

Incidentally, have you tried running it through Google Translate?

Original
It's great fun for those days that you don't have a job at hand, but if you have anything useful to do, ANYTHING, stay away from MT. It just doesn't work.

Translation into French
C'est un vrai plaisir pour les jours que vous n'avez pas un emploi à la main, mais si vous avez quelque chose d'utile à faire, ANYTHING, éloignez-vous des MT. Elle juste ne fonctionne pas.

Translation back into English
It is a real pleasure for the days that you do not have a job in hand, but if you have something useful to do ANYTHING, stay away from MT. It just does not work.

Yes, it's rough, but it's an improvement. To deny that would be naive. What you do with it is up to you.


[Edited at 2007-12-04 15:01]


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Barbara Wiegel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:15
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Survey results from agency Dec 4, 2007

Dear all,

thank you all for your comments so far - as I had assumed, the broad consent among translators is that MT are not (yet?) integrable into the working process of translators as an actual tool to make their work easier or even more effective.

Here are the results of the survey I was given by the agency. They asked 70 of their most active translators of which 48 sent a response.

1. Do you currently use MT to pre-process your translations.
Yes - 0 No - 48 (100%)

2. Would it be useful if we provided machine translations of each source text with a job?
Yes - 7 (16%) No - 41 (84%)

The results of question 2 are a little misleading - everyone who said yes said so on the condition that the MT be of a decent quality.


So, I guess I won't be receiving "pre-translated" texts to be revised anytime soon...

Best,
Barbara


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
French to English
+ ...
"Common Sense Advisory Group" Dec 4, 2007

Is that the actual message you received from your agency? The only Google hit for 'common sense advisory group' links to this Proz forum thread (which, as an aside, shows how quick Google is at indexing things these days!).

When someone makes an assertion like that, my immediate reaction is to wonder who they are, why they are saying what they are saying, and what evidence they have for their assertion.

Edit: I spoke too soon, here they are: http://www.commonsenseadvisory.com/

It'd still be useful to know the basis on which their research was conducted.

My answers are 'no I don't use MT' and 'no it wouldn't be useful if my agencies sent me pre-translated texts to edit'. But I can foresee that this might change over the next ten years.

[Edited at 2007-12-04 15:27]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 00:15
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
The Common Sense Advisory Group - I like the name... Dec 4, 2007

Every minute a sucker is born. And the Common Sense Advisory Group is right there, to give him his invaluable advice.

smo

PS: have to buy Google stock ...


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Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
Italian to English
+ ...
love it Dec 4, 2007

Vito Smolej wrote:

PS: have to buy Google stock ...




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