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Machine translation: your experience with the various MT programmes? ("state of play")
Thread poster: Barnaby Capel-Dunn
Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:09
French to English
Mar 23, 2008

Hi everyone
I would be interested to learn of your experience with the various MT programmes available (free or otherwise).
1. Do you ever use them?
Personally, I do on occasion; particularly in the case of a long text and as a way of relieving the tedium. It can be refreshing to take off your translator's cap and don your editor's hat... Of course, there's not much point in doing this unless the quality of the automatic translation is at least half-way good. We all know that MT is - thank goodness - nowhere near ready for prime time, but that doesn't mean that it's useless.
Which brings me to the second question:
2. Which automatic translation system do you use?
My own subjective and limited (French > English) experience puts Google Translate streets ahead of the others.
Is that your experience?


[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-03-23 10:31]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:09
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Here are five different ones Mar 23, 2008

Barnaby Capel-Dunn wrote:
My own subjective and limited (French > English) experience puts Google Translate streets ahead of the others.


Wikipedia:

L'anglais (English en anglais) est une langue germanique originaire d'Angleterre. C'est la langue maternelle ou l'une des langues des habitants de plusieurs pays, surtout du Royaume-Uni et de ses anciennes colonies, dont les États-Unis, l'Afrique du Sud, l'Irlande, le Canada, l'Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande (collectivement : l'anglophonie). L'anglais est l'une des langues les plus parlées au monde : en nombre de locuteurs natifs, les estimations varient de 2e, après le chinois (mandarin), et 4e, après possiblement l'espagnol et/ou le hindi. Considérée par beaucoup comme la « langue internationale »1, elle est sans contredit la seconde langue la plus apprise et étudiée à travers le monde. Elle est aussi la langue la plus utilisée sur Internet. Elle est une des six langues officielles et une des deux langues de travail — avec le français — de l'Organisation des Nations unies.

SDL Free Translation:

The English (English in English) is a native Germanic language of England. This is the mother tongue or the one of the languages of the inhabitants of several countries, especially United Kingdom and of its former colonies, of which the United States, South Africa, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (collectively: the anglophonie). The English is the one of the languages more spoken with the world: in number of native speakers, the estimations vary of 2nd one, after the Chinese (Mandarin Chinese), and 4th, after possibly the Spaniard and/or the hindi. Considered by a lot as the "international language" 1, she is without indisputably the second language more learned and student through the world. She is also the language more used on Internet. She is one of the six official languages and one of the two languages of work — with the French — Organization of the united Nations.

Google:

The English (English in English) is a Germanic language originated in England. This is the first language or a language of the inhabitants of several countries, especially the United Kingdom and its former colonies, including the United States, South Africa, Ireland, Canada, the Australia and New Zealand (collectively: anglophonie). English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world in terms of number of native speakers, estimates range from the 2nd, after the Chinese (Mandarin), and 4th, possibly after the Spanish and / or Hindi. Considered by many as the "international language" 1, it stands out as the second language most learned and studied around the world. It is also the most used language on the Internet. She is one of the six official languages and one of the two working languages - with the french - of the United Nations.

Altavista Babelfish:

English (English English) is a Germanic language originating in England. It is the mother tongue or one of the languages of the inhabitants of several countries, especially of the United Kingdom and its old colonies, of which the United States, South Africa, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (collectively: anglophonia). English is one of the languages most spoken in the world: in a number of native speakers, the estimates vary 2e, after Chinese (Mandarin), and 4e, after possibly Spanish and/or the Hindi. Considered by much the "international language" 1, it is indisputably the second language most learned and studied throughout the world. It is also the language most used on Internet. It is one of the six official languages and one of the two working languages - with French - United Nations.

Systran:

English (English English) is a Germanic language originating in England. It is the native tongue or one of the languages of the inhabitants of several countries, especially of the United Kingdom and its old colonies, of which the United States, South Africa, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (collectively: anglophonia). English is one of the languages most spoken in the world: in many native speakers, the estimates vary 2nd, after Chinese (Mandarin), and 4th, after possibly Spanish and/or the Hindi. Regarded by much as the “international language” 1, it is indisputably the second language most learned and studied throughout the world. It is also the language most used on Internet. It is one of the six official languages and one of the two working languages - with French - United Nations.

ePrompt:

English (English in English) is a germanic language native to England. It is the mother tongue or one of the languages of the inhabitants of several countries, especially United Kingdom and of its ancient colonies, among which the United States, the Southern Africa, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (collectively: the anglophonie). English is one of the most spoken languages in the world: in number of native speakers, estimates vary of 2nd, after Chinese (mandarin), and 4th, afterwards possiblement Spanish and/or Hindi. Considered by many to be the " international language " 1, it is indisputably the second language most learnt and studied across the world. It is also the language most used on Internet. It is one of six official languages and one of both working languages - with French - from the Organization of United Nations.


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:09
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
And the winner, Samuel... Mar 23, 2008

... in your opinion?

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M. Anna Kańduła  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:09
English to Polish
I don't and won't use Mar 23, 2008

In case of Slavic languages, including my target language, it would be a disaster. Too many genders (nouns, adjectives and in past tense even verbs have them), declension, conjugation and other grammar "fun"... It would take more time to correct such nonsense, than translate it from a scratch.

No thanks, I trust my brain more than a machine.


Anni


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Danae Ferri  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 18:09
Norwegian to Greek
+ ...
No way Mar 23, 2008

In the case of machine translations into Greek, the best result is at least funny, not to say ridiculous and unintelligible. Many sites on the Internet have been machine translated and whenever I find them I really laugh a lot!

I would far prefer to proofread a bad "human" translation -which I don't because I hate it. It would mean less trouble...

[Edited at 2008-03-23 12:22]


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:09
English to Arabic
+ ...
I'm impressed! Mar 23, 2008

I have to admit I'm impressed by all the French>English machine translations above! Should Fr>En translators fear for their future?
Glad to say that Arabic MT still has a long way to go, as Danae and Anna pointed out for their languages above.


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Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Mexico
Local time: 11:09
English to Spanish
Promt Mar 23, 2008

Listen, I am not good at "typing"; therefore, I prefer a machine that does the hard work for me, and I do the editing.

I like "Promt" very much, because it allows me to customize the software with my own required terminology; that is, if the machine translates a noun in a way and I prefer other, I just change it on its system. The same happens with verbs, adjectives and adverbs. At some point, the work runs smoothly and the time saved is a win-win solution.

I can understand why translators criticize TMs when try them in Internet for free, as most texts don't make sense, but when you buy your own program and customize it into your own style, it is a very helpful tool.

Of course, I only use it for my native language. I wouldn't dare to use it for any other language I can't write or speak fluently.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:09
English to French
+ ...
Healthy source texts Mar 23, 2008

I am a sporadic MT user and use MT mainly to communicate in languages I don't speak (I have a post somewhere in the Italian forum here). MT is a great tool to get basic understanding of web sites, e-mail and is particularly useful when shopping. However, it ends there. MT definitely isn't fit for use in professional translation.

I am still surpised at BabelFish - despite the many complaints on the quality of their translations, they don't seem to improve. Whether it is because they are already in their comfort zone or because they simply cannot improve what they already have, I find that BabelFish is not as good as some other MT engines.

Recently, one of my regular clients asked me to evaluate a project where MT was to be used to help their English-speaking clients understand and answer questions in a call for tenders written in French. Although I discourage the use of MT for professional translation, in this case, I could see why my client's client preferred to use MT rather than the services of a real translator - in this particular case, I probably would have done the same thing. They wanted to use MT to translate the requirements section into their own language in order to be able to answer the associated question. I was to help them over the phone with any questions they found they didn't understand 100%, and once they wrote their answers, I was to translate those the traditional way. Google's MT engine was chosen for this purpose and part of my evaluating the project was to take some paragraphs from the call for tenders and process them with Google to try to predict what portion of the French text the client would need assistance with. Let me tell you, I was amazed with the results. No matter what paragraph I took, the output was a pretty accurate rendering of the source concept. Of course, the wording wasn't always perfect and if any of it had to be published, it all would have required editing.

This experience with Google taught me one thing: some texts are naturally adapted for MT and some aren't. The subject was a call for tender and there weren't many technical terms in it. Moreover, the source text was of excellent quality, free of any ambiguity, the style was bland and there were no cultural references.

If MT doesn't provide translations of acceptable quality, it isn't necessarily because MT is not smart. Some texts don't require much intelligence to understand and then render in a different language. What stands in the way of MT success, in my opinion, is poor source texts, more specifically texts that were not written with translation in mind. MT aside, I often have to work with texts that clearly weren't ready for translation and not even for publishing. Too many sentences with words used in the wrong context (sorry no compute) and incomplete sentences (no verb, no subject, etc.). Even for human translators, this can cause a lot of problems.

To sum it up, I believe Google has lately been producing some pretty good translations. If I had to use MT again, I would start there. I would not touch BabelFish with a 39.5-foot pole. As for the rest, rthere are some good ones and some very disppointing ones, but I am not in a position to judge them because otherwise, I don't have enough MT experience to be able to judge.


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:09
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Viktoria Mar 23, 2008

... for your comments, thoughtful and to the point as ever.

You write:
"This experience with Google taught me one thing: some texts are naturally adapted for MT and some aren't. The subject was a call for tender and there weren't many technical terms in it. Moreover, the source text was of excellent quality, free of any ambiguity, the style was bland and there were no cultural references." I think you hit the nail on the head.


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Vadim Poguliaev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 20:09
English to Russian
my 2 cents Mar 24, 2008

From time to time I receive weird MS projects from different agencies. They want to edit, and evaluate MT for 1/2 of translation rate.
I always refuse, and give a detailed explanation, why MT doesn't work, and why it will never work in slavic languages.
But the fact, that MS is experimenting with this technology is disturbing for all of us. I suggest everyone to decline such offers for good — so we'll slow down "the progress" a little bit=)


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:09
Member
English to French
Another perspective Mar 24, 2008

Vadim Poguliaev wrote:
...I suggest everyone to decline such offers for good — so we'll slow down "the progress" a little bit=)


Hi Vadim, sorry, but I do not follow your suggestion. I did a few MS MTed projects and I was positively surprised.
In EN to FR, the rate scheme offered compensates the prejudice against MT. I end up with a hourly rate-equivalent that is more than appealling. It is the way things are going in strictly codified technical translation such as MS'. Using a statistical approach, MS feeds zillions of humanly translated sentences into MT systems that makes it more useful than the average public MT program.
More info at http://research.microsoft.com/nlp/Projects/MTproj.aspx

As long as I am paid more in hourly rate-equivalent, I don't mind using MT. The rest is politics.
However, I never use general public MT programs in their current state of performance for professional translation.

Philippe


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Vadim Poguliaev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 20:09
English to Russian
it sucks in EN-RU Mar 24, 2008

Besides, we all can end up in proofing MT, if stakeholders in MS, and other major players decide, that their expences can be cut this way.

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Vadim Poguliaev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 20:09
English to Russian
Politics Mar 24, 2008

is the right word. By accepting MT proofing we help to drive market away from human translation on a midterm.

[Edited at 2008-03-24 10:57]


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gianfranco  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:09
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Luddites again? Mar 24, 2008

Vadim Poguliaev wrote:
...But the fact, that MS is experimenting with this technology is disturbing for all of us. I suggest everyone to decline such offers for good — so we'll slow down "the progress" a little bit=)


Time ago, 1910-20 circa, textile industry workers smashed or sabotaged the new machines on the basis that a machine would do the work of dozens of them. They were afraid of losing their jobs.
We now enjoy a variety of machine made fabrics and garments, and still some can be handmade (at great cost) if we fancy them. Machines also can produce shoes. When have you had the last handmade shoes?


More recently, we did not smash the personal computers because some types of work could be done with them in a fraction of the time.
The same thing will happen in translation. Some text are more suitable than others and will be machine translated, or at least pre-translated, and many translators will be hired to post-edit that output.
Probably it will take time, but the trend is already clear.

Some other text, of course, are not suitable and never will. There will be always a space for human translation. Anyway, I have no objection, in principle, to work as a post-editor, as long as I achieve an income comparable to what I obtain translating from scratch as I do now, with or without the help of a translation memory.

bye
Gianfranco



[Edited at 2008-03-24 14:35]


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Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Mexico
Local time: 11:09
English to Spanish
Right! Mar 24, 2008

gianfranco wrote:
(Headline) Luddites again?
Time ago, 1910-20 circa, textile industry workers smashed or sabotaged the new machines on the basis that a machine would do the work of dozens of them. They were afraid of losing their jobs.
e recently, we did not smash the personal computers because[...] [/quote]

Right! From my view, what translators need is "understand" these MT tools, and use them to their benefit!

I insist, MT don't work alone, they need us to survive. One example: give the same text both to an individual lacking of the minimum grammar rules, and to a professional translator and ask them both to do the translation via a MT. What will the outcome be? That's obvious. And clients know this.

Regarding to the editing work, I again quote Gian Franco:
"Anyway, I have no objection, in principle, to work as a post-editor, as long as I achieve an income comparable to what I obtain translating from scratch as I do now, with or without the help of a translation memory."

Finally, if you're going to use a MT, buy it and "localize" it. (Don't use the free ones, since these won't let you do more than a hard editing work.)


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