Archive for the ‘machine translation’ Category

Does Machine Translation Take Longer than Human Translation?

I am always talking about a term: ‘translation editors’. In my opinion, today’s ‘translators’ will change into ‘translation editors’ considering the advances in machine translation. However, I have read an article and the author is more pessimistic than me! The focus of her article is the current situation of translation agencies. She thinks some translation agencies are unreliable because they use machine translation. This is not the case in many translation agencies of course. That’s why you should be careful while choosing an agency. Agencies, like AIM Consulting,  offer the full services -not just translation but also a second round of editing and then a third round of proofreading. That’s the way it should be. Other than translation agencies, she is also talking about post-editing and how machine translation fails when the source text does not have a neat and simple grammatical structure. S/he has found this comment on web, which is quite right: 

“I was with a company back in 1995 that sold consumer translation software for PCs, and they marketed it as something magical: input an English business letter or marketing brochure’s text, and out comes a French or Spanish version. So simple, so inexpensive. No more expensive human translators.  But linguists laughed at the French and Spanish output which was often not only inaccurate, but offensive. Then they thought up the idea to combine machine translation (MT), as it is commonly-called, of business text, often marketing materials, with a low-paid, non-trained cadre of foreign language speakers, not translators, for a service offering to produce faster, accurate translation, but it turned out that this was not a faster process since even those linguists could not quickly “post-edit” poor quality machine translation of marketing content. It takes longer and is much more difficult to do that than just translating manually. Here we are years later facing the same issues. Most marketing material is not written with translation in mind, and contains abbreviated, “jargony” English language that is nearly impossible to translate accurately by machine. “Robo translators” can only work if the source language is carefully controlled, written in a simple grammatical style, and key term dictionaries are developed in advance that  can be used to handle a company’s specific terminology. The “crowdsourcing” model for translation for business purposes is a disaster waiting to happen in my opinion. For a global business, a careful, well thought out, culturally appropriate, quality localization project cannot happen magically with “robo translators” and volunteers.”

And conclusion:

So, why the ‘most’ translation agencies suck? Because it is not about human translation any more. Just learn from the example of Fortune 500 companies and try to understand why they don’t trust your “human” translation offerings. It’s a boiling soup, ladies and gentlemen. It’s time for a wake up call, or you’d be part of statistics.”

For the rest of the article, click here.

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Facebook’s New ‘Translate’ Tool

There is not a day goes by without a surprise by Facebook. First timelines and a bunch of new applications and then completely new profiles… In the meantime, I have discovered the translation tool of Facebook. According to an article on “This is different from Google’s translation tool — this opt-in service is powered by Microsoft Bing and works on individual posts on Facebook Pages, including comments. For example, if you’re an English speaker reading aFacebook public Page and encounter a comment in Spanish, you’ll see a Translate button next to it, letting you click to see it translated into a pop-out window in English.” However, it is not active for all the comments or wall posts somehow.

I tried this app in couple of Facebook pages. It, again, turned out to be useless. This app may be useful only for certain language pairs, which are similar to each other. When it comes to gramatically different languages like Turkish, it fails.

I do not know it will improve itself or not, machine translation still scares me to death!

Google Launches Paid Web Translation for Businesses


In my opinion, Google opens a new era; an era which will be full of translation mistakes. It launches its automated translation service, Translate API v1. With this service, the web pages and applications will use this translation service for free. Moreover, the European Patent Office announces that Translate API can be used for patent translations into many widely used languages. It is machine translation after all. Sometimes, even us cannot understand little culturel nuances, I wonder how an automated translation software can make all these differences. David Meyer has published a blog post about this software on He explains how it works and what the revenues are. If you are interested in the rest of the article, you can always click the link at the bottom. I will quote some parts below:

“The Google Translate API provides a programmatic interface to access Google’s latest machine translation technology,” Jeff Chin (Google Translate product manager) wrote. This API supports translations between 50+ languages (more than 2,500 language pairs) and is made possible by Google’s cloud infrastructure and large-scale machine learning algorithms.

Those using the commercial version of the API will pay $20 (£12) per million characters of text translated. Chin estimated this would mean around $0.05 per page, assuming the page contains 500 words. There is a limit of 50 million characters per month.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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The Five Most Important Digital Innovations


Although we know that machine translation has a long way to go, most of us already worries about the future of translation. As I have blogged before, there are many defects of machine translation. Especially when it comes to the different pairs (such as English-Turkish), the outcome is almost impossible to use. Let along using, it is not even likely to understand the “translated” text. However, we can never know what the future will bring. The technology advances so fast that one day we may be titled as ‘translation editor’ instead of ‘translator’. On Lionbridge, Saul Marcus emphasizes the most important digital innovation that will affect the business world. One of them is machine translation. I find this article quite interesting and wanted to share it. You can read the rest of the article by clicking the link below:

Andrew McAfee is a principal research scientist at MIT. His focus is on how digital technology is impacting and changing the business world. I recently met with Professor McAfee in his offices in Cambridge Square. He posed a question to which I struggled to answer: Would you compare machine translation to a 2-year old or a 45-year old?

Professor McAfee is not a total stranger to machine translation. In an April 21st blog he wrote about the five most important digital innovations that will have the biggest impact on the business world over the next decade. His list:

  1. IBM’s Watson Q&A computer
  2. Google’s autonomous car
  3. Technologies to understand and produce natural human speech
  4. Instantaneous, high-quality machine translation
  5. Smartphones / App phones in the developing world
For the rest of the article, click here.

How Do We Get Lost in Translation?

I always watch movies with subtitles. When I know the source language I can’t help paying extra attention. There is a saying: “Ignorance is bliss”. Sometimes, I really find it reasonable. Seeing the subtitle is completely different from what people are talking about, it demotivates me. In this article, Sean Baumgart highlights some good points and gives examples from famous speeches and movies. I really enjoy reading it. Here it is: 

Thank God Winston Churchill didn’t use a voice-to-text message service to circulate his famous wartime speech in 1940.

Instead of the British prime minister’s reassurance that “we shall fight on the beaches” to turn back German forces, the electronic translation service now widely available on mobile phones would have relayed a more confusing message.

“This is I John. Demitri. We shall fight on those ending grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets,” was how the service interpreted Churchill’s timeless words.

Churchill’s actual words were, “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets”.

English citizens, weary and panicked as World War II advanced on their doorstep, would probably have been left wondering: Who’s John Demitri? Where’s the PM? And what the hell is an ending ground?

They’re questions similar to those that many users of the service, which converts 10-second voice messages into text, find themselves asking today.

The service’s translations often run the gamut from confusing to amusing, so we thought we’d put it to the test with some well-known phrases from popular culture.

We weren’t disappointed.

Famous lines from movies, politics and even the local train station were thrown into the service and what came out the other end was frequently amusing.

For the rest of the article, click here.

To What Extent Should We Rely On Machine Translation?


Recently I have read an article which supports my ideas about machine translation. For Latin or Germanic languages, using machine translation can work to get a general idea about the text; however, it is not the same for other language pairs. My mother tongue is Turkish. My second language is English and I know a little bit French and Spanish. I confess that, I myself use Google Translate for my French homeworks from time to time but it “always” needs double check. During translation, I use English-French language pair because Turkish-French is such a disaster. That’s to say, machine translation works (of course not 100%) when it comes to similar language families. Although Turkish uses Latin alphabet, the sentence structure is different. Tony Bradley from PCWorld explains this situation better giving different examples: 


One of the features touted by Google for Google Docs is the ability to easily translate documents into 53 different languages. For day 18 of 30 Days With…Google Docs I decided to put those translations to the test.

I don’t do a lot of work internationally that would require me to have to translate my documents from English to some other language, or to take documents I receive in other languages and translate them into English. So, for the purposes of testing out the translation capabilities of Google Docs I enlisted my Twitter followers to help out.

I used some bilingual volunteers and sent them a document in English, as well as the Google Docs translation into whatever other language they speak and asked them to analyze the quality and usability of the translated document. Then, I asked some other volunteers to send me documents in another language so I could translate them into English using Google Docs.

I sent one volunteer a document in English and its translation in French. He replied to comment, “Some sentences were perfect, but some were almost impossible to understand,” adding, “I’d give the translation 7 on a scale from 1 to 10. I would not use such a service in a professional setting, although it gives a good general idea of the text.”

My other tests didn’t go as well. French at least still uses the same alphabet and reads left to right like English, but when going from English to Hebrew Google Docs apparently butchered the translation.

My Hebrew-speaking volunteer said, “Sorry to say, but, in general I can describe the translation into Hebrew as “one big disaster”. In 95 percent it is just unreadable (not only “hard to understand”).”

The files that were sent to me in other languages didn’t fare much better. Because I am not fluent in Arabic, and can only read a little Spanish, I can’t tell you for sure what the original documents say. But, I am fluent in English, and I can tell you that the translations didn’t make any sense at all.

The Arabic presentation translated into a loose, chaotic collection of words in English. Overall, I think I can make an educated guess at the topic of the presentation based on the general context of the words, but the resulting translation didn’t really express any coherent thoughts.

The document I was sent in Spanish appears to be a poem called “Before”. When I open the Spanish version in Google Docs, I can see the nicely formatted stanzas, but when I translate it into English I get a big, run-on paragraph with poor punctuation.

For the rest of the article, click here.

The Opportunities of Localization


It is a well known fact that translators earn very little considering the amount of the work they do. In my countyr, and I am sure in many countries, translation is considered something very easy and anyone who “knows” two languages can do it. I remember having decided to study Translation. My grandma asked me that “Is this a decent job? Are you sure?”. Yes, I still am sure; however, I am also aware that one should add something on translation. Localization is a huge plus if you are a translator. With the developments in technology, internet and web, knowing how to localize websites or products is a must for international companies. Here is an article, published in Columbia Daily Tribune. It talks about translation, localization and interpreting and their importance for many companies:


“Dale Eggett, who will finish a master’s degree in less than three weeks, will go to work the week after, having had no problem landing a job.

“I did have multiple, multiple job offers,” said Eggett, whose Spanish and computer skills put him in the forefront of a burgeoning field. The global marketplace for interpreting, translating and other language services was estimated at $26.3 billion in 2010 and is projected to reach $38.1 billion by 2013.

Most people are familiar with translators, who deal with the written word. Interpreters handle oral communication in government agencies, courtrooms, doctors’ offices and businesses.

But Eggett, 28, of California, who will graduate from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, will be paid $50,000 a year to work in a relatively new discipline: localization management, which provides one of the best chances for steady employment in language services.

Localization combines language expertise with computer savvy. “I’m kind of behind the scenes making the job easier for translators,” Eggett said. When a website needs to be translated, it’s Eggett’s job to strip out the coding and send the translator only what needs to be translated.

The work is painstaking. Imagine a complex website with multiple drop-down boxes, leading to more drop-down boxes. Each element on each box needs to be translated.

Like many other sectors, language services face unique challenges, said Jiri Stejskal, president of Cetra Language Solutions, an Elkins Park, Pa., company that supplies translators, interpreters and localization experts to a range of clients.

Stejskal is in a better position to know than most. He recently was president of the American Translators Association and is in line to become president of the International Federation of Translators in Basel, Switzerland.

One issue is machine translation. “It’s not quite there yet,” Stejskal said. He pulled out a screen grab of a Philadelphia government website that used the familiar journalism term “lead story” on its home page. Somehow in Spanish it morphed into a “story about metal,” featuring a photograph of former Philadelphia Mayor Juan F. Calle, or John Street.

But a more fundamental and ongoing struggle is to educate employers about the difference between being simply bilingual and truly qualified.

Top interpreters need to hear what is said and speak it in another language simultaneously. That’s the gold standard used at the United Nations and international conferences, and high proficiency can merit a six-figure income.

That level of ability isn’t the same as language skills gained by growing up in a bilingual household. “Knowing how to cook doesn’t make you a chef,” Stejskal said.”

For the rest of the article, click here.


Thank you  Columbia Daily Tribune and MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS.



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