Posts Tagged ‘ google ’

Google toolbar changes

Is it just me, or did Google just sneak in some toolbar changes? My custom toolbar still looks normal on Firefox, but in Internet Explorer 8 all my buttons are hidden, irrespective of whether or not I enable them. I logged out and in again, reinstalled the toolbar, reset all the settings, still the same. Hmm…

I feel the need, the need for… machine translation

Following an interesting late-night discussion with fellow linguists, I feel the need to chat a little more about MT. The argument was that you cannot translate unless you understand meaning. I don’t believe that’s true. I believe the number of possible word and letter combinations is finite – very large, but finite nonetheless. So, all you need is a computer system that can handle an incredible amount of data – say, billions of lines of text – plus some kind of a clever AI engine that calculates probabilities. If we can eloquently translate the weather forecast – and I have not cross-checked this, so let’s just say that we can – then why should a system not be able to tackle a much more complex text?

Enter Google. A recent NYT article states that Google is using a so-called statistical approach and a few hundred billion words to create a model of a language (Source). This sounds very plausible to me. Now, there are some obvious design flaws with this. If the system checks thousands or millions of passages and their human-generated translations, who is to say that the human translation was flawless to begin with? But if I read this MT translation of The Little Prince, it is almost – eerily – better than its human equivalent! To be fair, the other MT translations in that same article did not impress me at all – but The Little Prince did.

So, in conclusion, I believe that decent-quality MT translation is not that far off, maybe in the next 10-15 years. But don’t quit your day job just yet – a sophisticated or literary text will always need to be proof-red and fact-checked by a human. Only change is constant – we just need to adapt and change the way we, as translators, work. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Machine translation by Google

I came across this presentation on machine translation by Google. Food for thought, certainly.

Is that a fish in your ear, or are you just happy to hear me?

Google is working hard on re-creating Douglas Adams‘ famous idea of a babel fish, but will they succeed (source)? They are facing two main issues:

1. Voice recognition – I do not use it on my iPhone, and it drives me nuts in the car. So what grand technological secrets can they possibly have up their sleeve?

2. Translation – No machine translation will ever be as good as a human translator. Or will it? Will I have to go and look for another career? With so much content in so many languages now being posted to the internet, all you would have to do is feed it into a database and somehow map/match phrases or segments. Trouble is, not everyone is a professional writer. So how do you allow for typos, poor grammar and lack of punctuation? Never mind the complexities of human language.

To be continued…

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