tonybaldwin | blog

non compos mentis

Machine Translations, Google, and my job…

with 2 comments

I just thought I’d share this, quickly: Google’s Computing Power Refines Translation Tool

Google’s efforts to expand beyond searching the Web have met with mixed success. Its digital books project has been hung up in court, and the introduction of its social network, Buzz, raised privacy fears. The pattern suggests that it can sometimes misstep when it tries to challenge business traditions and cultural conventions.

But Google’s quick rise to the top echelons of the translation business is a reminder of what can happen when Google unleashes its brute-force computing power on complex problems.

Being both, a computer technology geek, and, a professional HUMAN translator, of course, I have mixed feelings about MT or Machine Translation. Personally, I don’t think MT will ever replace humans. Ever. Language is just too complex.
The internet is riddled with humorous examples of bad machine translation. Just take a look at, or, here’s a lovely example right here: Lost in Translation, Seriously.
Funny stuff.

Computers, or course, are a very powerful and useful tool in translation, of course. I would never deny that. Computer technology has brought about a great many changes in the translation industry over the past several years. Many translators feel threatened by that technology. I prefer to embrace it, frankly. I see it as a tool, not a threat. I confess, I use Google Translate sometimes. You already know I ❤ Google. Moreover, OmegaT, my preferred CAT (computer aided translation) tool now has integrated an optional Google Translate feature, so that, while I am translating a document, OmegaT will show me the Google Translate result for that segment. I have to say that instances in which I can simply insert that result without editing it are few. Perhaps 15 to 20%. I suppose that’s not too bad, really, considering the success of earlier attempts at MT, but it is also a clear indication that, without MY intervention, the translation would come out terribly. Sometimes this Google Translate feature is helpful, speeds things up, makes my work more efficient. I have found, however, that if I use Google Translate to translate an entire document, the revision process thereafter often becomes so cumbersome that the job becomes more work than it would had I simply translated the document on my own. Or with OmegaT, with Google Translate at my side. Using OmegaT, with Google Translate, I have access to the utility in Google’s tool, only using results when appropriate, thus, and my work does become more efficient. This becomes a sort of ménage à trois of Computer Aided Translation, Machine Aided Human Translation, and of course, Human Translation. Or, we could just call it “Human Aided Machine Translation” (not a new term). No matter what you call it, Machine translations will always, in my opinion, require human intervention. So, as I see it, Machine Translation is a useful tool. But it will never, ever take the place of professional, human translators. Language, and the human brain, are simply too complex.

Relevant links:


Written by tonybaldwin

March 9, 2010 at 11:05 am

2 Responses

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  1. This is what happens with supposed translation companies rely to heavily on MT.
    This just in from a Chinese agency:

    This is Irene, from COMPANYNAMEREMOVED translation agency located in Shenzhen, China. We hope to get a chance working with you to expand your translation into Chinese and Asian grander markets. As following I list our company basic information

    Shameful, really…


    March 9, 2010 at 2:21 pm

  2. […] Machine Translations, Google, and my job… – tony baldwin | bloguiando […]

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