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Google Supercomputing Technology

Google's Computing Power Refines Translation 142

Posted by kdawson
from the throwing-silicon-at-it dept.
gollum123 sends an excerpt from the NY Times on how Google has taken a lead in language translation, in one of the company's few unqualified successes as it attempts to broaden its offerings beyond search. "...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. The network of data centers that it built for Web searches may now be, when lashed together, the world's largest computer. Google is using that machine to push the limits on translation technology. Last month, for example, it said it was working to combine its translation tool with image analysis, allowing a person to, say, take a cellphone photo of a menu in German and get an instant English translation. ...in the mid-1990s, researchers began favoring a so-called statistical approach. They found that if they fed the computer thousands or millions of passages and their human-generated translations, it could learn to make accurate guesses about how to translate new texts. It turns out that this technique, which requires huge amounts of data and lots of computing horsepower, is right up Google's alley. ...Google's service is good enough to convey the essence of a news article, and it has become a quick source for translations for millions of people."
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Google's Computing Power Refines Translation

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  • by Rei (128717) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @07:53PM (#31421150) Homepage

    English, with Google Translate:

    ---
    Google's rapid rise to the translation of business executives is a result of what Google released a complex problem, and its powerful computing power for reminding me. The data center, and its Web search, it may be now, when attacked with the network, is the world's largest computer. Google's machine translation technology is being used to push forward the limit. Last month, for example, it indicated that it was a combination of image analysis of the translation tools to enable a person, says that while walking in the German mobile phone menu, photos and immediately the English translation. ... In the mid-90s, researchers began to favor a so-called statistical methods. They found that if they ate the computer or hundreds of thousands of millions of paragraphs and the translation of humans, it can learn how to make an accurate translation of the new text of speculation. Facts have proved that this technology requires large amounts of data and a lot of computing power, is the right of Google's alley. ... Google's service is sufficient to convey the essence of news articles, it has become a quick translation of millions of people everywhere.
    ---

    Okay, perhaps not spectacular... but compared to Babelfish:

    --- ...Is anything the prompt possible to occur to the translation business's crown trapezoid's Google quick rise, when Google unties it when the complex question violence computing power. Perhaps the data central network it for the net search establishment now is, when attacks together, world large-scale computer. Google uses that machine to push in the translation technology limit. The previous month, for example, it said that it operates and the image analysis unifies its translation tool, allows the human to adopt a menu the handset picture and obtains one with German immediately English translation. ... in the mid-1990s, researcher started to favor the so-called statistical method. They have discovered that if they have fed the translation which the computer thousands or the tens of thousands of paragraphs and their person cause, its possibly academic society does about what kind of guesses translator accurately the new text. _ it this technology, requests the huge large amount data finally and completely the calculated horsepower, is correct Google the alley. ... The Google service is enough good expresses the news article the essence, and it has become translation quick origin tens of thousands of people
    ---

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:02PM (#31421212) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, that's actually a pretty good test. Google's version is odd but comprehensible, while Babelfish's is a bunch of ... well ... babble.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        What's interesting is that there are a couple of sentences where babelfish is actually better than google and the rest is way off.
        • by spazdor (902907) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:47PM (#31421642)

          This doesn't actually mean the translation is any better: all it means is that the Chinese generated by Babelfish is more easily translated back to english, perhaps because it makes even less sense in Chinese. A translation function could be conceived which is a strict, reversible bijection, so that playing this translation game would give you your original English back, word-for-word. Doesn't guarantee that the intermediate Chinese step is in any way comprehensible.

          • A translation function could be conceived which is a strict, reversible bijection, so that playing this translation game would give you your original English back, word-for-word.

            That's the main problem with translations: they're not strict, and sometimes not even reversible. In every language there are common phrases which make perfect sense to someone thinking in the language, but are untranslatable to the point where you as a translator just rephrase the whole sentence (example: "is right up Google's alley"). Then, if you get another translator to translate it back to the original language, you sure as hell won't get the original phrase back (assuming both translations are perfect in terms of understandability and conveying the message).

            Then you have words that don't exist in the target language, like "brute-force" or "computing horsepower", or even concepts that don't exist.

            I think the fact that we can understand machine translations is more a tribute to the error correction mechanisms in our brain than anything else.

            • ..In every language there are common phrases which make perfect sense to someone thinking in the language, but are untranslatable to the point where you as a translator just rephrase the whole sentence (example: "is right up Google's alley"). Then, if you get another translator to translate it back to the original language, you sure as hell won't get the original phrase back (assuming both translations are perfect in terms of understandability and conveying the message).

              Then you have words that don't exist in the target language, like "brute-force" or "computing horsepower", or even concepts that don't exist.

              I think the fact that we can understand machine translations is more a tribute to the error correction mechanisms in our brain than anything else.

              Awl hour translate spume waffle. Ewe no other gender knot exchangeable!

          • by Phoghat (1288088)
            I wrote a grade school sweet heart. I'm of Polish descent and so is she, so I decided to write the letter in Polish. I can speak Polish if the occasion demands but this occasion demanded more than I have knowledge of.

            She wrote m back and commended me on keeping up with the language. Since I used Google Translate, I guess they do a decent job of it.

          • This doesn't actually mean the translation is any better: all it means is that the Chinese generated by Babelfish is more easily translated back to english, perhaps because it makes even less sense in Chinese. A translation function could be conceived which is a strict, reversible bijection, so that playing this translation game would give you your original English back, word-for-word. Doesn't guarantee that the intermediate Chinese step is in any way comprehensible.

            I thought your post was really interesting so I tried it myself. The following is the Spanish translation, with the bits that are off or don't make sense in italics and the way I would translate it in bold. The bits in bold parenthesis are omissions from the original translation...

            "...(el) Rápido ascenso de Google para a los escalones superiores de la traducción es un recordatorio de lo que puede suceder cuando Google libera su potencia de cálculo bruta vigor a contra/sobre problemas complejos. La red de centros de datos que se construyó para búsquedas en la Web puede ser ahora, anclados al suelo juntos conjuntamente, (el) equipo más grande del mundo. Google está utilizando la máquina para empujar los límites de la tecnología de traducción.

            Feeding it back it's own translation:

            "... Google's rapid rise to the upper echelons of the translation is a reminder of what can happen when Google releases its brute force computing power to complex problems.'s Network data center that was built to search the web may be now, when lashed together, the world's largest computer. Google is using the machine to push the limits of translation technology

            Feeding it mine (removing the italics text and adding the bold)

            "... Google's rapid rise to the upper echelons of the translation is a reminder of what can happen when Google released its raw computing power against complex problems. The network of data centers that was built to search the web can now, together, (be)the world's largest computer. Google is using the machine to push the limits of translation technology.

            Either is way better than what comes out of Babblefish by a mile

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by jandoedel (1149947)
        Well d'uh... that's why it is called babble-fish!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by timeOday (582209)
        I would call it a very rigorous test, since you can get by in a foreign country with far, far less expressiveness than it takes to read a news article. ("Where's the toilet?" "How much for this?" Or for DoD applications, "Stop or we'll shoot!")

        Plus, round-trip translation at least doubles the error compared to an actual application which would involve one-way translation (and probably more, since the "return-trip" translation is starting with a poor quality input). A much more fair test would be compar

        • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:27PM (#31421446)
          OK, here is something better than a round-trip translation test.

          Der Spiegel offers version of some of its stories in English. They aren't direct translations, but quite similar.

          Here's part of a story published in english [spiegel.de]:

          Those wanting to own a McDonald's or Subway franchise in Germany must be prepared to offer up intimate personal details, including health information. One German official says the questionnaires violate the law. ...

          According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, those wanting to partner with the fast-food chain Subway must agree to a background check "in accordance with anti-terror legislation" such as the US Patriot Act.

          The report must also include information about the applicant's character, lifestyle and relationships. Future franchise owners are also asked whether they have ever been part of a terrorist organization.

          And the same story, published in German, [spiegel.de] translated to English by google:

          McDonald's and Subway asking intimate data from franchisees

          From its franchisees in Germany require the American fast food McDonald's and Subway deep insights into the intimate and the political convictions. Who wants to be partner of Subway, for example, must create an audit report in accordance with the anti-terror laws "such as the USA Patriot Act to agree." This report will contain information about "character", "lifestyle" and "relationships". The applicant shall provide information, even if she "ever directly or indirectly involved in terrorist activities were"

          And babelfish translation of the same story:

          McDonald' s and Subway demand most intimate data of franchise takers

          Of their Franchise takers in Germany the American high-speed restaurant chains McDonald' require; s and Subway deep views of the privacy and the political convicition. Who for example partner of Subway would like to become, must the production of a test report " in agreement with the anti- terror Gesetzen" as " The USA patriot Act" agree. This report is information over " Charakter" , " Lebensweise" and " Beziehungen" contained. The applicants have to give even information whether them " ever at activities of terror beteiligt" directly or indirectly; were.

          I do think the google version is significantly better.

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        Yeah, that's actually a pretty good test.

        I don't think so. Things get lost in translation with humans already. There are phrases I simply can't translate in languages I'm fluent in, idioms and the like. And when humans pass along information, it also gets distorted, simplified, and the like - language is a vague, flexible thing. So we're trying to give the machine a test impossible to pass, a Turing test where most of us don't even have any real experience how well a human would do it as a frame of refe

      • by wye43 (769759)
        Its an easy, or perhaps entertaining test, not good test.
    • by RavenousBlack (1003258) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:53PM (#31421684)
      Not to disagree with the results of your test, but I think a better test would be actual translations from authentic Chinese text to English. Going from English to Chinese to English is like taking an English interpretation of what the Chinese are trying to interpret from what someone was saying authentically in English instead of just interpreting into English what someone was authentically saying in Chinese.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by GF678 (1453005)

        Going from English to Chinese to English is like taking an English interpretation of what the Chinese are trying to interpret from what someone was saying authentically in English instead of just interpreting into English what someone was authentically saying in Chinese.

        Exhibit A: http://winterson.com/2005/06/episode-iii-backstroke-of-west.html [winterson.com]

      • I recently did an evaluation for a translation agency on the state of current machine translation services. Since I translate Japanese to English for a living, that was the pair I was testing.

        Long story short, of the five services I tried that do Japanese-English MT, Google came out the worst. Yes, the worst. Mind you, all of them were terrible. None could produce grammatical English sentences, and most couldn't even translate basic things like Japanese dates properly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by uglyMood (322284)

      In Philip K. Dick's obscure 1969 novel Galactic Pot-Healer [wikipedia.org], the characters play a game based on this very idea. They take common sayings and figures of speech, and feed them through several language-translation computers. The results are then sent to a friend, who attempts to figure out what the original phrase was.

      Sometimes when you're reading PKD you get the uncomfortable feeling he really could see into the future.

    • by glwtta (532858)
      "I had a small house of brokerage on Wall Street... many days no business come to my hut, but Jimmy has fear? A thousand times no. I never doubted myself for a minute for I knew that my monkey strong bowels were girded with strength like the loins of a dragon ribboned with fat and the opulence of buffalo dung."
      • Soon the super karate monkey death car would park in my space... but Jimmy has fancy plans, and pants to match!

        Feel my scales donkey donkey donkey donkey donkey.

        Also...

        I stole a car! I mean, a sycamore tree...

    • by wtbname (926051)

      They just need to do what video card manufacturers do to thwart your little test Mr. Man. Cheat in the translation code to recognize your test, and just regurgitate your original text.

      Then how would you choose the best translation software to buy???? Oh... it's free?

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      That's a whole lot better than it was a few years ago.

      They still need to work on their Japanese a good bit, though. Translating my first sentence from English to Japanese to English spit out:

      This is the way it is much more than a few years ago the entire

      .

      I believe they are getting very strong on the vocabulary and context clues bit but having a difficult time translating between different Subject-Object-Verb formats.

      • Japanese is very unique in that it leaves out the subject, and sometimes object of a clause when the meaning is understood in context. This is, however, very frustrating for machine translators. In addition, Japanese has a topic for its sentences, which function is very ambiguous in an English language.

    • by pszilard (1681120)
      I think this benchmark puts the bar a bit too high. First of all, a translator is not designed to produce invertible translations. Moreover, as the goal is to produce an understandable translation of a human-written text, the artifacts introduced by the machine-created translation are most probably magnified quite a bit with the second round of translation. Still, it's interesting to see that the Google algorithms actually do an OK job even in such an artificial benchmark.
    • Keep in mind that the translation algo is most suited for regular grammar. Not the gobbledeegook it outputs. Grammar -> Chinese gobbledeegook -> English gobbledeegook is a pretty decent translation.

  • Not from NY Times (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:01PM (#31421202)

    Last week's The Economist adressed this issue (http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15557431). NY Times recycled it

  • Voice to text attempt 1: "What is. Thank you. Hey Faber what I AM slot. People just want to let you know like Hello Colin, this is already the decision. I think it's going to ask." Voice to text attempt 2: " Hi. This is the level Dell Computers, I'm doing a follow, or on the error basement far start up top. If that happens. I still have the problem in 16 Keith dispatch number and I gave you so that into at that back and call us back and we could double shi
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amRadioHed (463061)

      Yeah, google voice is fun, it's what you get when you combine voicemail and mad-libs.

  • Similar languages (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:02PM (#31421220)

    Sure, you might get something decent if you try to translate from English to German, but what about languages with entirely different thought models behind them, like Chinese or Hungarian? Last time I tried using it, it confused "has been" with "Latvian".

    • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn AT wumpus-cave DOT net> on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:07PM (#31421262)

      I've worked on payment processing for web sites in Korea before. The translations of error messages we get from the system, then passed through Google translate, are exactly as good as the translations we get back from a human translator. That is, not useful at all.

    • Re:Similar languages (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:25PM (#31421430) Homepage

      This seems like the ideal opportunity to mention Translation Party [translationparty.com]. You give it English, and it translates it to and back from Japanese until the input and output English are the same.

      It can be a ton of fun.

    • Several others have noted this as well - for Asian languages, Google has a lot of work to do. The Chinese translation near the top is impressive, but while Chinese and Japanese translations are probably pretty good on Google, other Asian languages suffer greatly.

      I've been translating a lot of Thai lately, and initially I thought Google was great - the interface is really slick, and it seemed to give a decent result. Passing the translation back through often gave me really weird stuff, but I was expecting that. So it was great, until I tried using it to communicate with someone in Thai - even for really, really basic stuff, often they had absolutely no idea. It was just way off.

      While you can feed western languages through it and get great, usable results, for Asian languages besides Chinese and Japanese it's next to useless. I'm guessing there isn't much of an incentive for Google to focus on other Asian languages - for example, in Android 2.1 on the Nexus One there is no way to even install fonts for less-popular Asian scripts like Thai, much less inputting text in those scripts - despite this capability being available on certain other Android phones (you can install it on the Nexus One if you root it, of course).

      Based on what their technique for learning translation is, though, hopefully this will improve over time. It's an impressive system as it is, but very much limited to "popular" languages and those very similar to English.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Cyberax (705495)

        Russian, Polish and Ukrainian translations are laughable as well.

        Even UkrainianRussian translation is mediocre, even though it's pretty trivial (other translators have almost 100% perfect translations).

        So, good job but still lots to do.

        • by egghat (73643)

          Google Translate is 100% based on statistics, so there are no special algorithms for translating from one language to another. The translation gets better when Google has *a lot* (gogoool) of sentences in a pair of laguage and knows that they have the same meaning. If the language pair is Russian - Ukrainian or German - Swaheli it's almost guaranteed to fail.

          Artficial Intelligent god Peter Norvig (guess where he works) always says: We don't have better algorithms, we just have more data. And if they do not

      • by amaupin (721551)

        Several others have noted this as well - for Asian languages, Google has a lot of work to do. The Chinese translation near the top is impressive, but while Chinese and Japanese translations are probably pretty good on Google, other Asian languages suffer greatly.

        I have all but given up on Google's Japanese translation. Altavista (now Yahoo) 's Babel Fish is much more reliable when it comes to Japanese. Sometimes the Google translation is so wrong that I can't even understand how it came up with the response returned. At least with Babel Fish I can usually figure out where it missed an idiom or failed to choose the correct meaning of a certain kanji character.

  • I remember using Altavista's offering back in the day...the results were shoddy at best. It could make anything sound like engrish :p

  • Pffft... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by plasticsquirrel (637166) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:11PM (#31421290)
    For Chinese, just using a character dictionary is better because the translations in Google are so bad. Unfortunately, I must do this on a daily basis. Google is good at search, but cataloging the entire Web is a much easier job than learning Chinese.
  • by zlel (736107)
    Granted that Art is not a field foreign to computing, translation is an art that is difficult to satisfactorily automate. It's not about getting the semantics right, or the meaning right, but to translate a piece of work into another cultural context for another person, is a bit like trying to read somebody's mind. The turing test for translation would probably be something like automatically translating a new contemporary musical into another language? IMHO that's more difficult than getting a computer to
    • Remember that the niche Google Translate is currently trying to fill is not doing your translation jobs for you, but letting you know the rough content of a text in a language you don't speak. For many languages and contexts (example: French newspaper articles) it is very, very good at this. For others (Ukrainian IRC logs) it is only slightly better than useless.

  • by IANAAC (692242) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:23PM (#31421406)
    For western languages, I have no doubt that this will eventually be a decent option for general text.

    Just not now. It still needs a lot of work.

    I'm in the translation business, and the general trend in internet communications such as websites, etc. at least, is to simplify the language being used.

    For specialized text, we're a long way off yet.

    • by greenguy (162630)

      I'm also in the business, and frankly, I'm not impressed. Google Translator is a stopgap at best. A lot of posts here have said it's good enough for basic phrases, and that may be true, but how far is that going to get you? Great, you can read short phrases... assuming they're not too obscure, and that they're written correctly and legibly in the source language, and that there's not some double entendre going on, and that Google understands both the dialect being translated and your dialect, and so on...

      Ba

      • Google can accrue billions of documents that are reasonably good translations, but it can't accrue their context.

        What makes you say that? I'm pretty sure Google Translate "remembers" whether its training data came from a newspaper article, a UN document or a Gutenberg book. Otherwise it would hardly be able to make as good translations as it in fact does. One problem they have is that some forms of texts (like UN documents) are heavily overrepresented in their corpus, while others (like informal dialogue) a

      • > In short, professionals won't be in danger any time soon.

        Sounds like you're worrying about that though ;-)

        Technology changes pretty quickly. Give it twenty years or so.

        I remember when I tried drawing a 3d graph of z = cos ( x * x + y * y ) on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum, in 1982 or so. Each single pixel took roughly a whole second to plot!

        Now, you can draw such a graph in realtime, 50 frames a second, whilst rotating the whole thing with the mouse. 3D graphics in Doom and then Quake, and now Counter-Stri

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have a web site where every page is available in English and German. When I tested Google's translation with it, I noticed that Google reliably translated one sentence in the opposite direction, i.e. from English to German when I had asked for a German to English translation: On every page in German, there is one sentence in English which leads to the corresponding page in English. Google's translator appeared to pick the translation right from that page, which of course has that sentence in German (leadi

    • Sorry, but that means exactly the opposite to me: Google Translation very well understood, that one sentence on every page is in a different language and "reversed" that sentence as well. Wouldn't have been possible, if Google Translate would "understand" exactly nothing about language.
  • by Phat_Tony (661117) * on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:31PM (#31421488)
    Wired recently had this article [wired.com] on Google's search algorithm, which mentioned how far ahead it was in parsing language for things like bi-grams to figure out what the meaning of the search was by "figuring out" the relationships between related words in a very human-like way. They have also built an impressive synonym system. These technologies, developed for search, strike me as really critical for good translation.

    An exerpt from the article:

    "People change words in their queries. So someone would say, 'pictures of dogs,' and then they'd say, 'pictures of puppies.' So that told us that maybe 'dogs' and 'puppies' were interchangeable. We also learned that when you boil water, it's hot water. We were relearning semantics from humans, and that was a great advance." But there were obstacles. Google's synonym system understood that a dog was similar to a puppy and that boiling water was hot. But it also concluded that a hot dog was the same as a boiling puppy.

    • But it also concluded that a hot dog was the same as a boiling puppy.

      There is nothing wrong with that. My son forms connections like that all the time, and he is only slightly younger than google.

      • Google Translate has become impressively baby-like lately. If you enter "I'm watching a movie", you get out "Jeg ser en film" in Norwegian, nice and correct. But if you enter the incorrect phrase "I'm watching a movi", you get out the creative response "Jeg ser på en filmdel" - I'm looking at part of a movie!

        Another: Ice cream in spanish is "Helado", and is translated correctly. But what do you get if you forget the H, and enter "elado"?

        "ais krihm"!! See for yourself :-)

        • Google has read those jokes somewhere and is repeating them to you. I sense emergence.

          Of course google doesn't understand what it repeats to us, but I question the idea that we understand things any more than google does. There may be many non-human intelligences in the world, but google is the first really smart system designed to (process|comprehend) our languages.

          I wonder what happens if I dial MYCROFTXXX in google voice? Will google checkout issue a payment for an unlikely amount of money?

          • You don't get it. It's not jokes, it's Google Translate's attempts at figuring out the meaning of "partial" words. Google has seen "movie", "movies", "moving", and concludes that the word "movi" must have some sort of meaning in the same cluster.

            It's similar to how my sister thought convenience stores were called "rønst", because our local store was called "Rønstad" after the man who owned it. The d is silent, so she heard "rønsta". "-a" is the definitive article ending for feminine nouns in

    • Wired recently had this article [wired.com] on Google's search algorithm, which mentioned how far ahead it was in parsing language for things like bi-grams to figure out what the meaning of the search was by "figuring out" the relationships between related words in a very human-like way. They have also built an impressive synonym system. These technologies, developed for search, strike me as really critical for good translation.

      OK, so they introduced contextual knowledge (or "world knowledge" or "semantics" if you will) when they saw, that page rank and keyword based search didn't cut it for many search queries? Shouldn't that have come not as an afterthought but long before? I mean, how can anyone expect, that search would never involve some contextual knowledge to be succesful?

      My guess is, that Google of course knows this. What they do is to build up contextual knowledge through their own search engine, how people relate words t

  • That's what I've never understood. Why can't software translate as easily as a human? Is it really that difficult to come up with a set of rules so things are worded correctly?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by slimjim8094 (941042)

      Is it really that difficult to come up with a set of rules so things are worded correctly?

      Yes.

      Longer answer - computers are very bad at context and meaning. Take French to English - it would be one thing if words had the same exact connotations and grammar, and you could just do a find-replace. But, unfortunately, that's not the case. There are many words in French that - depending on context - have many different meanings. In mathematical terms, the mapping of French words to English words is not bijective, nor vice-versa. Take the French word bete - it most literally means "beast", but is ofte

      • by Jer (18391)

        Just FYI - the "creepy" results you're getting off of Google probably indicate that there are a lot of French-language pages out there for Google to gather data on.

        My guess is that it's even better than that - there are a lot of French pages out there that have corresponding English pages that Google can mine for information. Anytime you can find parallel corpora the algorithms are going to do better. I'd guess that the French/English pairing is probably a fruitful one for Google's algorithms because of Q

        • by DavidShor (928926)
          This is true. Also, a scary number of English idioms exist verbatum in French too. ("The grass is always greener on the other side --> "l'herbe est toujours plus verte ailleurs."). This is because a) Our language is descended from theirs, and b) We tirelessly work to steal phrases from each other.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Your sig is wrong,

      MS is doing that too. Nice OS you got there, you might infringe on some of our patents, how bout you pay us so we don't sue you.

    • by BZ (40346)

      Yes, it really is that difficult. Consider this classic example in English:

      Time flies like an arrow.
      Fruit flies like a banana.

      There happen to be two ways to read the latter sentence. One is in a way analogous to the former one: the subject is "Fruit", the intransitive verb is "flies", and "like a banana" is an adverb phrase. The other way to read it is that the subject is the noun phrase "Fruit flies" , the transitice verb is "like" and the direct object is "a banana". Heck

    • Why can't software translate as easily as a human? Is it really that difficult to come up with a set of rules so things are worded correctly?

      But translation isn't easy for humans, so there's no reason to expect it should be easy for computers.

      Translating from one language to another, for a human translator, basically comes down to this:

      1. Reading the source text and understanding it as deeply as possible.
      2. Writing an "equivalent" text in the target language.

      But the problem is that there is never unique "equ

  • Eier von Satan correctly - except for Augenballgroße which is essentially Eye-ball-large.
    • except for Augenballgroße which is essentially Eye-ball-large.

      Actually, gross in this usage is referring to relative size in a way, so it would mean eye-ball sized.

  • If you are into chess, Google Translate opens up a whole world of chess blogs to you. I haven't used it extensively, but I was quite impressed with this translation [google.com].

    To the chess players out there, note how it picks up notation interspersed with the text. It's not perfect and seems to fall back into Spanish algebraic in odd places, but I think they are the only translation tool that even tries to do chess notation.

    I wonder if there are other "special purpose" translations that Google Translate attempts

    • > I think they are the only translation tool that even tries to do chess notation.

      It's all the more impressive considering it must be wholly automatic - no way they are adding exceptions for chess notation.
      Similar impressive results: the name "John" is not translated, but in the context "The gospel according to John" it usually is. This is correct, biblical names are traditionally translated.
      If you say "I'll travel by airplane", airplane stays airplane. But if you say "I'll watch 'Airplane' (awful 80's c

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Obligatory Chinese Room [wikipedia.org] mention.

    If a translation engine grows strong enough to adequately translate the phrases "give us our daily bread," "sharks are predatory carnivores," and "the loan shark wants his bread," that implies a significant ability to contextually infer meaning. Could someone opine on (or point to a work exploring) how similar the task of building an accurate translator is to the task of building a competent, world-aware (if perhaps not absolutely Turing-quality) AI?

    • by Archon-X (264195)

      Google's french translations are very strong:

      - Give us our daily bread (unsure what the catch is w/ this phrase, but)
      - Donnez-nous notre pain quotidien

      - Sharks are predatory carnivores
      - Les requins sont des carnivores prédateurs

      - The loanshark wants his bread
      - L'usurier veut son pain

      All translated with the correct context

    • The Chinese Room is stupid, because if I had a mathematical model of the human brain, I could calculate these kinds of ridiculous ideas just as easily as the dude with the book calculates Chinese. The logical extension of the Chinese Room is that no one thinks, which is a pointless conclusion.
    • There are 2 core problems with translating:
      1. Language requires a cultural frame of reference.
      You can see this in understanding humor in different societies. For example Monty Python is a product of a British perspective. The English language, as spoken in England, only works when you understand the culture behind it. For example, "daily bread" only works in western languages because of the shared Christian influence. In Japanese, for example, "daily rice" might bring up a similar understanding that "d

  • in one of the company's few unqualified successes

    What does that mean? Google has had more successes in the online world than most of its competitors.

  • While this works well for the more widely-spoken languages (Western/European Languages, Chinese, Japanese), I suspect there is a massive drop-off for some of the less common languages, especially those for languages spoken in countries less connected to the internet. The article mentioned they feed the algorithm human translations from the EU and UN proceedings; what about less-common Asian languages, the Indian subcontinent languages, central Asian languages? The volume simply doesn't exist.
    Where the vol

  • Try iSnapit on your iPhone or Android, and you can translate everything you see with a single click - and much more.
  • I guess what Google is talking about must be something different because Nokia had s/w for the N95 that could take a picture of a Chinese menu and provide a translation in English.

  • by Atreide (16473) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:16AM (#31424182)

    Wasn't Skynet used for translation
    before it decided for a better future for humanity ?

  • Lately I've been trying out using Google Translate to improve my German. Whenever I write a sentence that I'm not too sure about, I take my English version of it and translate it into German in Google to see how it compares. So far it's been useful in better understanding preposition usage and sentence structure. That is, if it's reliable enough.
  • then Google Translate (or for some things wordreference.com) are fantastic resources. I don't mind that large chunks of text get translated in a stilted way - if you just need to get the meaning of a short phrase then Google is so much faster and easier than a paper dictionary.

This is a good time to punt work.

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