Webtranslate online translation DE>FR>EN

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that the translation system at webtranslate.de works very well:

(Original) Auch bei längeren Texten hat uns die Qualität der Übersetzung überrascht. Lediglich bei komplizierten Nebensatzkonstruktionen liegt das Übersetzungsportal nicht immer richtig. Der Anwender erhält dann lediglich eine Aneinanderreihung der Wörter und muss sich mühsam aus den verschiedenen Bedeutungen die richtige heraussuchen. Kurze, einfache Sätze wurden dagegen meist verständlich übersetzt, wenn auch nicht immer idiomatisch korrekt.

(webtranslate version) The quality of the translation has surprised us also at longer texts. The translation portal isn’t always correctly located merely for complicated subordinate clause constructions. The user gets then merely a stringing together of the words and must the right with difficulty find themselves from the different meanings. Short, simple sentences were usually translated against this understandably if also not always idiomatically correct. There are more sophisticated versions for sale.

Babelfish / Google translate produces this:

(Babelfish/Google translate) Even with longer texts the quality of the translation surprised us. Only with complicated subordinate clause constructions the translation portal does not lie always correctly. The user receives then only a lining up of the words and must laboriously from the different meanings the correct pick itself out. Short, simple sentences were usually understandably translated against it if also not always idiomatisch correct.

This was reported by muepe.de via Streitsache. The system is free of charge for 500-stroke texts (does the 500 include spaces?). There is also a word look-up feature.

The article emphasizes that webtranslate handles complex sentences well and has a good dictionary. The samples above show that Babelfish did not have idiomatisch in its dictionary. However, the results of the two programs are both OK, and Babelfish doesn’t have the 500-character limit.

We often make fun of machine translation. Of course machine translation is not bad – up to a point. For instance, it is useful for skimming texts in the Internet. It can be improved if its dictionary is enlarged or if, say, you define some terms as legal or economic and tell the program it is translating a legal or economic text – then it will translate Bank as bank, not bench (which will nearly always be right) and bar as Anwaltsstand, not Bar. Conversely, if you run a hotel and have your menu machine translated for your website, you are almost certain to fail. If you translate 2,000 menus, you may be able to automate the translation if you feed the right material in (it’s not easy to tell what is the right translation of a menu in a foreign language). But if you want to use MT in a firm, you will need to consider if it doesn’t cost you more to have for-publication or for-serious-understanding texts revised by human translators who would have been faster starting from scratch.

4 thoughts on “Webtranslate online translation DE>FR>EN

  1. I’ve recently been exposed to quite a large volume of material translated from Spanish to English @ around 0.04EUR/word by allegedly professional translators, most of which ended up as a kind of Franglish, and my take is that MT will destroy that market as soon as the outsourcers catch on.

  2. I’d be interested in views as to whether a Babelfish translation facility has much use in legal information sites- I’ve had one for ages on my own site, but it’s hardly used, and in most of the seven languages offered I have no idea of the quality. Is it a waste of effort? Does it look ridiculous? Or does it assist in giving at least a broad idea of the content to non-English speaking lawyers and others?

  3. Trevor: I wonder why they don’t catch on? Or how many of their documents are hard to scan? If they work on sixth-generation faxes, they will have to get it keyed in before using MT.

    Jonathan: I know I’ve seen your site before. My view is that, since you indicate ‘Babelfish’ rather than presenting the translation as part of the site, it ought to do a good job of conveying part of the meaning to serious readers. I wonder if there’s any way of recording how often it’s used?
    Looking at the German version, I am surprised that advocate becomes the Swiss term ‘Fürsprech(er)’ – that might be unfamiliar to some German speakers. Of course terms like Murray stable or Silk 1992 do not carry over well! General civil practice is clear. I was amused by IT being translated as ES – the Babelfish dicionary is a bit wanting there. Iain Murray has changed sex as meine Sekretärin. ‘Sent to my clerk *here please*’ presents a challenge (‘my secretary would derive pleasure from the fees’). The system can handle only basic legal terminology, thus legal aid becomes ‘Rechtshilfe’ – international legal assistance.
    But what can you do? I think it is nicely integrated to help the few who probably look at it. It’s a great site and I think that comes over.
    I love the photo gallery, which I hadn’t seen before. There is a problem in that the links on the Babelfished page don’t work. I think you can get the photos but not the slide show.

  4. Thank you for that Margaret. I get a picture of the infrequency of use from http://www.statcounter.com , which shows individual page loads; from this I have the impression that the majority of the few users are English-speakers opening a translation out of curiosity. There certainly aren’t many, even in European languages, and I have no idea if the Asian translations work at all. I note, as you say, that some features such as the pictures slideshow don’t work- this relies on javascript.

    When I set this up (incidentally, the technique is described on my /freeway.html page) I did think that there might be some value in legal information from the Scottish jurisdiction being more widely available to non-English speakers. What I don’t know, however, is whether Babelfish or similar translations achieve this to any extent. I personally do find it useful, when I find (for example) German or Italian court decisions, to get an immediate machine-translation with a view to seeing if the case has any interest. I suspect that there are few people looking for international legal material in this way. And, as you say, the word-by-word translation throws up a lot of howlers! Nevertheless I am slightly surprised that so few legal sites offer the service- offhand I can only think of a couple of others.

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