Machine translation for weblogs / Maschinelle Übersetzung für Weblogs

At Real Lawyers Have Blogs, Kevin O’Keefe asks ‘Is automatic translation for law blogs useful?‘ and comes up with the answer ‘No’.

He refers to Des Walsh’s entry ‘Is Automatic Translation for Business Blogs Useful?‘.

I would just let people use their own automatic translation system, on Google for example, to get the gist. I think using the little flags on your site invites trouble. I remember jurabilis had this once and it translated Alexander Hartmann as Alexander hard man. Well, I suppose it could have been worse.

Thanks to Ed. at Blawg Review.

10 thoughts on “Machine translation for weblogs / Maschinelle Übersetzung für Weblogs

  1. Sorry, I seem to have made the error of adding unsuitable HTML. I wanted to ask if automatic translation of anything could be regarded as useful.

  2. It can certainly be used to get a gist. For instance, I know a bit of Portuguese but less than I once did. I am about to report on a Portuguese case where I found Google’s PT>EN translation very useful.
    I think some people use it to a restricted extent in their translation work, but I don’t know enough about it to comment – I suspect, like weather reports, the texts have to be so simple that it’s not really translation (maybe for bookkeeping, where you get lists of words and figures). It wouldn’t work for mine. It can be improved a lot if you tell it your terminology (e.g. what names not to translate, or that your texts are about economics – then it won’t translate German Bank as bench but as bank – there is more to it than that.

  3. I obviously have not deep studied the subject but I have seen some Google translations of my own texts into languages that I could have translated to myself. Some of those translations have made me painfully aware that some people actually trust what they get back from Google.

    • I agree that MT doesn’t do the job and that a lot of people who are not translators, including people in important positions in industry, believe it does and/or will. The fact is that a lot of things can be automated increasingly well, but translation is not the most promising of them.

      When the translation college where I taught had its 50th anniversary, the mayor held a speech saying he was happy to be there, since the college would never have a 100th anniversary, because in the near future translators will not be needed any longer.

      Apart from this being rather rude, I remember thinking that computers will probably be able to automate the writing of his speech (he probably didn’t do it himself anyway) before they could automate translation.

  4. Time for a “mea culpa”.
    I bought an MT program (Linguatec Personal Translator) and sometimes use it alongside my “translation memory” program as part of my work process, especially on longer prose sentences that tend to kill off my lyrical enthusiasm with oodles and oodles of convoluted verbiage.
    However, I still wouldn’t trust it further than I could throw it. It often comes up with plausible solutions for individual phrases, very rarely for whole sentences, but just as often it gets the wrong end of the stick entirely, so I could NEVER NEVER use the raw MT output as the finished product.
    For me, it’s just another dictionary. It is a tool – no more and no less. The results must always be appraised with a healthy dose of scepticism, just like any other reference work.
    Working with this program is only tolerable when I use it in addition to my own translation memory (which contains just about all of the work I have done over the last 8 years). No way would I take the MT program as my sole translating tool, nor would I even consider accepting a job as an MT repair mechanic (aka. a proofreader to fix a fully automatic translation job).

    As MM suggested, I feel that computers will replace the speechwriting tasks of the lord mayor long before they make competent and specialist translators redundant.

    • Yes, exactly – I know other colleagues use it, although not many. And you’re right about the proofreading. The only possibility is a new translation.

  5. Thanks for the reference to my post.

    I like the idea of using Google translate to get the gist of something. I’ve done that myself to review items in a different language.

    A users expectation using Google is a lot less than if you are offering up translation with one of those flags. Using Google a user knows they’ll get the gist of something without the expectation that it will be perfect. And nothing will be held against the blog publisher for an imperfect translation.

  6. Actually, I did intend to comment at your site, and thought I had, to the same effect.

    Recently I found the Google Portuguese-English translation useful to look at a Brazilian court case (this was for the entry on dictionary plagiarism). I know the quality varies depending on the language combination, and maybe this was one of the good ones.

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