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Google now offers a free translation service as part of its search engine. I'll give you an example of an English to Finnish translation. This is the original English text:
The author, N. Taiwo, employs a very unique approach that uncovers the root causes (underlying factors) that produce or erode respect between people. The result is a powerful revelation that offers a profound look into human behavior and thought processes that will reshape the reader's thinking.
The concept of Respect is presented in a whole new light and perspective, and a strong case is made about the role Respect plays in shaping and fostering success in life. Parents, couples, young adults and professionals stand to benefit greatly from this innovative and intriguing self-empowerment book on respect.
The Finnish translation comes next. Perfectly correct Finnish is in black, slightly incorrect but intelligible is in green, badly incorrect but more or less intelligible is in blue, and unintelligible "Finnish" is in red.
Kirjailija, N. Taiwo, työllistää hyvin ainutlaatuinen lähestymistapa, joka paljastaa, että juuri syitä (taustalla olevat tekijät), jotka tuottavat tai heikentäisi kunnioitusta ihmisten välillä. Tuloksena on tehokas paljastuksen, joka tarjoaa syvän tutkia ihmisten käyttäytymistä ja ajattelin prosesseja, jotka muuttavat lukijalle: n ajattelua.
Käsite Kunnioitus on esitetty kokonaisuudessaan uudessa valossa ja näkökulma, ja vahva tapaus on tehty noin roolin kunnioittaminen soittaa muotoiluun ja edistää menestystä elämässä. Vanhemmat, pariskunnat, nuoret aikuiset ja ammattilaiset stand hyödyttää suuresti tätä innovatiivista ja nauttimisen omanarvontunnon kirjan osalta.

Many of the mistakes are errors in inflections. I cannot think of a reason for some errors, such as lukijalle: n ajattelua. I have no idea what has made the programme resort to a colon followed by an n! The programme hasn't even tried to translate stand in the last sentence. My initial intention was to try to "translate" the Finnish version back into equally poor English but I decided to relinquish the idea due to the completely different natures of the two languages. It is an impossible task as there are so few inflections in English. Even a very bad English version I would produce would inevitably be far better than the Finnish the machine offers. Despite some correct words, the Finnish is unintelligible and the reader will have no conception of what the writer is trying to get across.
I trust that programmes like this will improve with time, though. No doubt people at Google are aware of the standard of the "translations" but think that the poor quality doesn't matter. They may be right. No one can take a translator like this seriously now. Anyone can send in their suggested improvements if they want to. These improvements don't cost Google a penny and yet their product becomes better. Enough small imrovements over a long period of time may mean translations that are intelligible even though they are a far cry from perfect.
Cheers, CB
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Re: send in suggested improvements
It's been some time ago, so I may be misremembering some of it.
It seems to me that I made some suggestions for better translations, but nothing happened. The original translation remained the same.
What happens, does anyone know, after you make your suggestion? Does your improved version ever appear? How long does it take? Who do they get to decide whether they should accept your translation?
And the obvious question with an obvious answer: When do you get paid? Emotion: smile
CJ
Hi Jim
Unfortunately I cannot give good answers to your questions. Your improvements were obviously ignored or lost in cyberspace. I sent an "improvement" to Google Earth a couple of years ago because a Finnish city called Tampere was located in Lake Näsijärvi - or to be more precise, the name of the city was. They corrected the error, but it took about two years!
My information about this translation service is from Finland's biggest daily, Helsingin Sanomat, which mentioned it a few days ago. The translator may handle other languages better. It would be interesting to hear how well it translates Spanish, Italian and French, for example. Germanic languages might be easier for it due to grammatical similarities.
Some of the mistakes the translator had made (my first post) were due to it having chosen the wrong meaning for an English word. To employ can be used to mean to hire people, to give work to people, and that is the meaning the translator assumed the verb had in the text. Badly wrong, and the result is completely unintelligible to a Finn. To play is another verb the program got wrong. In English you can "play" the guitar, you can "play" tennis and you can "play" with a toy. In Finnish a different verb is needed in all these contexts and the translator made the wrong guess.
I was at my wits' end when I contemplated translating the Finnish text back into poor English as to how I could translate the incorrect Finnish translation of play back into English without using play! Emotion: smile I just had to give up.
Cheers, CB
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Cool BreezeSome of the mistakes the translator had made (my first post) were due to it having chosen the wrong meaning for an English word.
That reminds me of what once happened in a Spanish class. (A friend of mine is a Spanish teacher.) The student looked up "fly" and found "mosca" in the dictionary. Not realizing it was the insect "fly", he then constructed a sentence in Spanish intending to say that on his next vacation he was going to "fly" to Madrid. Emotion: smile If you know Spanish, it may be funnier, because he actually attached the correct verbal ending on the noun!Voy a moscar a Madrid.
CJ
That evokes quite the mental image. I can just see some poor schlub holding on for dear life as his fly carries him to Madrid.
CalifJimThe student looked up "fly" and found "mosca" in the dictionary. Not realizing it was the insect "fly", he then constructed a sentence in Spanish intending to say that on his next vacation he was going to "fly" to Madrid. If you know Spanish, it may be funnier, because he actually attached the correct verbal ending on the noun! Voy a moscar a Madrid.

LOL, that's what happens when you don't have the slightest idea how to express a certain concept in another language. Dictionary, direct translation... total nonsense. Emotion: big smile That's why I believe every learner should use a monolingual dictionary "for learners", where everything is explained simply and there are plenty of examples to learn from. That way you are much less likely to use a simple verb or word the wrong way, because the most common usage patterns are highlighted.
Direct translation is what most automatic translators do, so as long as there are no machines with artificial intelligence that are able to learn a language like a human, automatic translations will always be of bad quality. I tried translating that text with Google... In Italian, you would understand the general meaning, what they are talking about, but some expressions are almost meaningless. Not too bad anyway, I thought it would come out worse, LOL. Emotion: stick out tongue And "Employs" was translated as "gives work to" in Italian too...

EDIT: Ok, I'm going to post the translation, in case "some Italians" come across this thread.
L'autore, N. Taiwo, dà lavoro a un approccio molto singolare che svela le cause alla radice (fattori) che producono o erodere il rispetto tra le persone. Il risultato è un potente rivelazione che offre una profonda esaminare comportamento umano e processi di pensiero che rimodellare il lettore sta pensando.
Il concetto di rispetto è presentato in una nuova luce e prospettiva, e una forte caso è fatto sul ruolo rispetto svolge nella definizione e promozione di successo nella vita. Genitori, giovani, adulti e giovani professionisti stand trarre enormi benefici da questo innovativo e intrigante all'autoresponsabilizzazione libro sul rispetto.

The underlined parts are where there is something wrong (either the term, or the grammar, or something missing).

Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
KooyeenI tried translating that text with Google... In Italian, you would understand the general meaning, what they are talking about, but some expressions are almost meaningless. Not too bad anyway, I thought it would come out worse, LOL.
Hi Kooyeen
Thank you for testing Google's command of Italian. Very interesting. I don't speak Italian but it seems that the translator handles Italian a little better than Finnish. I wonder how well it would do in a Germanic language. Probably even better. On the other hand, Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese could prove too difficult for it. I don't mean that the languages as such are difficult; they are just so different from English.
Cheers, CB
KooyeenDirect translation is what most automatic translators do
I heard somewhere that one of the newer techniques is to go to a corpus of works already translated by humans, that is, both languages -- translations of each other -- exist together in the same corpus. The translation process then does look ups in the corpus to find the most usual equivalents for any given word or phrase in one language to create the translation into the other language. This method is supposed to produce much better translations because it's not word for word. It takes at least a little of the context into account.

Any of you heard of this technique?
CJ
CalifJimThis method is supposed to produce much better translations because it's not word for word. It takes at least a little of the context into account.

Any of you heard of this technique?
I haven't heard of it but it stands to reason that the results must be better.
CB
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