The machine translation category features all posts related to computer-assisted translation and the technology and translators that surround it.

STAR MT

Corporate Machine Translation – STAR MT

STAR’s latest MT Engine helps you deliver more content faster, economically and with higher quality than standard machine translation.

Your style, your wording, your translation

Your company’s communication style and terminology should remain consistent, even in translation. That’s why STAR MT is trained exclusively using text, translations and terminology from within your company. With STAR MT, we keep your text protected by keeping it as a dedicated engine to you.

Business Benefits

  • Increased presence in new markets with quick, cheaper translations.
  • Shorter deadlines through faster turnaround.
  • Affordable translation.
  • You can understand foreign-language content immediately with rough translation (gisting).
  • Maintain your own style and wording in all relevant languages.
  • Benefit from the exisiting translations, linguistic competence of your language experts worldwide.

STAR MT helps deliver solid machine translation results for your business.

Call us to discuss how it can help you today.

Eating carpet prohibited, by Justin Ross Lee

The hazards of machine translation

Eating carpet prohibited, by Justin Ross Lee, the hazards of machine translation
Eating carpet strictly prohibited – a sign of the hazards of machine translation / Image credit: Justin Ross Lee via BBC

The Hazards of Machine Translation and Beyond

The Jackie Chan bus stop, a restaurant called Translate Server Error, wife cake, children sandwiches, wide-boiled aircraft – they sound like comical lines at a stand-up show. But, in fact, they’re real-world examples of glaring mistakes and the hazards of machine translation.

For big firms, poorly translated text can have major consequences such as the risk of offending potential customers or losing business. Although we often hear promises of machine learning tech that will process language translation effortlessly and naturally, just as a real [human] translator would.

But when will such technology be available to businesses?

Skype and its real-time translation upset

Last January, Skype launched its real-time translation tool which instantaneous voice-to-voice translation in seven languages. However, it suffered heavy blows when users complained that it turned ordinary Mandarin words into obscenities. The glitch came to light during the shooting of a Skype commercial in China; apparently even the simple phrase ‘it’s nice to talk to you’ translated into offensive swear words.

Google Translate, the traditional approach

Translation tools like Google Translate have traditionally been built around phrase-based statistical machine translation. Machine translation works by analyzing a back catalogue of texts already translated, such as academic papers and glossaries.

The texts are analyzed in parallel – both original and target languages. Using statistical probabilities, it selects the most appropriate translation to the phrase submitted; the better the quality of the original language, the greater its effectiveness. But it’s prone to howlers, like the ones mentioned earlier. Often the translations sound mechanical and dull.

The End of Machine Translation?

Alan Parker, director of engineering language technology at Facebook, recently commented on statistical machine translation reaching “the end of its natural life”. It has been said that translation technology is on path towards artificial neural networks much like the neural pathways of the human brain.

These neural networks are structured similarly to the brain, using complex algorithms to select phrases appropriate to the translation. Astonishingly the sophisticated network can learn metaphors, idioms and the subtle meaning behind language. This will effectively transform language translation today – rather than direct literal translation, the neural network can translate the same meaning to a different culture avoiding any possible offense.

While Facebook and Google have reported that they will switch over to neural network translation this year, they have not publically announced specific dates.

Auto-translation, not perfect yet

Despite the two tech giants rolling out plans to use neural networks, there are still major hurdles to cross before we’re quite there yet. According to Professor Philipp Koehn: “there are very hard problems with semantics and knowledge representation that have to be solved first, and that we are not close to solving.” Professor Koehn hints at less explicit information in the source language such a gendered nouns and verbs in languages such as Portuguese, Italian and German. Prof. Koehn is a computer scientist and expert in translation technology at the University of Edinburgh.

‘Chinese doesn’t use plurals, verb tenses or pronouns as we do in English, which makes exact translation very difficult’, Prof. Koehn added.

The Hazards of Machine Translation Tech and the Future

Albeit, translation technology has come a long way and provides decent literal translations; there is the need for a tech that speaks the real language of the end user.

Machine translation technology is a handy tool, but don’t rely on it entirely.

The STAR Team

Source: BBC Business News

Google: Augmented Reality, Real-Time Translation

Machine Translation

New tech in machine translation, Real-Time Translation

Real-Time Translation Tool from Google

In January, Google released new features to its translate app.

Available on both iOS and Android platforms, the app can make on-the-spot translations using its Word Lens tool and text translations by inputting words or sentences manually. But this year, the app was updated with voice translation functions in 36 languages. Users can tap the mic button in the app and begin talking. It recognises multiple users and the language being spoken. Once the languages have been recognised, the app is ready is translate without the need to tap the mic button again. Impressive!

Word Lens

Word Lens tool from Google

Word Lens tool from Google

The Word Lens tool in the Google Translate app allowed user to take a photo of a piece of text, a road sign etc. and translate it accordingly. Now, all the user has to do it point the phone’s camera towards the object and see the translated text overlaid on their screen. This is referred to as augmented reality and Google acquired the technology in May last year when they bought the California-based tech firm, “Quest Visual“.

Prior to the augmented reality tech, the app required a data connection to fulfill a request to translate. But now, that’s not an issue. Word Lens can also translate from English to and from German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Russian.

Closer to the Future

These futuristic features take us closer to turning our phones into something like the universal translators out of a Star Trek movie. Closer to a new age where language is no longer a social barrier for communicating new ideas, and to one another.

Often the hardest part of travelling is navigating the local language“, states Google Translate’s product lead Barak Turovsky. “Now Google Translate can be your guide in new ways…

Are you using it? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

The STAR Team

Mistake

The Greatest Mistake In Translation

Caution: bad translation — greatest mistake in translation
Caution: bad translation

Everyone has read or heard a story about mistakes in translation, humorous mistranslations or badly translated documents. Although what is the greatest and probably most lethal mistake in translation?

Strangely enough, the answer is quite simple. My experience from working in the industry for over 30 years has shown that the single biggest mistake in translation is being careless with short translation. As it sounds, short translation is the translation of a few words or a single sentence. Small or short translation projects are the ones with the highest rate of errors!

The reason behind it is simple: laziness and the pressure to meet a deadline. You have to put the same amount of work, perhaps even more, into small projects than you do with bigger ones.

To understand this, you need to think about the types of errors that can happen.

The Author-Designer Mistake

Most software developers, web designers and marketing managers are always under pressure to deliver on tight deadlines. It is fairly common that a last minute change to a document, file or brochure copy will mean a few words being added here and there — now you have a dilemma — you have to send this text to your professional translators. You might have to raise a purchase order or get approval to spend the extra money. You then have to get the text back from the translation agency, answer their questions and then put the text back in to your files. This process might take a day or so and it has to be shipped right away.

Isn’t that what Google Translate does? Why not type the short text into Google Translate, copy the translated text and insert it in the body itself? Surely translation isn’t that difficult? Big mistake!

Google Translate and other machine translation tools are just gist engines. This means that they are good at giving you a general or equivocal translation rather a precise one — they are not accurate — far from it actually.

Taking a translated word from a machine translation tool such as Google Translate is like picking a translated phrase in a language you don’t understand, applying it and hoping it is correct.< ?p>

Language Errors:

Languages are all very different and so are their structures. A number of words in Spanish have male and female versions — so you should know which word you are copying.

If you are working with Chinese or Arabic, you should not cut and paste text on an English language machine as it will corrupt the text if you have the wrong language fonts / keyboard installed on your machine.

Polish and German have different hyphenation rules than English. You cannot move the next word to a new line if it does not fit. Some words / phrases have to stay together such as compound words.

The Context Mistake

Finally, the big one is context errors. You cannot translate a single word unless you know the context of where and what the text is being used for. Especially what linguists refer to as homonyms.

Let’s look at the word press. What does it mean?

  • Press the button
  • Press as in a press beside your bed
  • Press as in a printing press
  • Press as in the written press i.e. newspapers, media et cetera

Google will never translate this word correctly unless it knows more information about the context. A professional translator will always ask the client what the text they are translating is for. There are lots of examples of this. Take the homonym arm, for instance…

  • Arm, a human arm
  • Arm, an ARM chip (Advanced RISC Machines)
  • Arm as a verb, to arm something like an alarm
  • Arm as a verb, to give someone a weapon

Need I continue? It is very easy to take a machine translation of a single word and apply it no matter what.

Where can we find this?

We find that these misused words appear on website menus and widgets. Often the major work is done on the Website and then after review with the client there might be a few minor changes undertaken.

Most website menus are coded in what are called widgets. These widgets normally only have a few words in them. So it is easy for someone to do exactly what we have outlined above.

Some may think: ‘there are only a few words to translate’. Why spend weeks with translators over just a few menu descriptions? Instead of spending the last three days working on the menu or straplines for it, just use a machine translation or ask a friend [who speaks that language natively] to do a quick and dirty translation of it.

At STAR, we will often check our customers’ websites a few weeks after we have translated them to make sure no extra strings were added after we completed the official translation: to ensure its quality.

The Funny Bit

I’ll leave you with this one. Strangely enough comedians and writers use this problem to great effect in sketches. Miscommunication and out of context understanding are the key to many jokes.

Having returned from Newcastle a friend of mine was asked, “Why did you fly to Newcastle?”* “Because it was too far to walk”, he replied.

*For the record, there are multiple answers to the question depending on the context and connotation implied.

For more information on why short and cheap translation can be very expensive, see the following links.

Article by Damian Scattergood, Managing Director of STAR Translation. Damian has over 30 years of experience in the translation and localization industry.

The STAR Team

CNGL invest €19.8M, intelligent content research

Damian Scattergood attending the CNGL conference
Damian Scattergood at the CNGL announcement / STAR Translation

CNGL investments

Yesterday Damian Scattergood and Paul Quigley – Directors of STAR Translation – had the pleasure of attending the CNGL conference at the AVIVA stadium for the announcement of €19.8 million in research funding.

Amongst the prestigious guests were Mr John Perry TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Small Businesses at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Professor Vincent Wade the CNGL Director and Professor Vinny Cahill, the Dean of Research of Trinity College Dublin.

There was a number of demonstrations showcasing new technological applications, which help to provide high-quality translation and content analysis.

Minister John Perry speaking at the CNGL Conference
Minister John Perry announcing the new funding to the CNGL

CNGL has engaged with hundreds of companies in Ireland and beyond. The commercial expertise, the multiple licences and the large number of applied research collaborations are now reinforced by an €19.8 million investment.

In fact, the government through the Science Foundation Ireland and 16 industry partners have invested in CNGL. Industry partners include tech giants as Symantec, Microsoft, McAfee, Cisco, Welocalize and Intel and by this investment show their trust in the group and its research into intelligent content. This new investment will directly support 75 high-class research jobs especially in key area of digital platforms, content and applications.

It was a great day to network with like minded translation and information technology experts. STAR provides technology and services for multilingual information management.  GRIPS: STAR’s Information Management and Publication System provides semantic information that allows intelligent content publishing. Thanks to everyone at CNGL and the Aviva Stadium for their hospitality. We really enjoyed it.

STAR's visit to the Aviva Satdium for a CNGL Conference
Paul Quigley (right), from STAR Translation, discusses intelligent content research and the impact for improved translation.
STAR at the CNGL conference, Aviva Stadium
STAR at the CNGL conference, Aviva Stadium.
Networking at the CNGL conference in the Aviva Stadium
Networking at the CNGL conference, Aviva Stadium.

The STAR Team

Lao on Google Translate

Lao supported by Google Translate

Lao supported on Google Translate

Lao language added to Google Translate armoury.

Lao supported, Google Translate blog confirms

As of today, Google Translate now supports Lao. This makes it the 65th language supported by Google Translate.

Lao, or Laotian, is a tonal language of the Tai–Kadai language family.  It’s the official language of Laos and spoken in the north-east region of Thailand. There, it is usually referred to as the Isan language. We welcome new languages like this being added to software such as Google Translate, as it shows the world is becoming a more integrated community. Supporting more languages is something Google is always working on.

While machine translation isn’t perfect, it does have uses in terms of language gisting and aiding in basic communication.

Read the Official LAO press release from Google Translate.

The STAR Team

Google Translate English to Animal

English to Animal Translation from Google

Only Google could do it!

A new product launched yesterday for Android devices introduces translation from English to animal languages. You will be able to communicate more effectively with your pets. Now you can really tell your dog that you love them.

Take a look at the video if you don’t believe us.

Visit Google’s Translate for Animals web page for more details.

The STAR Team