Google Translate - smarter or dumber than you thought?

This article is very interesting: How Google translates without understanding

If you thought there were linguists busy programming grammar rules into Google Translate, you were wrong. It’s all done on statistics. This gives very good results on some measures, but may have serious flaws.

As a further independent test, I just tried Google Translate with “干果区”, and disappointingly it gave “dried fruit area” instead of “f*ck the fruit area” as I was hoping.

I think Homebox used Google Translate:

The shop is full of it :slight_smile:

Fantastic pic, engerim!

Let me try to translate those signs into more appropriate, spirit-preserving, yet idiomatic English - completely unGoogled.

“auto export” [re-translated] - what goes in, must come out

“limit altitude” [re-translated] - please stay off the grass

“auto entrance” [re-translated] - and the band played ‘Hail to the Chief’!

汽車出口 is really “auto export” if you are at a container port.
But of course, if at a parking it means “Automobile Exit” or “Car Exit”.
Google translate is translating both “car exit” and “auto export” to 汽車出口
I think Google Translate only makes sense with full sentences, not words.
It has trouble distinguish between verbs/noms or imperatif/etc.
Only makes sense with sentences that are written like in a science book.


Your last post ended with:
“It has trouble distinguish between verbs/noms …”

er …

did you mean,

… verbs/Noams

… just checking …

In my observation, Google Translate has gotten worse over the last year. For example, now it sometimes pinyinizes common words instead of translating them.

I use google translate to see what my chinese friends are yacking about in their Facebook picture comments.

good bit of bahgua going on up in there.

Surely it’s not just Chinese, though?

I tried a few:
(English to French) “I’m an arrogant cheesehead”. I got: “Je suis un arrogant Cheesehead”. I mean, really. Is there no word for “cheesehead” in French? The mind boggles. people say nasty things about the French all the time. Surely they have some witty ripostes?

(English to Italian) “I cry like a little girl when I get tackled in a football match”. I got: “Io piango come una bambina quando mi affrontato in una partita di calcio”. Is that correct?

If they can mess it up with languages that share common alphabets and phonetics, what on earth are they doing with Chinese?

Let’s try this one: “I read newspapers for free in the 7-11, eat betel nut and live in Sanchong. Mr Presley is my best friend. Sometimes my wife and I go to KTV with him and his wife on the same scooter”.
我看報紙的自由在7-11,吃檳榔,住在三重。 普雷斯利先生是我最好的朋友。 有時我的妻子和我去KTV與他和他的妻子在同一個摩托車。

Well, it’s not utterly horrific. My wife can understand it. And she can even read it on her iPhone from the back of a scooter.

“My freedom to read newspapers is at 7-11, eating betel nuts and living in Sanchong”! :blush:

The rest is well, OK. It’s easier for machines to translate English into Chinese than the other way around, since Chinese is a high-context language (i.e. a lot of stuff that is assumed to be accepted as understood by listener or reader is omitted, including even subjects or verbs).

Yeah, I feel the same way too. I’m guessing it’s just the sheer amount of crappy data from the Mainland that gets processed along with everything else.

It’s not great, but it really helps me out with e-mails and tech documents for my job.
You really have to read between the lines to figure out what it is saying, but it will get you in the ballpark. Much more practical than studying Chinese for many years.