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The shallowness of Google Translate
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by Morgan on 2018-02-05 23:04:48

Such a development would cause a soul-shattering upheaval in my mental life. Although I fully understand the fascination of trying to get machines to translate well, I am not in the least eager to see human translators replaced by inanimate machines. Indeed, the idea frightens and revolts me. To my mind, translation is an incredibly subtle art that draws constantly on one's many years of experience in life, and on one's creative imagination. If, some "fine" day, human translators were to become relics of the past, my respect for the human mind would be profoundly shaken, and the shock would leave me reeling with terrible confusion and immense, permanent sadness.

As a translator myself, I can indeed confirm Google Translate is complete and utter garbage, but the idea that I would "mourn" the end of translators seems outlandish to me. The unstoppable march of technology has eliminated countless jobs over the course of human existence, and if translators are next, I don't see any reason to mourn the end of my occupation. Of course, it'd suck for me personally, but that's about it.

That being said, I'm not afraid of running out of work any time soon. Google Translate's results are pretty terrible, and they only seem to be getting worse for me, instead of getting better. There's no doubt in my mind that machine translation will eventually get good enough, but I think it'll take at least another 20 years, if not more, to get there.

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GT not as bad as it used to be, but still
By Temcat on 2018-02-06 12:54:23
As a technical translator, there's no chance for GT to replace humans anytime soon for translating even slightly complex material adequately for business purposes. You get a rough idea of the content, that's all. I believe it's become better now than it used to be, but still, GT is no competitor to me in my business.

There is one additional reason why it won't happen soon: because the source itself is often not perfect. An important task for a translator is to convey the author's intent and not necessarily what they literally said.

Edited 2018-02-06 12:54 UTC
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RE[2]: 20 years? More like 200 years
By Lennie on 2018-02-06 12:54:58
This is the most advanced Artificial Narrow Intelligence we have now as far as I know:

https://deepmind.com/blog/alphago...

One AI researcher said:
__

For over 50 years there have been about 10 human abilities we haven't even figured out how we would do that with AI. We've now started/some what solved the first one.
___

And in my view, we've only made proper practical progress on the first because we now have the hardware to do it.

And the hardware is on a Moore's Law curve... so we might be going faster from here... and after that a lot faster.

Edited 2018-02-06 13:01 UTC
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Translators will never go away
By IndigoJo on 2018-02-06 13:10:59
I can't imagine computers will ever wholly replace human translators. Some languages are written in a way that two different words can be written with the same letters, and the reader has to know the context to know which word is being used (e.g. Arabic, which omits short vowels from the standard written form). At the very least, a proof-reader will be required to correct mistakes and make sure idioms are correctly translated, and they will need to know both languages.
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A lot varies by subject matter
By RobG on 2018-02-06 13:39:55
Google Translate can be passable for reading articles on the Web, such as technical articles in Italian. It's not perfect, but good enough to follow across the odd glitch.

A different skill altogether is translation of literary works, where a good translation may have to contend, for example, with an author's deliberate use of double meanings. This is where the work of a skilled translator really shines, and I cannot see machine translation approaching the apex of this art for quite some time yet.
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RE[2]: ML and AI are based on the past, on statistic
By Morgan on 2018-02-06 14:39:04
> or "내꺼야" (mine as for belonging) into Polish "kopalnia" - which has meaning of underground mine.

That sounds suspiciously like it translated the Korean into English and then into Polish, and since "mine" is a homonym in English for both possession and underground tunnels, it perhaps randomly chose the latter meaning for the final translation.

I have noticed that both Google and Bing translators work better the more context/sentence structure you provide for them. Perhaps we need a mode where it asks you for context instead of just randomly offering a word-to-word translation when all you provide is one word.

And speaking of Bing, it still does what you indicated Google used to: "내꺼야" becomes "Kopalni".
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Shallow is good enough in my case
By bosco_bearbank on 2018-02-06 14:45:41
I've been using GT for Polish-to-English and Russian-to-English translations of documents I've come across in my genealogy research. Nowhere near what I'd expect from a professional, but definitely good enough for me to make some sense of the document.
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There is better...
By Trenien on 2018-02-06 15:42:53
GT is quite trash, but some are better. Case in point: www.deepl.com
They're a department of linguee and use their vast linguistic database. It's far (very far) from perfect, but from what I can tell (i.e. when I can translate myself) it is much better than GT.

I'm now waiting for it to integrate other languages I can't speak and I'm interested in.
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RE[2]: Translate is horrible
By Earl C Pottinger on 2018-02-06 15:47:28
This!

I don't use Google Translate to read poetry.

I don't use Google Translate to read my favorite SF in it's original lanuage.

I use it to read science/technical papers to see if there is interesting research. And for that it works.

For other stuff I understand even the translators themselves sometimes can not agree on how sentences should be translated. Heck, as an anime fan I find it hard to explain to some English speaking friends what I mean when I reference something that is clear in Japanese but does not translate 1-to-1 in Western culture.

Edited 2018-02-06 15:48 UTC
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RE: GT not as bad as it used to be, but still
By Earl C Pottinger on 2018-02-06 15:56:39
Are you a programmer? That is what we have to do all the time.
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RE[2]: GT: Official Tool of Translators
By No it isnt on 2018-02-06 16:21:10
I've found it easier to translate well if I do it from scratch. I often use Google Translate (and other tools) when I have trouble coming up with the right word, though.
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