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Does online translation work?

Does online translation work?

Leora at b5media’s Desperate Blog gets excited about being able to translate the site into Mandarin. These services have been around for years, but I can remember using one in the late 90’s on a site I was maintaining for my then employers and a lady who spoke Serbian or similar told me the translations were terrible.

Anyone speak Mandarin and can let me know how the Desperate Blog translates here? Have these services gotten better over time?

Also when did Yahoo get into translations?

View Comments (8)
  • Online translation is problematical at best, and pure garbage or totally hilarious at worst. The best that Babelfish, Google, Yahoo, can currently do with their online translation services is to emulate an automated dictionary look-up. Keep in mind that most languages are closely tied to their culture and don’t map to other languages and cultures on a 1:1 basis.

  • It gave me a headache! The sentence sequence is messed up in a lot of places. Hard to read. If reader is familiar with the show, they can guesstimate and read along, but average Chinese netizens will find it difficult to understand. But I imagine it might perform better for technical/scientific content.

  • I would not rely on an automated translation of anything…there’s too much nuance in language (not to mention all sorts of cultural “gotchas”) to trust it.

    I am reminded of this every time I go with a refugee friend of mine on an errand. Even though his English is good, the cultural disconnects themselves require a form of translation in many cases. Throw language on top of it, and you’ve got a recipe for real misunderstanding.

    The whole “round trip” business reminds me of something Mark Twain once published. He released a volume with his break-out story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in three sections. The first section was the original story. The second was a translation into French by a French newspaper. The third was Twain’s comic retranslation back into English. Twain was playing it for laughs, but I think of his story every time I am tempted to use an automated translator.

  • I wouldn’t rely on such translators. They fail to keep coherent phrases, so you only see nonsense (nonsense and adsense really, jo jo jo), at least translating english to spanish. I prefer to keep my best posts separated into an english section.

  • Does online translation work?

    In a word, no! Although it does provide comical entertainment, so perhaps we should not forget that benefit.

    I speak fluent Spanish and have lived with the culture for 13 years. I translate for a living, previously for newspapers and I always hoped that I might be able to use translation tools to make a first pass that I could later edit into readable English, in order to save time because of deadlines. It has never been possible and, in fact, I usually find it easier to understand the original Spanish than I do the poorly and hilariously automated translation.

    These things are, as a previous commenter suggests, merely an automated dictionary look-up. That certainly has it’s uses, but to call it a translation is stretching the term somewhat.

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