[Foundation-l] Google Translate now assists with human translations of Wikipedia articles

Amir E. Aharoni amir.aharoni at gmail.com
Tue Jun 9 21:57:10 UTC 2009

On Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 00:26, Brian<Brian.Mingus at colorado.edu> wrote:
> Honestly, I should have learned by now to ignore comments like this. Google
> is the leading world expert on machine translation and they think it's a
> good idea. I understand why they think it's a good idea, you don't. You're
> shooting straight from the gut.

Not quite - i am finishing a degree in Linguistics and i work as an
NLP programmer, so i know the field a little.

Google is the leading world expert in searching vast amounts of text
in English, a language with next to no morphology. They aren't as good
at searching in Hebrew, Spanish and Russian. And their translation
software doesn't even cover Persian, a language with a relatively
simple morphology.

Google appear to assume that the statistical approach to machine
translation is the only one that matters and that their leadership in
search technologies makes them the leaders in machine translation.
They are wrong. The statistical approach helps, but humans don't think
only statistically. The grammars of even the best-researched languages
- English, French, German - are ridiculously far from being described
completely. When i say "grammar", i refer to the whole language
system: morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse analysis, typography,
prosody, phonology and more. We can't teach computers grammar, because
we don't really understand it ourselves, and without teaching
computers proper grammar, the statistical approach is very limited.

Google improved their translation software a little in the last couple
of years but they are many, many years away from being able to
translate a real text. Google translation paired with something like
[[Universal Networking Language]] or maybe OmegaWiki may yield better
results, but it will take many more years to complete. Of course,
something may change and Big Companies may start pouring a lot of
money into dictionary and grammar book writers. Until that happens,
expect improvements in machine translation to be Very Slow.

אמיר אלישע אהרוני
Amir Elisha Aharoni


"We're living in pieces,
 I want to live in peace." - T. Moore

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