Article by Gordon Rich

Computational linguists and experts in unreal intelligence are producing increasingly advanced models of language and, used sagely, computer-generated translation can be utile. Free web-based translation services accost an elementary, secret and cheap way to get the gist of documents or web pages in another language. This might be enough by itself and salve you the effort of having a text translated right, or it might infect you enough information to determine whether it was meriting doing so. The accuracy of these services too varies depending on the languages in question: a translation between, for instance, Spanish and Italian, which have an eminent degree of geomorphologic and lexical equivalence, would probable be of higher quality than a translation between German and Chinese.However, computer-generated translation is normally ill equipped to move account of ambiguity, context, register or any of the idiosyncrasies of human language that a competent translator would be cognizant of and looking away for. Legal documents, for example, demand very exact language that conforms to hard-and-fast conventions and the wording of contracts or statements must be capable to ramp up in court and be subjected to detailed scrutiny. In scientific or technological penning, words can have very specialised meanings which vary from quotidian use, such as ‘resistance’ or ‘work’.Furthermore, words and grammatic features in one language do not liken just to those in another, and translation ofttimes resembles rewriting the source text using the structures and vocabulary of the target language more than it does seeking for unmediated equivalents. ‘Cup’ and ‘mug’ would both be interpreted as ‘tasse’ in French, while ‘like’ and ‘love’ would both be interpreted as ‘aimer’. Normally, this would not present a problem; either it would not matter or a translator would do a choice as to which was more advantageous based on context. However, in the case of sentences such as, ‘I don’t desire a cup, I desire a mug,’ or, ‘I don’t like it, I love it,’ it becomes necessary to find a way of conveying the distinction, which a speaker would do mechanically in English, in French, where it can but be done by circumlocution.I rendered those two sentences into French using four unlike costless internet translation services. Three away of the four rendered ‘I don’t like it, I love it,’ as, ‘Je ne l’aime pas, je l’aime,’ which (assuming ‘it’ refers to the same thing) literally means, ‘I don’t like it, I like it,’ (or, ‘I don’t love it, I love it,’) which is confounding. One translation service returned, ‘Je ne l’aime pas, je l’adore,’ which does recapture the difference of intensity inexplicit in the English sentence.’I don’t desire a cup, I desire a mug,’ was double interpreted as, ‘Je ne veux pas une tasse, je veux une tasse.’ The genuine English meaning of this would be, ‘I don’t desire a cup, I desire a cup,’ (or, ‘I don’t desire a mug, I desire a mug,’) which again is laughable. Two translations differentiated between ‘cup’ and ‘mug’, offering, ‘Je ne veux pas une tasse, je veux une grande tasse,’ and, ‘Je ne veux pas de tasse, je veux une grande tasse,’ although the second (‘Je ne veux pas de tasse’) implies, ‘I don’t desire [any cup at all]’.Machine translations are also not sensitive to areas where cultural customs or other non-linguistic factors affect the choice of words. Where one would close a formal letter in English with ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Yours faithfully’, French would require a more elaborate construction along the lines of: Je vous prie d’agréer l’expression de mes sentiments les meilleurs. One free internet translator rendered this into English as: I you taken to accept, mister, the expression of my feelings the better ones. It is not difficult to imagine the impression this might make on a potential client.However, a competent translator, working into their native language, would immediately recognise that a non-literal translation was needed, along with any specialist material or nuances of context and register that would affect the translation. While there is a place for free web-based translation services, most are a poor substitute for a translation done by a talented professional.

About the Author

Gordon Rich is a self published author and translation expert. He regularly contributes articles on transcription and translation and financial transcription. To know more visit