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MT: Where are the professional linguists & translators? bY Japanese Translation Company

MT is, of course, Machine Translation.

Tokyo Translation Company Japan - Start Trek Universal Translator
Start Trek Universal Translator

That’s the software program employed by free online translation providers such as Bing Translator, Babylon, iTranslate and Google Translate to instantly translate anything from simple text strings to whole websites.

Here’s an example of machine translation in action.

Gibberish. Obviously, machine translation (MT) has quite some way to go -- At least a generation, or 30 years, by some experts’ account. Why can’t computers software programs produce human quality translations? There are a number of reasons:

  • We don’t really understand how the brain functions, and therefore are incapable of replicating its functions, including language learning, in artificial environments

  • We still don’t understand many of the basics of language yet, such as how children learn languages; therefore, we simply don’t know how to program machines to learn languages

Does this mean that we will never have a Start Trek Universal Translator? Quite the contrary -- Human ingenuity will ultimately triumph, it’s simply a matter of time.

However, I do believe the current approach in our quest for a Universal Translator will need to be re-thought. According to this article:

Remarkably, there’s not one linguist on Google’s core team: they’re all engineers or statisticians...

This is understandable because Google Translate is statistical machine translation -- That is, at its core, Google Translate is nothing more than simply

a statistical probability of accuracy.

Still, the absence of language experts, such as professional linguists and translators, really is quite remarkable since translation is about, well, languages and translation! One would think professional linguists and translators on the Google team would be able to provide valuable insights on language and translation to speed along realization of a Universal Translator…

In a practical sense, including language experts in the development process may well produce considerably more perfect translations than that most ridiculous of catch phrases misleadingly suggests:

Not All Translation Will Be Perfect

Do you think a true Universal Translator will ever become a reality? Weigh in, our readers want to hear from you!

About the Author
Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, owner of the Tokyo based Japanese Translation Company Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Service

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