Aug 122017
 

Machine translation still leaves a lot to be desired.

I was watching a cute YouTube video this morning, about a tiny kitten kept warm by a chicken.

The title of the video was in Spanish. My Spanish being nonexistent (in fact, at first I thought the title was in Italian) I used Google Translate. When I used Google Translate most recently, I was tranlating something into Hungarian, so that was the default target language. And Google dutifully translated the sentence, “gallina cuida gatito del frió”, into “Sült csirke cica-ellátás”.

Which means, literally, “Fried chicken kitty-supply”.

Not sure how Google managed to produce this gem of a translation. It offers a reasonably decent English translation: “Hen cares cold kitty”. But the French (“soins chaton de poulet frit” – “kitten care by fried chicken”) and German (“gebratenes Huhn Kätzchen Pflege” – “fried chicken kitten care”) versions are just as atrocious. And the Russian version? “Fried Chicken уход за котенком”… Google didn’t even deign to translate the “Fried Chicken” part (but where did it come from in the first place, when I am translating from Spanish to Russian?) although the rest of the translation (“care for the kitten”) is acceptable.

As I said… machine translation still leaves a lot to be desired.

 Posted by at 9:47 am
Feb 272013
 

I’ve been reading a lot lately about Quebec’s recent language police fiasco, an overzealous Office québécois de la langue française cracking down on an Italian restaurant for its use of the non-French word “pasta” and other, similar terms on its menu. Of course I’ve been reading a lot about it lately; apparently, its news coverage exceeded by a factor of 60 (!) the coverage Quebec premier Pauline Marois received during her recent trip to drum up foreign investment in the province.

Yes, I could go on lamenting the superficiality of the news media these days, and I think I would be right. But I am thinking about Pastagate now for a different reason: I am wondering if I am the only one seeing strong parallels between a zealous police force guarding the integrity of a language and a zealous police force guarding the integrity of a religion.

At least officers of the language police do not come with canes.

 Posted by at 10:49 am
Jul 012010
 

Here’s a headline from Google News that illustrates just how difficult it is for a non-native speaker of English (or, for that matter, for many a native speaker!) to understand journalists:

ABC Online: Houston expects changes for diggers under Petraeus

OK, so if you watch the news at all, you’d know that Petraeus is the US general who’ll be taking over in Afghanistan. But unless you also know that “ABC” can refer to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that Angus Houston is Australia’s Chief of the Defense Force, and that “digger” is a slang term for Australian or New Zealand soldiers, you could be excused if you thought that this was not an article title but a cryptic crossword entry.

 Posted by at 8:12 pm