Google Translations Effective?

I’ve seen many bloggers using the Google Translation widget on their blogs.
I’m always curious if these translations work well. In the past I’ve explored Babelfish and after some good laughs never tried it again.

There are quite a few translation plugins available, but Google has implemented this service too.

So, how is Google Translate doing?

As it happens, I just read Kenneth McArthur’s latest post (you really should subscribe there; Ken is one of the finest people on the Net, very helpful and posting interesting stuff!) and just for fun I clicked the button to translate his page in German.

Ken always opens his post with ”Hey Folks”. That was translated to “He Völker”, which in turn I would translate back in English as “Hey, Nations”.
Google translates it back to “He of peoples”.

So, how about “Howdy Folks”? In German that would be something like “Hallo Leute”, but I ended up with “Grüß dich Völker”, which means something like “Greet you nations”.

It also mixes up grammar:
how are you today – wie du heute bist – how you today are

and …

today I want to tell you about something completely different – heute möchte ich dir über unterschiedliches etwas erklären vollständig – today I want you about different something explain completely.

These examples show, that the translations are far from perfect. Sometimes it’s funny, more often it’s ridiculous.
For the time being, I wouldn’t use them, but this may change in the near future.

You see, until now, the rules for translations were set by linguists, defining vocabularies and grammars syntaxes.

Google uses a different approach that is called “statistical machine translation“.
Very simplified, what it does is see how a text has been translated in the past by others and take the statistically most used translation. This technique is now effective for Arabic-English and English-Arabic translations.

Also, Google lets YOU improve their translations! Currently only for
* English to/from Arabic
* English to/from Chinese (Simplified/Traditional)
* English to/from Russian
* Chinese (Simplified) to/from Chinese (Traditional)

Hopefully they will include the other languages as soon as possible.
Until then, I would advise against using the translation plugin.

Case Stevens

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