Google Translate is user enabled

Sometimes a company does something very innovative and you think… well, duh, why didn’t anybody else do something like that before.

Google translate does something that will have the same affect. There are many companies that do online, automatic translation of text. It’s been around for years. But since the good old days, when babelfish was the only translation service, the translation has always been quite poor. And even if you didn’t know the language from which you were translating, you new from the resulting translation into your language that it didn’t work well.

Times really haven’t changed much. These automatic translations just don’t work well because a machine doesn’t do well in determining context and understanding to “tone” of a phrase. They see a word (and possibly a phrase or sentence) and say, “oh, hey, I know what that is supposed to say.” But in reality, the computer can’t understand that. They are given a lookup table of words/phrases and their “other language” counterpart, but really can’t determine whether the translation is even close to the meaning of the original text.

Bill Gates in ChinaTake for instance, the article I just read. Bill Gates visited China and was interrupted in a speech by a free-software advocate. So I wanted to see the original article. I pulled up Google translate to get a rough idea of the text on the page (along with the pictures). Here’s the translation of the heading, “Gates university lecture attacked protesters shouted ‘new sources’.” Now, I’m not a Chinese journalist, but I have a feeling they didn’t want to convey and “attach” on Gates, and I would be surprised if “new sources” is a solid translation.

So Google has an answer for the poor machine translation. When I hovered over the title, up popped a Google bubble. You know, the same bubble that identifies things in Google Maps. It showed the original Chinese text, and had a link to suggest a different translation.

chinese-translation-google-translate-thumb.png

Wow! Amazing! Duh! Let’s get people who actually know a language to help refine the machine translations. And to top it off, why would Google want to pay people to refine the translation? They have millions of users who are willing to do that.

Why hasn’t someone done this before? That’s Google though. Innovation in a simple design.

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