Archive for June, 2009

Two things about Google translate


I’ve just read an article about how poor the Hungarian translations are produced by Google and I ‘ve come to two interesting conclusions.


1. Google uses English in case of uncommon language combinations 

In my experiment, I google-transated a Dutch article about Robbie Williams into Hungarian and compared it to the English translation of the same article. Checking the translation mistakes, it becomes obvious that Google (not having enough language material for the language combination Dutch-Hungarian) uses English in order to link the two languages. Often, this results in unnecessary mistakes.

For example, the Dutch ‘een shaggie draait’ = ‘roll a cigarette’  becomes ‘a shaggie running’ in English and following this pattern, it becomes ‘a shaggie fut’ in Hungarian where ‘fut’ means ‘run’. So this is an evidence that Google translates the text (or at least part of it) through the English. It’s clever in a way but not very efficient.

2. Secondly, and I’m quite irritated by this, if Google doesn’t have the translation for a word or a term, this word will be used in the translation as it is (see the word ‘shaggie’ in the previous example). For users working in languages with no or few loan words from English, French etc. this won’t cause too many problems. You simply know that Google didn’t find the right translation for this word. But quite often it will be confusing, mostly when translating into languages with lots of loan words (for example Dutch). And when trying to use Google translate to translate scientific texts including a lots of terms, it will be even more confusing (if you type the English ‘diaphragma’ into Google, you get ‘diaphragma’ in Dutch but it should actually be ‘diafragma’ with an ‘f’.)

There are probably a few more things to mention about Google Translate, but instead of going on about the mistakes, I can tell you that it is still slightly better than Bing translator of Microsoft. Slightly better… I guess, we will witness a real “Translation Race” between these two companies in the future. Well, let them do the race and let us harvest the profits!!


1. Translation of the Robbie Williams article from Dutch to English

2. Translation of the Robbie Williams article from Dutch to Hungarian

Linguee, the future favorite of translators


Linguee is a very large corpus of web-based translated materials from live online sources. The data is displayed in-context together with links to the originating sites.

With Linguee, you can search through many millions of bilingual texts in English and German for words and expressions. Every expression is accompanied by useful additional information and suitable example sentences.

LingueeThough only German and English are covered at this point, I think we can expect other languages in the nearby future. The tool is certainly very usefull for English <> German translators since it yields impressive search results. One very important feature is that the source of the words, their translations as well as the contexts can be easily traced. An advantage to Google Translate or TAUS in which the sources remain vague or unknown.

Just to see, I have done a little experiment with the TAUS language portal and Linguee. I searched for the German translation of the word “council”. It was quite interesting to see how much more results are in Linguee than in the TAUS language portal (dozens of examples vs only 3). I find the result page of Linguee also much richer than that of TAUS. 

Try it yourself!

(Click on this link to see my search result for “Council” in Linguee: