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The Milk Port Translation Fiasco

Faking an interview is always a poor journalistic practice, to say the least — but if you’re going to make up quotes, don’t rely on Google Translate. A Turkish newspaper learned that lesson the hard way this week after it fabricated a huge chunk of an interview with American scholar Noam Chomsky.

The interview, published in English in Yeni Safak, contained the following quotes, apparently translated into English using Google Translate.

“This complexity in the Middle East, do you think the Western states flapping because of this chaos? Contrary to what happens when everything that milk port, enters the work order, then begins to bustle in the West. I’ve seen the plans works.”

What? Either you love Chomsky or you hate him, but either way you have to admit he’s more eloquent than that. Read more

Language service company warning signs

Selecting the Right Language Service Company

Vic MarcusToday we have a special guest post from Vic Marcus, Vice President of Business Development at NWI Global, a language translation & interpreting company based in Vancouver, Washington, USA.

You recently learned that the content you produced in English will now need to be translated into 16 languages, including Spanish, Arabic and Simplified Chinese. You also know that your organization requires you to go out for a bid to find the best possible supplier that will meet your quality, cost and turnaround time requirements.

Your supplier database of language service companies is fairly thin and you believe more companies need to participate in the bidding process, so you go on the web to search for more potential suppliers. This is a great way to bolster your competitive bid process, but what if you could eliminate certain suppliers before they can even submit a bid? This will save you a lot of time and ensure you choose the language service company best suited for your project.

Here are the five reasons not to work with a language service company that came up in your Google search results. Eliminate these companies prior to starting your formal bidding process.

  1. Outdated Content – Blast From The Past
    You clicked on a link and it took you back in time. The company’s website was last updated years ago. In today’s market, it’s about customer engagement using various online and social media tools. One of the primary marketing tools a company has is its website. Having an outdated website is a red flag. If the company doesn’t care about its own online content and appearance, why should you trust them to deliver quality content translated into other languages?
  2.  No Contact Information – Don’t Contact Us, We May Contact You
    You found what seems like a legitimate company and you are interested in having it participate in your bidding process. You’d now like to communicate the bid information to this company. You look everywhere on the navigation menu and can’t find a clear way to contact them. Sure, it could be a poorly designed navigation structure, but it could also be that this company doesn’t want you to contact them by making it really difficult to do so.At a minimum, every company must have a contact page and the contact page should contain the following elements:
    • Company’s Name and Physical Address
    • Contact Form or an E-mail Address
    • Links to the Company’s Social Media Channels
    • Telephone NumberIf there is no physical address listed, does this company really have an office they operate out of? This is something to think about in your search efforts.
  1. Spelling and Grammatical Errors – Your Smart, My Smart, We all Smart
    The company didn’t take the time and effort to proofread and edit the content on their website. If that’s an indication of how they approach their translation projects, I’d head for the hills now. 
  1. We do Everything – Jack of All Trades
    This company claims to do it all and do it well. All professional fields have their areas of expertise. You wouldn’t go to a psychiatrist for brain surgery (a physical one, anyway). And it’s very unlikely that a psychiatrist is a brain surgeon, and vice versa. It’s also unlikely that a company can do patent translations and community interpreting. There are language service companies that do a lot of things well, but they are few and far between. Finding a speciality shop that can scale with your needs is your best bet. 
  1. We do it Fast & Cheap – Race to Zero
    Since you will be going out for a competitive bid, pricing is most certainly a factor in your decision. Keep in mind that not all language service companies deliver the same level of service. If quality is important to you, be prepared to invest in it. There will always be a company out there that can do it for less, but at what cost?

There are many good language service companies out there and a few not so good ones. Keep the above five reasons in mind when putting together your list of bid stakeholders. It will save you a lot of time and make the competition a lot more interesting. Good luck in your search!

Vic Marcus is the Vice President of Business Development at NWI Global, a language services company specializing in B2B and B2G content translation & interpreting. Vic has over 10 years of experience in the language services industry, and is continuously involved in educating all stakeholders about the translation & interpretation process.

Translation Fail

Google Translate’s Egyptian #Fail

Hosni Mubarak: Egypt’s once and future president? Not in this universe, but Google Translate sure seemed to think so as Egyptians made their way to the polls two weeks ago. According to Voice of America, the sentence ““I will respect Egypt’s future president” turned into “I will respect President Hosni Mubarak” in Arabic once Google’s automated translation algorithm had its way with it.

Whoops! What happened? Google spokesman Jason Freidenfelds’ explained that the problem stemmed from the length of Mubarak’s tenure as president, which lasted from 1981 to 2011. Google Translate “learns” by matching translated material from one language to another, and seeing how different words and phrases correlate with each other. Since Mubarak had been president so long, every time the Google Translate’s algorithm saw the words “Egypt’s president,” Mubarak’s name was referenced.

Freidenfelds’ comments should reassure any conspiracy theorists who might have thought that Google somehow supported the dictator. Unfortunately, they also point to the limitations of using Google Translate (or any machine translation program, really) to translate important communications. This is especially true for languages like Arabic, which don’t have as much material available for the algorithm to work with and have significant structural differences from English.

As Freidenfelds explained to the VOA:

“For English and Spanish, there are tons of translations out there, and there have been for years. So you’ll get a high quality translation with the right phrases and words…In French or Spanish, you might flip the adjectives and nouns. That’s not that hard for machine translation to pick up on. But if the change pushes a word all the way to the end of the sentence, that’s a lot harder for the system to pick up.”

Google’s since fixed this particular translation glitch, but the overall issues with machine translation remain. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to have an error of this magnitude in your business communications? An experienced, reliable translation service is a much safer bet!

 

Is Google Translate Really As Good As a Human Now?

Last week, Google released a new version of Google Translate that uses “Deep Learning” to reduce translation errors. The company claims the new process results in translations that are almost as good as a human translator.

But is it the real deal? Are human translators about to be replaced by machines? Can you now “just use Google Translate” for your business? Let’s look at what makes the new and improved Google Translate so groundbreaking, and whether or not it’s actually an acceptable substitute for a human translator.

How Is the New Google Translate Different?

The new-and-improved Google Translate takes a different approach from the current version. Let’s get to know our new robot overlords, shall we?

Previously, Google Translate worked by analysing texts one word or phrase at a time. However, the new Google Translate breaks them up into sentences to better determine their meanings. It’s also capable of understanding and analysing the relationships between words, to determine which possible translation is more likely to be correct.

Most importantly, the new Google Translate does all of this using a “deep neural network” of processors set up to mimic the human brain.  This network is even capable of training itself. In fact, it “learns” better if left to its own devices, without human programmers mucking things up. Read more