On the following lines, it will be analyzed one of the most succesful translators of this century-Google Translate. This translator is a free on-line statistical machine service owned by Google Inc that translates immediately a lot of different languages (57) such as Polish, German, Dutch, Spanish… However, it has to be said that some languages are better translated than others, in other words, some languages are supported by Google translate and others languages are called by the company “alpha languages”, this is to say that these languages have lower quality in their translations.
It is possible to translate long texts, but the system limits the number of paragraphs. Nevertheless, if the user wants to translate completely a website, Google Translate gives him or her the opportunity to use Google chrome which is a fast free browser that translates websites automatically in many languages. Not only does Google translate give you the opportunity to use Google chrome, but also other tools such as to the Google translated search (the information that you are searching probably will not be in your own language; the system searches the best contribution and translates it to your own language) or the iphone version which allows voice input.
The aim of this enterprise is “to make information universally accessible, regardless of the language in which it is written” That is why it has been improving since it started. Nowadays, it can be done many things that could not be done at the beginning. For example, in the first version, only English could be translated to some other languages, now it can be done the other way round. Moreover, it is also possible to have the romanization written for languages such as Chinese or Greek and, in the last version launched in January 2011, it is also possible to see different possible translations for a specific word. A good way that helps this translator to improve is that the user himself can increase the quality of translations by suggesting improvements or uploading his translations memories into Google Translate’s Translator Toolkit. Furthermore, the service itself asks the user sometimes alternate translations for technical terms.
But, how does this translator work? As it has been said, Google Translate is a Statistical Machine Translator (SMT) which is a way of translating texts completely different from the traditional rule-based translations. The rule-based machine translations were used some years ago and they applied the rules and grammars of the language that was being translated. However, Linguists knew that not all languages had the same rules (e.g the order of some languages is subject- verb-object but in others is verb- subject-object) that is why the translations were not very good.
Then, it began statistical machine translations where the computer looks for patterns in millions of documents. This documents had already been translated by human beings and thanks to them the computer can know more or less how the translation should be. However, the translations are not always perfect and the quality of them depends mainly on the number of documents that the computer can analyze to see patterns. That is why Google Translate can translate better, for example, German than Basque, it has more German documents than Basque Documents. Franz Josef Och is the main head in Google and he is in favour of Statistical machine translators. The documents that are available for the machine are taken from United Nations documents.
Finally, this way to translate texts has advantages. For instance, the quality is better than in rule-based translations, also, the translations are more natural and we have better use of resources. But, there are some disadvantages and problems with: sentence alignment, different word orders, compound words, idioms, morphology…
Do not hesitate to see the following video that explains how SMT works . If you are interested in knowing more about the problems Google Translate has, you can see the portfolio I did commenting the main problems here: http://wiki.littera.deusto.es/en/index.php/User:1adcaden/trans0910/Portfolio
- Inside Google Translate (2011) In Google Translate. Retrieved 15:01, 17 May, 2011 in http://translate.google.com/about/intl/en_ALL/
- A fast, free browser with automatic translation (2011) In Google Chrome. Retrieved 15:21, 17 May, 2011 in http://www.google.com/chrome/intl/en/p/translate.html?brand=GGRE
- Google Translate (2011, May,16) In Wikipedia.Retrieved 16:26, 21 May,2011 in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Translate
- Franz Josef Och (2011, April 26) In Wikipedia. Retrieved 17:30, 21 May,2011 inhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Josef_Och
- Statistical Machine Translation. In statmt. Retrieved 18:00 , 21 May,2011 in http://www.statmt.org/
- Portfolio (2010, July 15) In wiki.littera.deusto.es. Retrieved 18:30, 21 May,2011 in http://wiki.littera.deusto.es/en/index.php/User:1adcaden/trans0910/Portfolio