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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

OK, Google, That's Not Bad, But...

Google Translate can (or it least can make a decent effort to) detect your "From" language when you do a translation. So you can find choose "Detect" as the "From" option and "English" as the "To" option, and see what it can make of some random bit of text from off of the Internet. I typed in some Welsh from my doctoral diploma, and the thing immediately detected it was Welsh, and got the translation largely correct.

Not bad. But what would really impress me is if Google Translate could detect the "To" language: I type in a bit of English, and it figures out which of the world's 6000 languages I want it translated to.

15 comments:

  1. Austrian in your case one presumes. Or is that preference obsolete?

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  2. It's actually pretty bad at the "From." Often it confuses Latin with Italian, apparently because it only checks a few of the words.

    In my experience, the "To" doesn't matter. The output will always be equally unintelligible.

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    1. Well, it nailed Welsh, any way.

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  3. I've always found Google Translate to be the best of the machine translators but I share the same wish as Gene.

    If they've got our browsing history, then the people at Google will have a pretty good guess of what language we would like something translated to.

    Failing that, IP geolocation could also provide a reasonable guess.

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    1. I was joking. But the way you propose it it could of course, be done.

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    2. Doesn't it always default to the language you used last?

      I suppose there could be a setting that lets you specify a "hard" default (one that isn't altered by the occasional use of another language).

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    3. Perhaps it does.

      In any case, I was just joking: it guesses the "From" language based on your input; it amused me to think of trying to "guess" the "To" language based on nothing.

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    4. Maybe I'm alone, but I got the joke at the outset! I was just responding to traumerei.

      (My bit about the output always being equally unintelligible was also tongue-in-cheek, though there have been cases where it was literally true.)

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    5. I got that it's a joke, but where do you get that it would be guessing "based on nothing"? It knows the language you're requesting the website in, the history of people translating similar texts, your location, and possibly your past target language. That's more than nothing, I think.

      And did you really just laugh off the entire future possibility of brain-computer interfaces?

      "It amused me to think of a ship that works *with* a fire burning below decks the entire voyage."

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  4. I think that would be funnier if AI skeptics didn't *actually* move the goalposts exactly like that...

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    1. You're a little obsessed about the AI issue, Silas. I wasn't commenting on AI here at all, so there were no goalposts to be moved. I was just making a joke.

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  5. Silas:

    1) I meant "nothing" linguistic to go on. Having travelled and used computers in Italy, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, I was aware Google would switch languages based on my location!

    2) I figured out that machines functioned as prosthetic devices 30 years ago when I drove a forklift, and I already consider my stuff in the cloud just external "brain" storage, so no, you are jumping to conclusions in your remark on the brain-computer bidness.

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    1. Then I confess I no longer get the joke maybe. It's not as funny when you basically define anything (and very many practical, existing things) that could solve the problem as irrelevant.

      It would be kinda like "What would be really neat is if Google could transport physical *stuff* to my door[1]! [1] assuming it were prohibited from using any mail or courier service or otherwise relocating matter" Huh?

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    2. Silas? Not getting a joke? Who could have imagined!

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    3. In fairness, you didn't get the one about Google sending me physical stuff...

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