Sunday, May 19, 2019

Bite the Wax Tadpole and other Translations

SUMMARY: Accuracy of language translations
From Facebook: posted this morning (5/19/19)

Automated language translation has come so far! Used to be assumed that it could never be done well (even assuming that the translation software/device knew both languages). Still, I'm amazed at how well it does.

Five comments:

1. In the early '70s I heard that one attempt had translated "hydraulic ram" to some other language as "water sheep." Might be apocryphal, as I've not found a definitive reference.

2. Another story was that an early rendition of "Coca-Cola" in Chinese characters meant "bite the wax tadpole." (Apparently real enough: https://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/bite-the-wax-ta.)

3. Google Translate of text is surprisingly adept, almost always close enough to get the meaning. My first paragraph above, translated to Chinese and back, became
"So far, automatic language translation has arrived! I used to think that it would never do well (even if the translation software/device knows both languages). However, I am surprised by its performance."
(Note idiomatic challenge of "come so far" to "arrived", but it handled the last sentence OK.)

4. Even voice recognition is nifty nowadays (consider different voices' tones, vowel pronunciations, accents, slurring, etc.). Sometimes it writes the wrong thing as I speak but then corrects itself! But hard to understand why, when I said, "Chip whines, groans, moans," and I see it start out correctly (except "wines"... maybe chips go with wine?), it then changes it to "wine, ground, mountains..."

5. When Chip is super happy, he rolls around on whatever is soft nearby (bed, carpet, lawn) and makes happy little sounds while symbolically biting the thing. My built-in canine to human translation always comes out as "I bite the wax tadpole!" Clearly still needs some work.

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