RE: Machine Translation

Subject: RE: Machine Translation
From: "Jane Carnall" <jane -dot- carnall -at- digitalbridges -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 25 May 2001 11:34:58 +0100

Miriam McGinty-Lowe says: Our development department has requested
information from the first of the system suppliers and has received masses
of information back - in Norwegian. <snip> The programmers just want a quick
and dirty estimation of the contents of the document (I think someone in the
archives refered to it as 'gisting')

I worked for nearly two years as part of a department that was 3/4s based at
a site in Valbonne, France. (I was in Reading, UK.) The official language of
both sites was English, but - obviously - most of the people on the French
site spoke French to some capacity, and they'd often exchange informal
e-mail in French. I used to use Alta Vista's Babel Fish for pretty much what
you describe - I'd run the e-mail through it, confirm that it was an
invitation to a party, an announcement that so-and-so was getting married, a
"virus warning" (I sent a debunk back, in Babel-Fish-supplied French, and
was congratulated by the French speaker who sat next to me on making only
one grammatical error - which he explained to me at length) or other
non-official non-critical communication. It worked pretty well for that.

However, one caveat, but a big one - I would suggest you always err on the
side of caution. The machine translation provides very variable results. If
it's incomprehensible when directly translated, I don't think you can afford
to assume that means it's useless. It may contain vital information
expressed so colloquially that machine translation can't handle it. If you
use the machine translation to discard *only* documents that are clearly and
obviously no use to you, that may save some money - but someone's got to run
them through machine translation and make that judgement call.

Jane Carnall
Technical Writer, Digital Bridges, Scotland
Unless stated otherwise, these opinions are mine, and mine alone.


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Machine Translation: From: Miriam McGinty-Lowe

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