Thursday, July 13, 2006

Once more, the Americans and their woes with Arabic! (21 March 2005 )

In an article by one of US papers, a new solution is being proposed to the problems American troops are having in Iraq while dealing with the Arabic language.
Somewhere in a vast jumble of documents in a Baghdad, I raq, warehouse or in the constant buzz of elect ronic signals in the sky, a few ominous words or phrases may be hidden: "Explosives." "Nerve gas." "Convoy." "Airport ar rival." "The president ."
Ok, I see the writer likes reading thrillers. But lets see what's around the bend.
The words are in Arabic, Farsi, Pashto or some other language that few Americans understand.
No comments. Few Americans can speak correct English, let alone Arabic. What the heck is Pashto? You mean Pushtun?
The messages need to be translated, but there aren’t enough expert linguists to handle the flood. The time for robot translators has arrived, according to a panel of language specialists at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington last month. "The Defense Department doesn’t have enough human translators," said Melissa Holland, an expert at the Army Research Laboratory in Arlington, Va.
Ta da da dah! The Empire Strikes Back! Unfortunately 3-CPO they are not. The guy was, if anything, erudite and diplomatic in a way that the American Administration sadly lacks. They should employ him - I am sure his chrome is rusting somewhere in Hollywood.
Machine translation uses computers to t ranslate messages from one language to another (..) Computer scientists have labored to perfect machine translation since the 1950s with only modest success. But the terrorist at tacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have given the technology a boost . Today’s robot - linguists are far from perfect , but they can give soldiers in the field the gist of a document , a poster or a possible threat scrawled on a wall.
The only scribbling on the war, if they continue carrying on like this, will be "Mene, mene, tekel, parsin". "You have been weighted on the scales and found wanting," linguistically speaking.
Accuracy st ill is less than 50 percent , said Clare Voss, an Army researcher.

OK, lets imagine you have one of those radar-managed rocket launchers, but the radar has only a 50% accuracy. Got my point?

"Oh, oh no, R2, what have I done? We're doomed!" (C3P0 in Star Wars)

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