Monday, July 13, 2009

Apologia Machina

Agence France-Presse is telling us that the French business newspaper La Tribune is launching a multi-lingual version of its website using automatic translation, dispensing with journalists but producing often comic results.

"Ryanair loan to make travel of the passengers upright," "The Chinese car in ambush," "Internet Explorer: mistrust!" and "Assets of the continental right in management of the crisis" were some of the mysterious headlines the same day on the site, which is still in an experimental phase.

But the paper's editors are confident that the project will, once the software is refined and a human hired to tweak the texts, open La Tribune to a potentially huge international audience. The editors acknowledged that the results on La Tribune were still far from ideal, but said that the software was being continually updated and that within a few months it would achieve "almost perfect" news articles.

Now comes the stick-it-in-apologia-for-us-human-translators:

But it is generally accepted that translation software cannot, as Google Translate admits on its site, "approach the fluency of a native speaker or possess the skill of a professional translator".

Why do I call it an apologia? BECAUSE: "Most of the English articles on La Tribune's site were, with a little effort, understandable despite their many linguistic oddities."

We are willing to pay less and put "a little effort" instead to read garbled English which no longer gets defined as "incorrect" but as "odd".

Except that I wouldn't get paid for being "odd", but some idiot would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase a software that is. Amazing!

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