The Shallowness of Google Translate

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“The program uses state-of-the-art AI techniques, but simple tests show that it’s a long way from real understanding.”

DOUGLAS HOFSTADTER has a look at the realities of using Google Translate in The Atlantic.

Excerpt:

“As a language lover and an impassioned translator, as a cognitive scientist and a lifelong admirer of the human mind’s subtlety, I have followed the attempts to mechanize translation for decades. When I first got interested in the subject, in the mid-1970s, I ran across a letter written in 1947 by the mathematician Warren Weaver, an early machine-translation advocate, to Norbert Wiener, a key figure in cybernetics, in which Weaver made this curious claim, today quite famous:

When I look at an article in Russian, I say, “This is really written in English, but it has been coded in some strange symbols. I will now proceed to decode.”

Some years later he offered a different viewpoint: “No reasonable person thinks that a machine translation can ever achieve elegance and style. Pushkin need not shudder.” Whew! Having devoted one unforgettably intense year of my life to translating Alexander Pushkin’s sparkling novel in verse Eugene Onegin into my native tongue (that is, having radically reworked that great Russian work into an English-language novel in verse), I find this remark of Weaver’s far more congenial than his earlier remark, which reveals a strangely simplistic view of language. Nonetheless, his 1947 view of translation-as-decoding became a credo that has long driven the field of machine translation.

Since those days, “translation engines” have gradually improved, and recently the use of so-called “deep neural nets” has even suggested to some observers (see “The Great AI Awakening” by Gideon Lewis-Kraus in The New York Times Magazine, and “Machine Translation: Beyond Babel” by Lane Greene in The Economist) that human translators may be an endangered species. In this scenario, human translators would become, within a few years, mere quality controllers and glitch fixers, rather than producers of fresh new text.

Such a development would cause a soul-shattering upheaval in my mental life. Although I fully understand the fascination of trying to get machines to translate well, I am not in the least eager to see human translators replaced by inanimate machines.”

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Grammarly – Free grammar and spelling checker

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Grammarly is an online grammar and spelling checker that improves communication by helping users find and correct writing mistakes. It’s easy to use:
Copy and paste any English text into Grammarly’s online text editor, or install Grammarly’s free browser extension for ChromeChrome, Safari, and Firefox.
Grammarly’s algorithms flag potential issues in the text and suggest context-specific corrections for grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. Grammarly explains the reasoning behind each correction so you can make an informed decision about whether, and how, to correct an issue.

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For users who want to supercharge their writing performance and leave no errors unchecked, Grammarly Premium is a paid upgrade that checks for over 250 types of grammatical errors, provides vocabulary enhancement suggestions, detects plagiarism, and provides citation suggestions. Grammarly Premium also includes Grammarly for Microsoft® OfficeGrammarly for Microsoft® Office.

Grammarly is an Inc. 500 company with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Kyiv.

Mashable (May 09, 2017) — “San Francisco startup Grammarly just raised $110 million to take its AI-driven grammar-checking tool to the next level. The funding, led by General Catalyst and Spark Capital, marks the first venture capital round in the company’s eight-year life.

The Sideways dictionary

The Sideways dictionary is like a dictionary, but using analogies instead of definitions. Use it as a tool for finding and sharing helpful analogies to explain technology. Because if everyone understands technology better, we can make technology work better for everyone.

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Video: How to write an analogy: Simplifying complicated technology concepts with Sideways Dictionary

Sideways Dictionary is a collection of witty analogies that help explain complex technology terms. Different analogies can be perfect to different people, so you can add your own—the quirkier and more personal, the better—and vote for the ones you find most helpful.

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Sideways Dictionary is a project by The Washington Post and Jigsaw

Hands on with the latest Google Translate App

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“Real time translation, the kind we imagined in science fiction is finally within reach”, writes Mashable. “In the space of just a few months, Microsoft has introduced live translation services to Skype (still in preview) and now the latest Google Translate features live, language-detecting, two-way audio translation on its free iOS and Android apps.

Google Translate [iTunes link] can handle dozens of languages and will understand and return text and audio translations in real time.”

Mashable had a closer look.

A project to translate public domain German Sci-Fi novels

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Bradley Hall writes, “I am trying to get funding via Indiegogo so that I can spend more time translating old public domain German sci-fi books. So far I have translated Robert Heymann’s ‘Der Rote Komet’ (The Red Comet) and am currently working on Bernhard Kellerman’s ‘Der Tunnel’ (The Tunnel). Neither of these books have been translated to English before.”

Via boingboing.net

The Oxford English Dictionary: crowdsourcing since 1857

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“The word crowdsourcing may be new, but the idea behind it is not, at least not in lexicography,” writes the Oxford Dictionary Blog. “In fact, the entry for crowdsourcing in Wikipedia (itself a stellar example of an effective crowdsourcing model), gives the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as one of the earliest predecessors of today’s largely Internet-based crowdsourcing projects.

Much of the historical and lexical information contained in the OED is based on the evidence of millions of quotations collected from English texts through the dictionary’s Reading Programme. Through this programme, the OED recruits voluntary and paid readers to gather quotations that illustrate the usage of words.

The OED Reading Programme started in 1857, when volunteer readers began to collect quotations for the British Philological Society’s planned New English Dictionary. Two decades later, the dictionary’s new editor, James A. H. Murray, launched a broader Reading Programme by publishing an appeal for volunteer readers, not only in Britain, but also in America and the British Colonies. “Anyone can help,” Murray wrote in his 1879 appeal, and soon after, he began receiving thousands of quotations from hundreds of volunteers, most of whom were interested laypeople instead of language specialists.”

Read on here…