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Linguistic mutilation through software translations !

asked 2015-03-31 03:49:11 -0500

A S Sundar gravatar image
          With the surge in global trade, the demand for translation of Technical literature, Commercial Advertisements, Product Manuals etc. has also leap –frogged in the last decade. The widespread use of Social Media has added to the surging demand. Information Technology people saw a huge opportunity in this and devised  an easy way out. Result,free soft-ware translators! Input a word of one language and out comes the equivalent word of your target language! Sounds so easy!
                    But in reality, it’s not as easy as it sounds !. Languages are not just a stock  of words. They have elements of history, culture and way of life built inherently into it. Even the same language e.g. English, is used in different countries differently. With the result, translations done through software, renders absurd,funny and sometimes ,even opposite  meanings !. The way we put things in any language, speak, joke, narrate, greet, laugh, cry,…… well everything is language specific. Language is life. The diction of any language is not built in a day or two but evolves over a period of time and various cultural and historic inputs shape the stock of vocabulary.
                     I did a study of some of the software translated TV Advertisements/Programs in my mother-tongue Tamil and found that the translations had absurd,repulsive,crude and sometimes even carry the opposite meaning of the intended message.I am not sure whether my observations are relevant for software translations into other languages.  I request my linguistic fraternity for their views in the matter.Those of you who are interested in knowing how absurd the software translations could be,may click on the link provided to read my full article.

1) Whether soft-ware translation from a language to your mother-tongue languages is good and acceptable,at least within the language family.
2) How does Translation Industry see this problem. Are they aware of it ? 3) What can Linguists do to halt this kind of language mutilation and dilution by the soft-ware translations? link text A

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answered 2015-04-13 14:41:53 -0500

Even from English to French is quality of machine translation horrendous. Part of the text seems ok, but part is mistranslated or sheer nonsense. And translation is usually two-step (Source to English, then English to Target), which compounds inadequacies. There have been improvement in speed and in the number of languages available, but to my mind hardly any improvement in quality in 60 years.

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Asked: 2015-03-31 03:49:11 -0500

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Last updated: Apr 13 '15