Monday, September 30, 2019

Skilled Translation Makes a Difference

To celebrate International Translation Day, I spent a few minutes with Google Translate, a free online service that uses machine learning to provide quick translations of texts.

I fed in two English sentences, translating them to Spanish. My knowledge of Spanish is weak, but this looks pretty good:
Many dedicated students prepare for class in the Gallagher Law Library every day. Some of them check out Course Reserve books, phone chargers, and book stands from the Information Desk. 
Muchos estudiantes dedicados se preparan para la clase en la Biblioteca de Derecho de Gallagher todos los días. Algunos de ellos revisan los libros de la Reserva de cursos, los cargadores de teléfono y los puestos de libros en el mostrador de información.
Then I had the system translate that Spanish passage into Japanese, which I don't know at all. (Japanese speakers: how faithful is the translation?) Then I had the system translate the Japanese to Greek. And the Greek to Russian. And finally, from Russian back to English:
多くの献身的な学生が毎日、ギャラガー法律図書館で授業を準備しています。 コース予約の本、電話の充電器、案内台にある本をチェックする人もいます。
Πολλοί αφιερωμένοι μαθητές προετοιμάζουν καθημερινά μαθήματα στη Βιβλιοθήκη του Gallagher Law. Μερικοί βιβλιοπωλούν βιβλία μαθημάτων, φορτιστές τηλεφώνου και βιβλία στο γραφείο πληροφοριών.
Многие преданные студенты готовят ежедневные уроки в юридической библиотеке Галлахер. Некоторые продают учебники, зарядные устройства для телефонов и книги на информационной стойке.
Many dedicated students prepare daily classes at the Gallagher Law Library. Some sell textbooks, phone chargers, and books at the information desk.
Obviously there was slippage in the meaning along the way. The lesson? Particularly when you are using Google Translate for languages that you don't know, be aware that it's an imperfect tool. Respect the work of professional translators who actually know the languages!

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