Baidu ("the Chinese Google") is a popular search engine in China. The web services company (registered in the Cayman Islands) and its name are discussed in "Soon to be lost in translation," which I posted a little over a year ago.
Now Baidu has launched a new machine translation service. A friend of mine in China impishly suggested that I give Baidu Fanyi a whirl by typing in 我恨中国. Language Log readers are invited to try it themselves and see what they get.
Between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. this morning, I entered 我恨中国 into the online Baidu translation system half a dozen times, and each time I got back "I love China." As anyone who has studied first year Chinese knows, Wǒ hèn Zhōngguó 我恨中国 means "I hate China."
If you type in Wǒ ài Zhōngguó 我爱中国, you also get "I love China," which is what you'd expect.
Likewise, if you enter Wǒ ài Měiguó 我爱美国, Baidu Fanyi returns "I love the United States of America," an acceptable translation.
One wonders who is responsible for this glitch (?) in the system, and how long it will take before it is corrected.
Overall, Baidu Fanyi is an exceedingly pale imitation of Google Translate, lacking many of the useful features of the latter. One of Google Translate's most outstanding functions, so far as I'm concerned, is its automatic transcription of Chinese characters into Pinyin with tones. The audio production capability for whatever is displayed is also impressive (sounds quite natural).
Moreover, Google Translate can handle dozens of languages. Just for fun, I started to play around with it and entered "What is your name?" Effortlessly and instantaneously I could find out how to say and write that question in German, Spanish, Japanese, and many other languages. Here's the Hindi: तुम्हारा नाम क्या है? Google Translate transcribes that as Tumhārā nāma kyā hai? The transcription follows the script closely, hence नाम is rendered as nāma, whereas the audio recording pronounces that as nām, which is the way I hear it in real life. No matter, Google Translate is already a phenomenal tool, and is getting better all the time.
So far, it seems that Baidu.Fanyi can only handle English and Chinese, and it's got a lot of catching up to do even there.