Google Translate is even better now

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According to these two articles, Google Translate is taking a quantum leap forward in the quality of its services, starting with Mandarin to English:

"Google says its new AI-powered translation tool scores nearly identically to human translators" (Quartz, 9/27/16)

"An Infusion of AI Makes Google Translate More Powerful Than Ever" (WIRED, 9/27/16)

Below are two letters that I received from China last week.  The English translations are unretouched.  You be the judge.

1.

Zūnjìng de Méi Wéihéng jiàoshòu (Prof. Victor H. Mair):

Nín hǎo!

Wǒ shì Zhōngguó "Běijīng wǎnbào" de jìzhě Zhāng Yùyáo. Zuìjìn "Gēlúnbǐyǎ Zhōngguó wénxué shǐ" yī shū zài Zhōngguó chūbǎn wènshì, zuòwéi yīgè Zhōngwén xì xuéshēng, fēicháng xīwàng nénggòu cǎifǎng nín yīxiē wèntí, yě ràng zhè běn shū wèi Zhōngguó dúzhě suǒ liǎojiě. Xīnxīng chūbǎn shè de xiāngguān biānjí gěile wǒ nín de yóuxiāng, suǒyǐ màomèi fāxìn lái qǐngjiào. Rúruò nín fāngbiàn shí, hái wàng kě bōrǒng jiědá yī'èr. Yǐxià fù shàng wèntí.

Fēicháng gǎnxiè! Zhù nín shēntǐ jiànkāng, yīqiè shùnlì :)

Běijīng wǎnbào
Zhāng Yùyáo jìng shàng

尊敬的梅维恒教授(Prof. Victor H. Mair):
您好!
我是中国《北京晚报》的记者张玉瑶。最近《哥伦比亚中国文学史》一书在中国出版问世,作为一个中文系学生,非常希望能够采访您一些问题,也让这本书为中国读者所了解。新星出版社的相关编辑给了我您的邮箱,所以冒昧发信来请教。如若您方便时,还望可拨冗解答一二。以下附上问题。
非常感谢!祝您身体健康,一切顺利:)
北京晚报
张玉瑶  敬上

Distinguished Professor Victor H. Mair:

Hello!

I am China's "Beijing Evening News" reporter Zhang Yuyao. A recent book on the history of Chinese literature in Colombia was published in China. As a Chinese student, I would like to be able to interview you with some questions and make this book understandable to the Chinese readers. Nova Publishing Associates related editor gave me your mailbox, so take the liberty to write to ask. If you are convenient, but also hope to take the time to answer one or two. The following questions are attached.

Thank you very much! I wish you good health and everything goes well :)

Beijing Evening News
Zhang Yuyao Jing

2.

Méi Wéihéng jiàoshòu:

Nín hǎo! Wǒ shì Běijīng "Xīn jīng bào·shūpíng zhōukān" de jìzhě Lǐ Yán,"Xīn jīng bào·shūpíng zhōukān" shì Zhōngguó yījiā fēicháng yǒu yǐngxiǎng lì de wénhuà fùkān, guānzhù gè xuékē lǐngyù de xīnshū, hǎo shū, cǎifǎngguò gèguó zhùmíng de zuòjiā, xuézhě děng.

Nín zhǔbiān de "Gēlúnbǐyǎ Zhōngguó wénxué shǐ" Zhōng yìběn jīnnián 7 yuè yóu Xīnxīng chūbǎn shè chūbǎn, duìyú zhèyàng yī běn hòuzhòng de, zhòngyào dì hǎiwài wénxué shǐ zhùzuò, wǒ fēicháng guānzhù hé xǐyuè. Wǒ běnrén zài xuéxiào xué de zhuānyè shì Zhōngguó wénxué,"Gēlúnbǐyǎ Zhōngguó wénxué shǐ" de jiàgòu, fēnxī dōu ràng wǒ gǎndào xīnxiān hé yǒu qǐfā.

Bùzhī nín shìfǒu yuànyì jiù "Gēlúnbǐyǎ Zhōngguó wénxué shǐ" jiēshòu wǒmen de yóujiàn cǎifǎng? Zhǔyào guānyú zhè běn shū de biānxiě hé nèiróng. Rúguǒ nín tóngyì, wǒ huì zài yī xīngqí zuǒyòu fā qù wǒ de cǎifǎng wèntí, nín kěyǐ zài fāngbiàn de shíjiàn zuòdá.

Yǐjí, zhè fēng yóujiàn wǒ màomèi shǐyòngle Zhōngwén, rúguǒ nín gèng yuànyì yòng Yīngwén jiāoliú hé huífù, wǒ xià cì huì zài yóujiàn zhōng shǐyòng yīngwén.

Qídài nín de huífù, zhù jiànkāng, shùnlì!

Lǐ Yán, fā zì Běijīng

梅维恒教授:

您好!我是北京《新京报·书评周刊》的记者李妍,《新京报·书评周刊》是中国一家非常有影响力的文化副刊,关注各学科领域的新书、好书,采访过各国著名的作家、学者等。
您主编的《哥伦比亚中国文学史》中译本今年7月由新星出版社出版,对于这样一本厚重的、重要的海外文学史著作,我非常关注和喜悦。我本人在学校学的专业是中国文学,《哥伦比亚中国文学史》的架构、分析都让我感到新鲜和有启发。
不知您是否愿意就《哥伦比亚中国文学史》接受我们的邮件采访?主要关于这本书的编写和内容。如果您同意,我会在一星期左右发去我的采访问题,您可以在方便的时间作答。

以及,这封邮件我冒昧使用了中文,如果您更愿意用英文交流和回复,我下次会在邮件中使用英文。

期待您的回复,祝健康、顺利!

李妍,发自北京

Professor Mei Weiheng:

Hello! I am a reporter in Beijing, "Beijing News Weekly" reporter Li Yan, "Beijing News Weekly Review" is a very influential Chinese cultural supplement, concerned about the subject areas of the book, a good book, interviewed the famous Writers, scholars and so on.

You edited the translation of "History of Chinese Literature in Colombia" published in July this year by the Rising Star Publishing House, for such a heavy, important overseas literature history books, I am very concerned about and joy. I am in the school of professional Chinese literature, "Colombian Chinese literature history" of the structure, analysis makes me feel fresh and inspiring.

I wonder if you would like to receive an e-mail interview on "The History of Chinese Literature in Colombia". Mainly on the preparation and content of this book. If you agree, I will send my interview questions in about a week. You can answer them at your convenience.

And, I take the liberty of using this message in Chinese, if you prefer to communicate in English and reply, I will use the next message in English.

Look forward to your reply, I wish healthy, smooth!

Li Yan, from Beijing

One thing I can say for sure is that Google Translate for Mandarin is much better than this human being, who just keeps smiling through the debacle of his inept interpreting.

[h.t. Ben Zimmer, Michael Carr; thanks to Mark Swofford]



36 Comments

  1. maidhc said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 6:30 pm

    "I wish healthy, smooth" is not idiomatic in English. I'm guessing this is some kind of conventional phrase in Mandarin?

    There are a few awkward spots but it is quite understandable.

  2. Tim Martin said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 6:51 pm

    Eh. I believe them if they say Google translates better than it used to (I have no idea how good the English/Mandarin translations were before), but these translations certainly aren't as good as human translations, and they have obvious grammatical errors and nonsensical parts.

    I'll be interested to see what the new Japanese/English translations were like, since I am more qualified to judge those, and they were pretty abysmal before!

  3. Thorin said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 7:46 pm

    Well, at least for the time being I still have a job.

  4. Rubrick said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 10:58 pm

    Based solely on the quality of the English (I don't know MSM), I'd say that Google might well have achieved the quality of an average translator (whatever that means), but still has a substantial way to go to reach the level of a truly good translator. Whether the remainder falls quickly or slowly is hard to predict. (I was among those who mistakenly thought top human Go players would hold out a while longer.)

    Regardless, these results are very impressive — mind-bogglingly so, really, except that we've sort of become numb to Clarke's Law. (When's the last time you were properly dumbfounded by Google search?)

  5. Victor Mair said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 11:32 pm

    @Rubrick

    I am both dumbfounded and grateful every single time I do a Google search. I simply cannot comprehend how the Google search engine works so quickly and so well, even to the point of helping me figure out what questions I want to ask it!

  6. Ivan said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 2:22 am

    Google says its new AI-powered translation tool scores nearly identically to human translators
    ->
    Google стверджує, що її новий AI-електрорегулювання бали інструмент перекладу майже ідентично людини перекладачів
    (Google affirms that her new AI-electric-regulation grades instrument of translation almost in identical manner to the human of translators)

    Nope, still mostly nonsense.

  7. E.T. said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 3:14 am

    I work as an English->certain European language translator, and mostly I work for Chinese companies. I can attest that these translations are on par with the source material I have to work with.

  8. Ari Corcoran said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 4:57 am

    @Ivan said.

    Thus far only available in Mandarin>English, with more to follow so your comparison is yet to be tested. I use Google to translate Italian>English and English>Italian, and find it, at best, good to get a fast general sense when I don't have time to go through it myself in detail (and I am not very good). Have given up on "correcting" as none of my suggestions have apparently been taken up. For example, in a recent statement from the Mayor of Palermo, clearly about an anti-Mafia campaign, Google insisted "il pizzo" should be rendered as "lace", instead of corrupt payment, with no alternate translation available (though if you enter the word "il pizzo" by itself, it does give alternatives). What Google will never be able to do is translate crap from one language to the other. Both the Quartz and Wired articles have sentences which are gibberish.

  9. Ralph Hickok said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 6:43 am

    I do quite a bit of online editing through a website called Upwork. I frequently see people looking for someone to edit Google translations and I've taken on a few of those jobs. It takes more work than does writing by a native English speaker/writer. Over the last five years or so, I've done a lot of ESL editing and editing a Google translation is comparable. It takes some effort. I should probably add that most of the ESL editing I've done has been for Europeans, although I have done some for Asians, whose writing typically takes a little more effort. I think the big difference is that Asians writing in English tend to misuse articles or omit them entirely.

  10. Christian Saunders said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 8:39 am

    I agree, totally indistinguishable from human translation. I wish you all healthy, smooth.

  11. languagehat said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 8:39 am

    "Google says its new AI-powered translation tool scores nearly identically to human translators"

    Why do they feel compelled to engage in this hype? If they simply said "Google says its new AI-powered translation tool has made a vast improvement," I would have been impressed and, based on the samples provided, agreed. To say it's comparable to human translators is ludicrous, and I'm shocked Rubrick said "Google might well have achieved the quality of an average translator" — he must have a very low opinion of the average translator! Seriously: "so take the liberty to write to ask"? "If you are convenient"? "concerned about the subject areas of the book, a good book, interviewed the famous Writers, scholars and so on"? " for such a heavy, important overseas literature history books, I am very concerned about and joy"? "I will use the next message in English"? If I'd paid a human to produce that gibberish, I would not only never use them again, I would demand my money back. Can't we be content with Google doing a good job for a free service and not leap straight to "Welp, professional translators had better start looking for new lines of work"?

  12. Christian Saunders said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 9:16 am

    Just used it on some English > Spanish text. Bad!

    ORIGINAL ENGLISH
    It's lunchtime for one little girl, but she's just not hungry. A visiting crocodile, bear, and wolf, however, are starving. It's just as well that children taste revolting.

    SPANISH
    Es la hora del almuerzo para una niña, pero ella no es sólo hambre. Un cocodrilo de visita, oso, lobo y, sin embargo, se mueren de hambre. Es igual de bien que los niños sabor repugnante.

  13. SamC said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 10:01 am

    I use Google translate often at work for materials I get from our German office – and will sometimes even use it to double check clumsy English translations. Even for a language very close to English, Google translate is not at the level of an actual translator. It's very close to the level of comprehension & accuracy I get from colleagues who are not professional translators, and who speak English as a second language fluently enough for business but who would struggle at a dinner party.
    Google is also still terrible at anything resembling jargon, I think. The examples above use very general language, but try a text on manufacturing and see what happens.

  14. GH said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 12:24 pm

    @Christian Saunders, SamC:
    Again, this is about the quality of Google's new translation technology, which is reportedly significantly better than what they currently offer. Past experience and tests with any language pair other than English–Mandarin are not relevant.

    @languagehat:
    If you read the Quartz article, it is clear that they are referring to some specific test, and saying that the new technology scores almost as well as a human. The exact test is not specified, but Wikipedia has an article on various evaluations of machine translations.

    The article also doesn't describe which human translators the automatic translation are being compared to, or under what conditions they produce the translation. Clearly the result is not as good as what you should expect from trained translators working carefully with unlimited time, but it seems plausible that it could be comparable to what you get from bilingual speakers doing a single-pass translation.

    If the human translations were produced by Amazon Mechanical Turk workers ("turkers"), for example, I am surprised they were even as good as this.

  15. languagehat said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 1:07 pm

    If you read the Quartz article, it is clear that they are referring to some specific test, and saying that the new technology scores almost as well as a human.

    That may very well be, but the headline is still ridiculous hype; it clearly implies "GT is just about as good as human translators now!" Hype is not straight-out lies, it is misleading exaggeration based (usually) on a layer of fact.

  16. K. Chang said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 3:20 pm

    Argh. The two samples reminded me of compositions I wrote in the first year I started learning English. Basically, I was writing Chinese but in English .

  17. E. T. said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 4:41 pm

    @languagehat

    It's certainly not as good as a qualified translator, no. Unfortunately, the general quality level in the business is very low, especially when it comes to Chinese->English. Hardly anyone bothers to pay for a native English speaker, even if just for proofreading. People are indeed paid (pitiful amounts of) money to produce translations that are comparable to what Google Translate now offer. I see these translations every single day.

    There are of course many very qualified translators doing excellent work, but in terms of the massive volume of text that is translated from Chinese to English every day, the standard is astonishingly low.

  18. languagehat said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

    E.T.: I understand that. If you think "Google says its new AI-powered translation tool scores nearly identically to human translators" is intended to imply "Google's new AI-powered translation tool is about as good as the very worst nonprofessional human translators," you're entitled to your opinion, but I will continue to disagree. Frankly, it's astonishing to me how many people insist on giving the benefit of the doubt to a Google press release.

  19. Thorin said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 5:00 pm

    @languagehat

    I'm also concerned by the implication in the headline that the quality provided by the update is on par with a human translation. I've been a full-time translator for eight years now, and don't really like seeing my profession compared to the low quality of the translations that came out for Victor.

  20. E. T. said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

    I am basing my evaluation on the examples that prof. Mair posted. Certainly, the Silicon Valley hype is ridiculous; I don't think anyone is arguing otherwise, and I certainly did not mean to say what you appear to have read into my words.

    Still, and this is all I wanted to get across, I believe you would be astonished to see the texts that Chinese->English translators turn in every day. Given that numerous companies find these translations acceptable and agree to pay for them, these translators are not nonprofessional (one could argue they are unprofessional). These translators' jobs could conceivably be replaced by machines in the near future.

  21. languagehat said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

    Certainly, the Silicon Valley hype is ridiculous; I don't think anyone is arguing otherwise, and I certainly did not mean to say what you appear to have read into my words.

    Well, then, we're in agreement. I'm sure I would be appalled by the kinds of human translations you're talking about!

  22. Jim Breen said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 7:26 pm

    I'll certainly be waiting with interest to see how the revised GT works with other language pairs. especially Japanese-English. Certainly the Chinese-English samples Victor posted are impressive, as are the ones quoted in Google's own announcement (https://research.googleblog.com/2016/09/a-neural-network-for-machine.html).
    Getting an LSTM-based system to this stage is quite a feat.

  23. GH said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 8:49 pm

    I do not agree that the headline is "Silicon Valley hype" (nor is the article, as far as I can tell, a press release); I think it's a perfectly defensible journalistic summary of the results of their tests. The evaluation in which the algorithm nearly matches human translations is clearly stated to be a score on standardized tests (which implies all kinds of limitations), and nowhere does it suggest that the human translators whose work they compared it against were trained experts.

    The details are presented in a Google Research blog post and a paper on arxiv.org.

    They seem to have run two rounds of comparison against human translations. One used the newstest-2014 parallel text corpus for an English-to-French translation (without downloading the dataset, it's not immediately clear where the translations in this parallel corpus come from). Another (which appears to be the one depicted in the graph on the blog) tested a number of language pairs, and used "500 randomly sampled sentences from Wikipedia and news websites" as the test set, with the human translations prepared specially.

    The translators in this second task and the translation raters in both tasks are described only as "humans fluent in both languages." Since no further details are given, I think it's safe to assume they were not professionals in the field. (I tend to think such details really ought to be reported, along with more information about the rating procedure, how many raters took part, inter-rater agreement, etc. But I guess it's a paper written by engineers…)

  24. maidhc said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 1:43 am

    I tried running an article from the Irish Times through Google (An cúl báire). The translation was terrible. It didn't really come up to the level of being called a translation at all.

    The Mandarin examples were much better even though they were awkward and ungrammatical. At least you could more or less figure out the meaning.

    I suppose they have a much bigger corpus for Mandarin and they spend more time on it because it's a more widely spoken language.

  25. Jon said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 1:53 am

    If Google can acheive that level of accuracy with Latin to English, I would be delighted. I research early medical texts (scanned thanks to the Internet Achive and Google), many in Latin. The current translations are not completely useless – you can often get some idea of the topic under discussion – but no idea of the sense.

  26. Jim Breen said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 2:07 am

    @maidhc

    The new version of GT is only running with Chinese-English.What you're seeing with Irish is the old system. I guess the availability of Irish-English parallel corpora may be a bit limited.

  27. Tommi Nieminen said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 4:25 am

    The quality seems very impressive for MT, I just wish Google hadn't mentioned the blatantly flawed human/machine translation comparison, since that's obviously going to be the focus of the press coverage. We can see from professor Mair's examples that the translations are nowhere near as good as those produced by a professional translator, but in the comparison almost 3/5 of the machine translated sentences were judged perfect translations (same proportion as for human translation). This indicates 1. that the translators were substandard and 2. the criteria for a perfect translation were very permissive. Would be nice to see this test performed with conventional expectations for translator competence and translation quality.

  28. GH said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 4:55 am

    Here are some examples from their actual test data (English to French):

    Original: "The reason Boeing are doing this is to cram more seats in to make their plane more competitive with our products," said Kevin Keniston, head of passenger comfort at Europe's Airbus.

    Machine Translation: "La raison pour laquelle Boeing fait cela est de créer plus de sièges pour rendre son avion plus compétitif avec nos produits", a déclaré Kevin Keniston, chef du confort des passagers chez Airbus. (6/6)

    Human Translation: "Boeing fait ça pour pouvoir caser plus de sièges et rendre ses avions plus compétitifs par rapports à nos produits", a déclaré Kevin Keniston, directeur de Confort Passager chez l'avionneur européen Airbus. (6/6)

    Original: Martin told CNN that he asked Daley whether his then-boss knew about the potential shuffle.

    MT: Martin a dit à CNN qu'il avait demandé à Daley si son patron d'alors était au courant du remaniement potentiel. (6/6)

    HT: Martin a dit sur CNN qu'il avait demandé à Daley si son patron d'alors était au courant du remaniement éventuel. (5/6)

    Original: She was spotted three days later by a dog walker trapped in the quarry

    MT: Elle a été repérée trois jours plus tard par un traîneau à chiens piégé dans la carrière. (2/6)

    HT: Elle a été repérée trois jours plus tard par une personne qui promenait son chien coincée dans la carrière (5/6)

    (Note that this last example is ambiguous and confusing if not outright wrong in its original English version.)

  29. Ralph Hickok said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 8:31 am

    I can't help wondering how classic literary translations would fare on that test. For example, Constance Garnett's translations of Dostoyevsky, Gogol, and other Russian writers, or the Muirs' translations of Kafka.

  30. John Frier said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 11:42 am

    Why choose formal letters for checking the quality of translation?

    Here is a random sample from Chinese Wikipedia:
    另有一說,在14世紀時中葉期的歐洲,正被黑死病壟罩著,威尼斯也不例外,當時因世紀黑死病死亡者多達威尼斯三分之一的人口,屍體的快速暴增,只好藉由貢多拉運送,政府也嚴禁奢華浪費風氣,而用黑色表對黑死病的哀悼,一直沿用至今。

    Google "translation":
    Another one said that in the mid-14th century Europe, is being covered by the Black Death Ridge, Venice is no exception, because the death of the Black Death of the century up to one-third of the population of Venice, the rapid explosion of the body , Had to transport by gondola, the government is strictly prohibited luxury waste of culture, and black table with the black death of the mourning, has been in use ever since.

    Huh???

  31. maidhc said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 3:15 pm

    I tried another experiment, this time with Spanish. I used another newspaper article, 6 platillos que NO son comida mexicana.

    It is mostly understandable. Considering that it is talking about food, mostly the names of various dishes are handled properly. But there are some problems:

    "Este platillo le encanta a Donald Trump y hasta asegura que en el restaurante de la Trump Tower de Nueva York preparan el mejor del mundo."

    This dish loves Donald Trump and even says that in the restaurant Trump Tower New York prepared the best in the world.

    Misses prepositions and the synthetic verbs.

    "Y cómo no, no porque sean verdes significa que se pueden juntar con el aguacate."

    And of course, not because they are green means that can be combined with avocado.

    If you didn't speak any Spanish, it's much better than nothing. And I did learn the Spanish for "Yuck"–guácala. I hope.

    I understand that the improvements have not yet been applied to Spanish, so I will be interested to see whether the translation will improve in the future.

  32. Eidolon said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 5:40 pm

    The new system works only for Mandarin Chinese->English, from what I understand, so I put it to the test on what should be the most obvious use case: news translation.

    "本报北京9月29日电 (记者杨晔)国家主席习近平29日在人民大会堂同白俄罗斯总统卢卡申科举行会谈。两国元首决定建立相互信任、合作共赢的中白全面战略伙伴关系,发展双方全天候友谊,携手打造利益共同体和命运共同体。

    习近平指出,中白是肝胆相照的好朋友和真诚互助的好伙伴。当前两国交流合作的紧密程度超过历史任何时期,双边关系发展正在迈向更高层次。中方愿意同白方一道,维护好中白关系发展的强劲势头,抓住共建"一带一路"带来的难得机遇,为两国关系发展注入新的强劲动力,更好造福两国人民。

    习近平强调,中白要加大相互支持力度,筑牢政治互信基石。两国应该保持高层交往势头,在涉及彼此核心利益问题上坚定相互支持。双方要实现各自发展战略对接,拉紧共同利益纽带。要加快共建"一带一路",并共同推进"一带一路"建设同欧亚经济联盟建设有效对接。要加强经贸投资合作,促进双边贸易平衡发展,深化机电、高新技术、质检和标准化领域合作,争取交通、物流、能源、信息技术、机械制造等领域合作实现早期收获。要加快中白工业园建设,拓展地方合作,实现优势互补和协同发展。双方要加强安全合作,维护共同安全利益。要深化人文交流,促进民心相通。中方支持在白俄罗斯开设更多孔子学院和孔子课堂,鼓励两国青年学生开展交流互访。要进一步便利双方人员往来,希望双方规划好明年中白建交25周年庆祝活动。双方要加大在国际和地区事务中的协调和配合。中方愿意同白方在联合国、上海合作组织、亚信等多边框架内深化合作,推动国际秩序朝着更加公正合理的方向发展。"

    "BEIJING, Sept. 29 (Xinhuanet) – Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Belarussian President Lukashenko here Tuesday at the Great Hall of the People. The two heads of state decided to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership of mutual trust, cooperation and win-win situation, to develop all-weather friendship between the two sides, to work together to create a community of interests and the fate of the community.

    Xi Jinping pointed out that the white is a good friend in good faith and mutual assistance in good partner. At present, bilateral exchanges and cooperation are closer than any other time in history, and the development of bilateral relations is moving towards a higher level. China is ready to work with White to safeguard the momentum of the development of China-Belarus relations and seize the rare opportunity brought about by the "one-way-all-the-way" approach to inject new and powerful momentum for the development of bilateral relations and better benefit the two peoples.

    Xi stressed that China and Belarus should increase mutual support and build a solid foundation for political mutual trust. The two countries should maintain the momentum of high-level exchanges and firmly support each other in their core interests. The two sides should realize their respective development strategies and link up their common interests. To speed up the build "along the way", and jointly promote the "all along the way" construction and Eurasian economic alliance building effective docking. We should strengthen cooperation in economic and trade investment, promote the balanced development of bilateral trade, deepen cooperation in electromechanical, high-tech, quality inspection and standardization, and strive for early harvest in the fields of transportation, logistics, energy, information technology and machinery manufacturing. To speed up the construction of the White Industrial Park, expand local cooperation and realize complementary advantages and coordinated development. The two sides should strengthen security cooperation and safeguard common security interests. We should deepen cultural exchanges and promote people's hearts. The Chinese side supports the opening of more Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms in Belarus to encourage exchange of visits between young students of the two countries. It is necessary to further facilitate personnel exchanges between the two sides and hope that both sides will plan for the 25th anniversary celebration of diplomatic relations between China and Belarus next year. The two sides should increase coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs. China is willing to deepen cooperation with White in multilateral frameworks such as the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and AsiaInfo, and promote the international order towards a more just and rational direction."

    My conclusion: the English translation is, in fact, *much* improved over the previous version of translate, though unfortunately Google has taken that version down, so it is difficult to put them side by side. The most obvious area of improvement is that the translation appears more, now, to be a coherent group of sentences, rather than a sequence of disconnected words.

    I am excited for the future of this technology and what it can do for other languages.

  33. Greg said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 6:43 pm

    Mostly @VM but really for anyone: Does anyone have a substantial text (full letter or several paragraphs, like your examples) you Google-translated in the past (original + translation)? I'd love to see the progression over time. What sorts of things were mistranslated in the past, but better now? Anything come out worse? Have you done this before?

  34. John Frier said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 8:59 pm

    News about political visits, formal letters etc are extremely clichéed.
    The sad fact is that beyond this Google fails. Does anybody think that

    "the rapid explosion of the body , Had to transport by gondola, the government is strictly prohibited luxury waste of culture, and black table with the black death of the mourning"

    can be called a translation?

  35. Francis Boyle said,

    September 30, 2016 @ 10:10 am

    It's strikes me that complaining that these translations (the one in Professor Mair's post that is) aren't up to the standard of a good professional translation is like objecting that extemporaneous speech is up to the standard of a professionally edited text. (Insert your own Trump joke here.)

    @John Frier

    The text makes a lot more sense (in fact, is completely understandable to me) once you know that it is explaining why Venetian gondolas are black. Which is not surprising really given Google's top down approach.

  36. languagehat said,

    September 30, 2016 @ 10:23 am

    It's strikes me that complaining that these translations (the one in Professor Mair's post that is) aren't up to the standard of a good professional translation is like objecting that extemporaneous speech is up to the standard of a professionally edited text.

    Is anyone complaining about that in this thread? I'm certainly not, and in fact I've frequently countered such complaints with fervent gratitude that such a service exists at all, that translations from languages I don't know are made freely available. As long as I can get even a general sense of what the original says, I'm not going to gripe about the quality. What I'm complaining about is the implication in the Quartz headline cited above, and presumptively in the Google press release that lies behind the news stories, that the New! Improved! GT is pretty much as good as (not stated, but left for you to imagine) professional human translators. Of course if you click through and read the actual study you'll realize that's not what's being said, but readers should not be compelled to go to such lengths to figure out the news. I don't like being lied to, directly or by implication; it's the business of flacks to lie, and it should be the business of news reports to counter such lies.

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