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View Full Version : Is Altavista's Babel Fish any good?



Charles Kozierok
09-21-2000, 08:50 PM
(Yes, I'm posting in my own suggestion box. This means I am insane. You knew that already. http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/smile.gif )
To those who are fluent in a language other than English, I was wondering. Is the automatic translation service offered by Altavista competent? Meaning, does it produce useful output when it translates, or is it just gibberish?
Obviously the terminology and jargon, when dealing with technical material, is an issue. But does the automatic translator help a native speaker of another language, or just confuse matters?
Give me answers, because I don't know enough French to tell myself. http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/smile.gif

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Charles M. Kozierok
Webslave, The PC Guide (http://www.PCGuide.com)
Comprehensive PC Reference, Troubleshooting, Optimization and Buyer's Guides...
Note: Please reply to my forum postings here on the forums. Thanks.

der King Mongo
09-22-2000, 02:07 AM
Hi Charles,

My ex is a chef, who spent 11 years in France. I copied your original post, dumped it into the translator, then asked her if she could understand it. Here is her response:

<my name here>,
The computer translator is SO incredibly ****ed up that it is hysterical or nonsense. This time I can understand alomost nothing.
So translate it back and I will answer your question.
D

See, she couldn't even understand what I was asking her (which was in French). I think it probably works great for "Hi, how are you? I am doing well. I am an American!" but if you try "Hey, if you slave a hard drive to an ATAPI device on the same IDE channel, will the HDD..." etc.

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***He who eats when he is full, digs his grave with his teeth***

Charles Kozierok
09-22-2000, 07:51 AM
Oh dear, that's not good. Thanks. Anyone else?
(I don't expect it to be good. The only threshold I am trying to pass is this: will someone who speaks language "X" fluently, but little English, find the translation significantly helpful compared to trying to struggle through the English version?)

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Charles M. Kozierok
Webslave, The PC Guide (http://www.PCGuide.com)
Comprehensive PC Reference, Troubleshooting, Optimization and Buyer's Guides...
Note: Please reply to my forum postings here on the forums. Thanks.

der King Mongo
09-22-2000, 12:20 PM
Hi Charles,

I also got this response from her, after I sent her your original query in English:

D
PS< Altavista translator= you make an ass out of yourself and confuse the hell out of the native speaker.

http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/smile.gif But, on the other hand, I DID endear her to me originally by using the AltaVista BabelFish to have a conversation with her in French for a few emails, BUT I was careful to use simple baby talk "I am an american. I like you very much. Would you like to see me naked?"

Heh. http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/redface.gif

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***He who eats when he is full, digs his grave with his teeth***

Charles Kozierok
09-24-2000, 09:02 AM
Well, that's pretty damning. Perhaps I shouldn't bother. I'd still like to hear some other, confirming (or contradicting) opinions...
Thanks.

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Charles M. Kozierok
Webslave, The PC Guide (http://www.PCGuide.com)
Comprehensive PC Reference, Troubleshooting, Optimization and Buyer's Guides...
Note: Please reply to my forum postings here on the forums. Thanks.

abacus
10-06-2000, 11:52 PM
Hi, I happen to have a BA in French, and I tried out babelfish after reading your post. I translated "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party." It translated it as, "Maintenant est le temps pour les tout bons hommes pour venir ŕ l'aide de la réception." It's a passable translation, except for the last word: it translated "party" as a reception or gathering, as in, "birthday party." That turned the sentence into nonsense. Very interesting. After one use, my first impression is that machine translation could be a useful tool do a rough translation to spare you some drudgery. But you have to be able to revise it. It can provide you with a very rough draft which you can then polish. So it could certainly be a time-saver.

In the final analysis, I think translation is partly science and partly art, of which a computer is incapable. It's heartening to me in a way: getting a degree in French was not a total waste of time. I've been studying computers in my free time, often regretting my choice of degree and feeling overwhelmed by how much I have to learn about computers, even after getting my A+ and MCP. This time, I was one up on the computer :-)This little exercise was a very interesting illustration to me of the limitations of the computer. This is one area where I'm skeptical that computers will ever relegate people to unemployment lines.

That said, again, I think a machine translator like babelfish could save some time.

By the way, your site is great, but have you considered publishing it a book so we have the option of reading it cover to cover? I know annoyances.org did that. At a recent computer fair I saw their book on sale for $10 CAN. I don't know if that's good or bad. It's just that reading a book is, of course, more comfortable than reading a computer screen. Anyway, just a thought; it's none of my business really :-)

Charles Kozierok
10-08-2000, 09:05 AM
Originally posted by abacus:
Hi, I happen to have a BA in French, and I tried out babelfish after reading your post. I translated "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party." It translated it as, "Maintenant est le temps pour les tout bons hommes pour venir ŕ l'aide de la réception." It's a passable translation, except for the last word: it translated "party" as a reception or gathering, as in, "birthday party." That turned the sentence into nonsense. Very interesting. After one use, my first impression is that machine translation could be a useful tool do a rough translation to spare you some drudgery. But you have to be able to revise it. It can provide you with a very rough draft which you can then polish. So it could certainly be a time-saver.

In the final analysis, I think translation is partly science and partly art, of which a computer is incapable. It's heartening to me in a way: getting a degree in French was not a total waste of time. I've been studying computers in my free time, often regretting my choice of degree and feeling overwhelmed by how much I have to learn about computers, even after getting my A+ and MCP. This time, I was one up on the computer :-)This little exercise was a very interesting illustration to me of the limitations of the computer. This is one area where I'm skeptical that computers will ever relegate people to unemployment lines.

That said, again, I think a machine translator like babelfish could save some time.

Thanks for the feedback, which I much appreciate.
There's no practical way for me to have the site translated by a human; the content changes all the time and it's very large. So it comes down to Altavista or nothing. The question is: if I have a way to let people translate any page on the site with a click of a mouse, will that be useful, or will the translations be so bad that it will confuse the reader?


By the way, your site is great, but have you considered publishing it a book so we have the option of reading it cover to cover? I know annoyances.org did that. At a recent computer fair I saw their book on sale for $10 CAN. I don't know if that's good or bad. It's just that reading a book is, of course, more comfortable than reading a computer screen. Anyway, just a thought; it's none of my business really :-)
Well, I appreciate the feedback.
I've certainly considered it. The problem is that there are a LOT of issues in converting a site like mine to a book. It would be months of work. In addition, authors don't make all that much on books; most goes to the publisher to cover costs and profits, and the retailer. Finally, I can't publish the site until I get the site up to date, which is like treading water while holding an anvil. http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/wink.gif
BTW, if a book is selling for C$10 that probably means it was "dumped" to a clearance house, in which case the author probably made nothing at all on that copy of the book.

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Charles M. Kozierok
Webslave, The PC Guide (http://www.PCGuide.com)
Comprehensive PC Reference, Troubleshooting, Optimization and Buyer's Guides...
Note: Please reply to my forum postings here on the forums. Thanks.

abacus
10-09-2000, 08:27 PM
>>The question is: if I have a way to let people translate any page on the >>site with a click of a mouse, will that be useful, or will the >>translations be so bad that it will confuse the reader?

The translations will without a doubt be so bad that it will confuse the reader.

Charles Kozierok
10-11-2000, 07:46 AM
Guess I won't bother then. Thanks for the input!

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Charles M. Kozierok
Webslave, The PC Guide (http://www.PCGuide.com)
Comprehensive PC Reference, Troubleshooting, Optimization and Buyer's Guides...
Note: Please reply to my forum postings here on the forums. Thanks.

sea69
04-05-2001, 08:58 PM
here's an thought ( I know this is an old topic, but they have UPDATED their translator) and something I recently had to do.

while looking for an answer to a question here, I found myself at a site that was totally in french. I speak french (a little) but this was WAY too involved.

using the fish(babble), I was easliy able to understand 99% of it. There were some things that were actually quite funny, but I think that people would understand that its a 'translator'.


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*another 'toaster' bites the dust*



[This message has been edited by sea69 (edited 04-05-2001).]