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  #1  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:41 PM
SDMBKL SDMBKL is offline
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Is Google Translate reliable?

I was playing with Google Translate, and for no apparent reason, I translated text to Latin. I studied Spanish as a foreign language in grade school, so I knew how Romance languages work. They work VERY similar to English.

I typed this into Google Translate:

To think
I think
You think
He thinks
She thinks
It thinks
We think
You all think
They think

And I got this as an output:

cogitare
puto
putas
cogitat
putat
putat
nos cogitare
Vos omnes putant
putant

Based on my knowledge of Spanish, to think would be pensar, the conjugation would be pienso, piensas, piensa, pensamos, piensais (accent on the a), piensan. So, why is Google Translator giving me this seemingly incoherent jumble of conjugations? Is the Latin conjugation correct?
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  #2  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:48 PM
Nava Nava is offline
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The Latin verb would be cogitare; the present simple indicative is cogito, cogitas, cogitat, cogitamus, cogitatis, cogitant. Pensare exists in Latin as well (same as cogitar exists in Spanish), but frequency rules say that pensar gets translated to cogitare. Note that assuming that the root of a Spanish word will be Latin is a very risky proposition: in this case, sonó la flauta por casualidad (you got lucky), but we have as many words with Germanic, Arabic, Basque or Greek roots as Latin ones.

Also, Latin does not use tildes. Ancient Greek does; they eventually passed to southern Italian languages/dialects and from there to Spanish.



The reason translate is giving you that mess is because it's not recognizing the input's nature. It's trying to translate each line separatedly, and the records it has in its memory happen to be that jumble, a mixture of cogitare and putare.

Last edited by Nava; 04-26-2012 at 03:53 PM..
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  #3  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:05 PM
guizot guizot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SDMBKL View Post
Based on my knowledge of Spanish, to think would be pensar . . .
Not necessarily. We use think in English to say a lot of things that don't translate as pensar. Not only that, but think can be stative or aspectual depending on which idea you want it to mean. It's impossible to translate a list of decontextualized, isoluated verb forms like yours in any meaningful way, even for a human--so why do you expect Google to be able to?
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:19 PM
Nava Nava is offline
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guizot, while I agree that there are rarely words with a single possible translation, that list wasn't "decontextualized, isolated", it was a conjugation. If google had been able to recognize it as one, its choice of which "to think" verb to conjugate could have been one of several, but the translation wouldn't have been "a jumble": it would have been a conjugated verb in Latin.
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:27 PM
guizot guizot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
that list wasn't "decontextualized, isolated", it was a conjugation.
What else is a conjugation if not decontextualized? Like you said, there's no reason to translate a conjugation in the first place, especially not one in English, which has only one conjugation, anyway.

I agree completely that if it had recognized the input as a conjugation, it should have produced something different. But the Google translator (from what I can tell) uses (as you point out) a kind of very crude corpus to base it's meanings. And so of course something like I think--which in English most often occurs as a discourse marker without any propositional weight--leaves Google without much to go on.
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  #6  
Old 04-27-2012, 01:09 AM
kmshrader kmshrader is offline
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My experience with Latin is very very minimal, but my experience with Google Translate is pretty significant; I teach German to high school students. IMHO, GT should only ever be used to get the gist of something translated from a foreign language to your mother tongue. It should NEVER be used to translate text into a language you aren't well-versed in. There's just too much room for error, and an imaginative brain is necessary for that sort of work.
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:23 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guizot View Post
What else is a conjugation if not decontextualized? Like you said, there's no reason to translate a conjugation in the first place, especially not one in English, which has only one conjugation, anyway.
A conjugation is the whole text, it's not each line. It has a context of "practicing grammar". And I never said that there is no reason to translate them. I've translated both complete and partial conjugations in language classes many times. Please don't put words in my mouth (or my fingers, as the case would be).

Last edited by Nava; 04-27-2012 at 04:23 AM..
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Old 04-27-2012, 06:09 AM
living_in_hell living_in_hell is offline
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I'm just so surprised to see a non-survey from you that I can't even create a reply.
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  #9  
Old 04-27-2012, 06:38 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SDMBKL View Post
So, why is Google Translator giving me this seemingly incoherent jumble of conjugations?
Because it's a machine translator, and machines make terrible translators. Really, the state of the art isn't anywhere close to what a human translator can do. Besides which, you picked about the worst possible example to expect a machine to translate; most algorithms (including Google Translate) assumes the input is going to be coherent, running text. A list of verb conjugations is not such an input.
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  #10  
Old 04-27-2012, 11:31 AM
guizot guizot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
A conjugation is the whole text, it's not each line. It has a context of "practicing grammar". And I never said that there is no reason to translate them. I've translated both complete and partial conjugations in language classes many times. Please don't put words in my mouth (or my fingers, as the case would be).
I apologize--I see that you did not say. Nevertheless, I think a conjugation is indeed decontextualized for precisely that reason. It is done only to display language, not to communicate with it--it is not a natural use of language, which is probably how Google derives meaning for translation. (Moreover, except as a brief point of demonstration, there is hardly any reason to conjugate English in the first place--as only one person assumes morphological change, and only three verbs are irregular in that regard.) A conjugation is just an inappropriate way to judge Google's reliability for translation. People can conjugate verbs over and over again without having the slightest idea what they're saying, let alone how to really use the verb forms correctly in natural discourse.
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  #11  
Old 04-27-2012, 11:45 AM
Jragon Jragon is offline
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Google translate isn't so bad as long as you're good enough to double-check it. That is, it's good to double-check sentences you're not sure of in languages you're proficient but not excellent in. It's a terrible tool for just figuring out what some language you've never heard of is saying.
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Old 04-27-2012, 12:56 PM
tdn tdn is offline
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Quote:
Taking time for yourself, make sure you get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy snacks, don't skip meals. Keep a stress chart or journal to find you high stress points. And of course they gave us the website for our health insurance provider for more information.
Translated to Croation, then to Russian, then to Vietnamese, then back to:

Quote:
Take time for yourself, make sure you have at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, get lots of sleep, eat healthy, do not skip meals. Keep a log or chart the tension to find the brightest moments of tension. And, of course, for our home page provided our health insurance for more information.
That's actually pretty good!

Last edited by tdn; 04-27-2012 at 12:56 PM..
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  #13  
Old 04-27-2012, 02:09 PM
Jophiel Jophiel is offline
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My wife sometimes does professional translation and has used Google translate as a starting point. She runs the passage and then goes through and cleans it up so it's grammatically correct and anything silly is fixed. It must be reliable "enough" to make the practice worthwhile or else she'd just do it all by hand.
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