Clear Evidence of Improvements In Machine Translation

You might heard of funny stories about translation mistakes caused by machine translators. There are two particularly famous jokes about CIA and machine translation:

1) When the CIA inaugurated its first English-Russian-English translation computer, one of the participants asked how one could check and see that the translation was the way it should be. The developers of the translation engine answered: “Type in an expression in English and see the translation”. So the questioner typed in the expression “Out of sight, out of mind”, and he received an answer in Russian. Someone else asked: “How do we know that this is the correct translation?”. He was answered: “Type the result back into the machine”. The translation was not long in coming: “Invisible idiot”.

2) The Russian translation of “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26) changed into “the vodka is good but the meat is rotten”.

I tried these translations just for fun. The result was less fun, though, like you can see from my screenshot:

Machine Translator with Quality Check prevents most crusial translation mistakes.While machine translation has been evolving for years and years now, the next source for these funny jokes may come from speech-to-speech translator apps. While waiting for those, enjoy the stories about the unlucky Hilary Clinton and a famous Chinese restaurant.

4 thoughts on “Clear Evidence of Improvements In Machine Translation”

  1. Translation to Russian is ideal. What if you make a little variation of the source phrase?

    The spirit can be willing, but the flesh will be weak.

  2. Thank you, Denis, for your comment.

    I tried the same with “The spirit can be willing, but the flesh will be weak.”
    The result in Russian was “Дух может быть готова, но плоть будет слабым.”
    And the back translation was “Spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak.”
    The Quality Estimator gave 85,71% for the translation quality.

    So it seems that this small variation translates quite well, too.

  3. Wow!
    Actually, it’s a surprise, because “Дух может быть готова, но плоть будет слабым.” is a quite weird translation: “the spirit may be ready (wrong gender), but the flesh will be weak (wrong gender).” However, the backward translation is better than Russian origin! 🙂 congrats

  4. Nice to know this! My Russian skills are close to zero, so I can only count on the Automatic Quality Check. Actually the Quality Check indicates indeed a significant decrease (from 96% to 86%) after modifing the sentence. I didn’t take a screenshot but even the yellow light next to the percentage shows that the translation wasn’t as good as with the original phrase.

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