Re: translation software.

From: Phil Britton (
Date: 09/05/03

Date: Fri, 05 Sep 2003 14:06:05 +0100

Andy Baxter <> writes:

> Phil Britton wrote:
>> Michael Heiming <> writes:
>>> Andy Baxter <> wrote:
>>>> I've recently subscribed to a mailing list where the people are mainly
>>>> speaking german. Does anyone know of a program that could do an
>>>> automatic translation so for each sentence you get german on one side of
>>>> the screen, and half-readable english on the other, just to give me a
>>>> start on learning it?
>>> You could try:
>>> Mostly gives me a good laugh on many translations.
>>> ;)
>> The problem is, in order to have a good laugh at the translation
>> effort, you have to be able to understand the language well enough to
>> find it funny. Which means that you don't really need the translation
>> system anyway.
>> Hm! I'm sure this fits in with Goedel, Escher, Bach somewhere :-)
> Not if you do a translation from the language you don't know to the one you
> do. I will demonstrate...
> Why the excitement over software patents? If Haydn would have marked "a
> Symphonie, by the fact that sound [ in extended Sonatenform ] is produced
> would have come" patented, Mozart into difficulties. Differently than
> copyright patents can block independent creations. Software patents can
> out-lever software copyright. A in copyright matters protected work cannot
> be by hundreds by patents occupied, of those the author anything white, for
> whose injury it can be sued however. Sometimes some patents cannot be gone
> around, because they are very broadly or part of a communication standard.
> Scientific studies prove that software patents led to a reduction of the
> investments in research and development. Progress in computer science is
> progress in abstracting. Traditional patents were directed toward concrete,
> material inventions. Software patents are directed toward ideas. One does
> not patent no more a certain mausefalle, but each "means to seals an
> environment" simulated by rodents "or" means to interception of data in.
> The fact that here the universal logic equipment is used named "computers"
> does not represent a delimitation. If software is patentable, everything is
> patentable.
> Actually, this one's not bad (using Babelfish).

OK I was thinking about the other way round. I'm a native english
speaker who also speaks fluent german. I can puzzle out what the above
means because I know German grammar, word order and idiom. I think it
would be hard for someone who had no knowledge of german to
understand it. Maybe someone who has no knowledge if german is reading
this and can comment.

However the problem with machine translation of language is that
everyday language is a lot more than just words and grammar. I wrote a
post on Slahdot a few weekes ago about this very subject:

"For example a german poet might refer to a "tree". Now the meanings
associated with trees in German culture are very different from those
in British English culture. In German you would have associations with
Germanic Mythology, the old folk tales collected by the Brothers
Grimm, the modern german environmental movement. In english you'd
probably think of things like Robin Hood and men in tights, "Hearts of
Oak" and the british navy and various modern prejudices against anyone
who cares about the environment (tree hugger). So that to a german or
english speaker the word tree conjures up very different images. Thats
why with even related languages (though German and English aren't as
close as you probably think they are) it takes a skilled translator of
literature to bring across what the original author possibly
intended. You need to be well versed in the "culture" of both
languages to translate effectively"

Of course, this applies mainly to literary or every day language, as
another poster points out in this thread machine translation is usable
in some areas,