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How Well Does Google Translator Cope With Idioms?  (View post)

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
15 years ago10,684 views

Good article. Where do you get your ideas?

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

My fave's are

“Jetzt lassen Sie aber mal die Kirche im Dorf!”
Now you leave however times the church in the village!
Stop making such a big fuss out of this!

“Ja, dafür würde ich sogar die Hand ins Feuer legen.”
Yes, but I would put even the hand in the fire.
Yes, I swear on my life it’s true...

“Der hat ihr neulich einen Korb gegeben.”
That gave her a basket recently.
She was flirting with him recently but he rejected her.

“Die ist gestern voll ins Fettnäpfchen getreten.”
Those stepped yesterday fully into the fat cell.
She committed a major faux pas yesterday.

And I don't understand this one in english, googlish or german-ish:

“Wer hat denn von euch zwei die Hosen an zuhause?”
Who has from you two the trousers on at home?
Who of you two is boss at home?

Herr Von Posh [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

The Google Translator clearly hat nicht alle Tassen im Schrank!


Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

>> “Na dann, Hals- und Beinbruch.”
>> Well then, neck and leg break.
>> Good luck on your endeavor/ may things go well.

In English, the phrase "Break a leg" is synonymous with "Good luck" so that's not too far off.

>> “Wer hat denn von euch zwei die Hosen an zuhause?”
>> Who has from you two the trousers on at home?
>> Who of you two is boss at home?

And, again, it's not far off as we would say, "Who wears the trousers?"

I think given that machine translation is only expected to give a gisted translation, some of these aren't too bad considering the fact that most are using ambiguous phrases without much context.

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #


Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Tony, I would have provided context if only it helped... but I don't think it helps at all with these machines... do you really think Google/ Systran fares better when you write a story around the metaphor?

(As far as the break a leg and trousers thing go, good to know, then that's not as far off indeed!)

Jason Adams [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #

Awesome idea for a post!

I'm just curious where you have heard the usage "on a hangover"? Americans usually say "have a hangover", but maybe "on" is a British thing? A quick google search of "+on +a hangover" gives 11,400 results, so I guess somebody is saying it. That's small compared to the 146,100 results for "+have +a hangover", though.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

In quite a few of these cases, there is an English idiom quite close to the literal translation:

Google says: You go to me on the nerves.
English idiom: You get on my nerves

Google says: Well then, neck and leg break.
English idiom: Well then, break a leg! (a common saying amongst actors)

Google says: Now have I smoothly the thread lost...
English idiom: Now I have lost the thread...

Google says: You did not know, which has in the grass bitten.
English idiom: Didn't you know, he has bitten the dust?

Google says: Who has from you two the trousers on at home?
English idiom: Who wears the trousers at home?

Matt Thompson [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

Quoth Roger:

Google says: Who has from you two the trousers on at home?
English idiom: Who wears the trousers at home?

Quoth me:
American idiom: Who wears the *pants* at home?

Of course, for our British friends, that American idiom means something entirely different. Sadly for us USAians, pants and trousers are the same (although trousers has that 1900s Victorian feel).

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

> I'm just curious where you have heard the usage
> "on a hangover"? Americans usually say "have a
> hangover", but maybe "on" is a British thing?

I should add that I'm no native English speaker, so my translations might also be off, but hopefully get the point across...

Martin Porcheron [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

>> but maybe "on" is a British thing

Never heard it "on a hangover" before.

Zoran [PersonRank 3]

15 years ago #

Great way of creating "Original content" is to translate English to some other language and translate it back to English... hehe I never did it, did not dare to play with fire but I am 100% sure that I am not the only one who had such a "brilliant idea".

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

I saw one-way translations auto-generated content before...

Melanie Phung [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #

I might wear the "pants" in the house, ...
aber ich hab' auch nicht mehr alle ...

=) thanks for the laugh!

MJ Rich [PersonRank 6]

15 years ago #

Yes, good, now here is the problem, what is the solution?

DPic [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

How come Google doesn't put more into translator? Wouldn't it be really good for everyone? I'd see it as very much in their best interest to have better translators

Adam Snider [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #

As has been pointed out, some of those are actually pretty well translated into English idioms of similar meaning. They are literal translations, yes, but those "literal" translations are surprisingly close to some English idioms.

Even the one about sticking the hand into the fire is a pretty good translation. We don't really have that phrase in English, but I understand the meaning.

It's got to do with "trial by fire" from medieval times. You'd sometimes be forced to put your hand into fire (or boiling water) if you were suspected of a crime. If your hand got burned, you were lying. If it didn't, you were telling the truth.

Of course, the reality is that the person conducting the test usually had a pretty good idea if you were lying or not, so if he thought you were telling the truth, he'd only make you keep your hand in the fire for a short time, to make sure that it didn't get burnt. If he thought you were lying, he'd make you leave your hand in the fire until it got burnt, to show "proof" of your guilt.

Peter Kasting [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #

systran and Google's in-house translation software are completely different, so which one is this article judging?

(For the record, systran is what Google uses to do non-in-house translations.)

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Peter, this post is clearly judging the Systran powered Google Translations:

<< As you can see below, rarely does the (Systran-provided) translation get across the meaning, as it’s almost always much too literal. Why didn’t Google already switch to their in-house technology by now? >>

Armand Asante [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #

"break a leg" and "who wears the pants around the house" are both accepted idioms in english too.

These idioms don't need to be "fixed" and translated into their true meaning.

Marc Tompkins [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

In American English, "I'd put my hand in the fire for you" is a way of saying "I'm so crazy in love with you, I'd do anything..."

It's generally used in movies and TV shows by the obsessive lover who turns out to be behind the mysterious string of killings...

beth walsh [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

You guys should check out – it's a social bookmarking site powered by Language Weaver. Language Weaver is the company that commercialized statistical translation – the kind that bases translations on mathematical probabilities and pattern recognition statitistics. It's called SMT and it's the same type of system that Google is working on in house. It's evolving due to the fact that there are more translations available for training of the systems – to figure out the statistics – but you can already see that this is the way to go.

The reason it's so challenging to get the translations right on what Google is using now is because Systran uses a rule-based system and tries to correlate the rules and grammar of one language to another – but there are just too many exceptions to the rules.

As computers get faster and able to crunch more numbers, and as more parallel translations are available for review of the statistical probabilities, automated translations will be getting better and better.

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