Google Translates Documents and Email Too

Google Translates Docs

This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.

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Google Translate does documents too…

Over the weekend Google added a new service to Google Translate: upload a document.

What you do is select ‘upload a document’, then browse for a file to translate. Right quick your translation pops up in a browser window, but minus your original formatting.

Google Translate can also be used with Gmail and Google Talk.

For Gmail: Simply enable “Message Translation” from the Labs tab under Settings, and when you receive an email in a language other than your own, Gmail will help you translate it into a language you can understand. In one click.

For Google Talk: Apparently you can get Google Translate for Google Talk but I was unable to get it to work. Can you?

And here’s more: 3 Tips for Quick and Free Translation Between Languages.

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Google Translate users beware…

In sillier days I would converse in French with a friend who was using BabelFish . My French wasn’t too hot so there were times when I had to depend on Babel Fish too. I say sillier days as the results were absolutely hilarious!

And while we were using BabelFish for lighthearted fun, those who need to be clear in their foreign language communications should be aware of the real dangers when using online translators. Especially when it comes to a language such as Thai.

This article on Automatic Thai machine translations online outlines the difficulties (paraphrasing):

  • Vocabulary, style and structure between the two languages are different.
  • Words with the same spelling have multiple meanings.
  • Thai words do not have Latin or Germanic roots.
  • The meaning of a Thai word must be chosen in the context of the sentence.
  • Western software algorithms cannot handle Thai word breaks.
  • Thai does not have articles or tenses, and uses polite particles.

Google Translate evaluation…

As my very good friend Amy Praphantanathorn is married to a Thai translator, I took the opportunity to get Golf’s opinion of Google Translate.

The machine translator from Google definitely cannot be a substitute for a real human translator. The software might know all the terms and vocabularies, but it takes more than just translating word by word.

A human translator knows what subject and/or content he/she is translating, thus uses the right words/tones/moods for that content.

I tested Google Translate Services and this is what I found out:

1. I typed a simple English sentence like this “Please complete the following information and return it to your child’s school”, and hit a “Translate” button.

This is what I got: “กรุณากรอกข้อมูลต่อไปนี้และกลับไปที่โรงเรียนของบุตรของท่าน”, which is translated back to English as “Please fill out the following information and go back to your child’s school”.

Another example is “Automatic labeling is of interest to the produce industry”, was translated as “ป้ายกำกับโดยอัตโนมัติเป็นดอกเบี้ยที่ผลิตอุตสาหกรรม.” (automatically label is the interest which produces the industry.) Plus Google adds a “period” at the end of the Thai sentence.

2. As for Thai to English translation, Google Translate does not do a good job at all. “ผู้จำหน่ายจะต้องไม่ “สอน” ให้พนักงานให้คำตอบที่เหมาะ สมแก่คำถามจากผู้ตรวจสอบ”, and the English text is “Vendor shall not “coach” employees on appropriate responses to questions asked by auditors”.

Google translated it as “Vendors must be “taught” to the appropriate staff to answer questions from the auditors.” Totally wrong!

In the comments of my post BabelWith.me Enters the Thai Conversation, Pete from FrogBlog left some advice for English-French auto translations that just might work for casual Thai conversations too:

One tip if you ever want to get any English translated into another language by automated software – use very short and simple sentences, where no ambiguity is possible.

I’ve experimented with this from English to French, using different variations of a few sentences to express the same meaning.

Some (the short, simple versions) were translated almost perfectly. But longer, convoluted versions mostly ended up as complete gibberish in French.

Thank you Pete. And thank you Golf and Amy.

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