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Monday, March 27, 2017

March {Translation} Madness

by Paul E. Richardson & Olga Kuzmina

A random query from a friend led us down a rabbit hole. The query was if we had tried the Yandex online translation engine. Everyone knows about Google Translate, but what about Yandex? It ought to be great for English <-> Russian text, right?

Well, we decided to do a test and find out. We selected two short, difficult paragraphs we are working on for the coming issue of Chtenia, then ran them through each of the two translation engines, to see how they matched up to human translators. You be the judge. 


First Text

Падали за окнами на железо капли дождя, и ветер, громыхнув иногда крышей, то принимался насвистывать вокруг дома, на углах карнизов, по каким-то неприметным щелкам, то выл в печную трубу, повсюду засовывая черные, мокрые, лохматые губы.

 

YANDEX GOOGLE
Fall for a view of the iron rain, and wind, sometimes grayhow roof, then began to whistle around the house, in the corners of the eaves, on some inconspicuous Delcam, howled in the chimney, everywhere thrusting black, wet, hairy lips. Drops of rain fell outside the windows, and the wind, sometimes rattling the roof, would whistle around the house, at the corners of the cornices, through some inconspicuous crack, then howled into the chimney, everywhere thrusting black, wet, shaggy lips.

 

Human Translator

Outside the window, drops of rain fell on the rails, and the wind, occasionally causing the roof to rumble, whistled about the building, into the corners of the eaves, through some imperceptible cracks, then moaned through the stovepipe, poking its black, moist, disheveled lips everywhere.

Google did far better with this first example. It gets extra points for being pretty much understandable, which the Yandex version of course is not.


Second Text

В сие же время действует и торжествует гений… Ясный взор на мир открывает истину, воображение сильное представляет ее черты живо и разительно, вкус зрелый украшает ее простотою, и творения ума человеческого являются в совершенстве, и творец дерзает наконец простирать руку к потомству, быть современником веков и гражданином вселенной. Молодость любит в славе только шум, а душа зрелая — справедливое, основательное признание ее полезной для света деятельности.

YANDEX GOOGLE

At this same time, operates the triumphant genius... Clear eyes at the world reveals the truth, imagination is strong, her features alive and strong taste of Mature decorates its simplicity, and creations of the human mind are in perfection, and the Creator finally dares extend a hand to offspring, to be a contemporary of the centuries, and citizen of the universe. The youth loves in the glory of only the noise, but the soul is Mature, fair, thorough recognition it useful for light activities.

The genius acts more slowly, and the genius acts ... The clear view of the world reveals the truth, the imagination is strong, its images are vividly expressive, the taste of the mature adorns it with simplicity, and the creations of the human mind are perfect, and the creator dares finally extend his hand to the dead, to be contemporary Centuries of the game of the universe. Youth loves only the noise of the noise, the adult's adage is a just, thorough recognition of its activity, which is useful for light.

 

Human Translator

Today’s age is witnessing the flourishing and triumph of the genius. A clear outlook on the world unlocks the truth; the strong imagination sees her features vividly and distinctively; the mature taste adorns her with simplicity; and the creations of the human mind appear in their perfection, and the creator dares at last to reach his hand out to posterity, to become a contemporary of all times and a citizen of the universe. Youth loves fame only for the noise, while the mature soul loves the justified recognition of one’s useful deeds. 

Both engines choked on this one, in terms of making the resulting text understandable, but we give Yandex the edge for being just slightly better. 


Of course, the real lesson here, which we all knew going into this, is that the Human Translation Engines win hands down when it comes to creating quality translations that convey the sense and feel of the original.

When in doubt, go human.

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