Saturday, June 14, 2014

Resolute and bold, but not bloody

The teaser on the story reads

Решительные поросята спрыгивают с грузовиков, которые везут их на бойню

Bing's translation is amazingly bad for this fairly straightforward sentence:

Determined to jump off the truck, the piglet who bring them to slaughter.

Original: Решительные поросята спрыгивают с грузовиков, которые везут их на бойню; Bing translation: Determined to jump off the truck, the piglet who bring them to slaughter.

I actually don't know how their algorithm could have screwed up so badly. Решительные is a simple adjective and it modifies the very next word, поросята.

Решительные поросята = determined (or decisive, resolute) pigs

спрыгивают is a simple verb in third person plural, and its subject is the word immediately in front of it: Решительные поросята спрыгивают = determined pigs jump.

с грузовиков is "off/down from the trucks" - plural trucks, clearly. At least Bing kept it with the verb.

которые is the relative pronoun, nominative plural. As in English, its antecedent is the noun closest to it, in this case "trucks", not some other noun way up away from it. It's not "who", it's not the pigs.

"Pigs jump off the trucks that" - you'd never think the "that" meant the pigs. (Especially with the rest of the sentence, though I don't think the algorithms use meaning much...)

The rest of sentence is okay: везут их на бойню bring them to slaughter.

But how on earth could Bing mangle a simple declarative sentence, one which actually is identical in its syntactic structure to English, turning it in to some kind of - granted common in Russian - fronted participial?

Google Translate, on the other, gets it almost completely right:

Decisive pigs jump from trucks that carry them to the slaughterhouse.

They didn't even miss the nuance between поросята and свинья, considering that "pig" is defined as "a young swine of either sex that has not reached sexual maturity; broadly : a wild or domestic swine", поросята can certainly be "pigs" and not necessarily "young pigs" (and not "piglets" in any case, to judge by both the photo and the rarity of trucking tiny piglets to slaughter). So really, they did get it right.

Not that it's a difficult sentence ... BING.

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At 11:07 AM, June 15, 2014 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Are you sure it wasn't a case of "when pigs fly"? Forgive me, because I just couldn't resist ;-)))

On a serious note, are you keeping (or are you considering starting) a list of such bloopers? I've got several pages of wildly wrong translations of sentences that, out of morbid curiosity, I ran through Google Translate (should probably compare them with results on Bing, etc.). Perhaps someday I'll give a talk or write a paper using examples of typical errors these programs make.

Meantime, I'm still confident that our work has not yet been rendered obsolete by "our new computer overlords."


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