Friday, November 28, 2014

Bing? What on earth?

On Facebook, often the foreign-language posts have an offer from Bing to translate them. If you read this blog regularly you know Bing often does a poor job. Today, though ... well, check it out:

Um, no.

What on earth, I wondered, does Bing think it has here? And what will it translate "Um, no" into? I clicked - and this is the result.

bing tranaltes 'um, no' to 'a, no'

So I still don't know exactly what was going on in Bing's little positronic brain.

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At 7:35 PM, November 28, 2014 OpenID q-pheevr had this to say...

My guess is that Bing somehow assumed that "um" was the Portuguese (masculine singular) indefinite article, and 'translated' it accordingly. But then I don't know why it didn't translate "no" as if it were Portuguese, too.

At 8:58 PM, November 28, 2014 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Hey, q-pheever, you're encroaching on MY territory ;-)))

Ridger, from which language to which language did you ask Bing to translate?

At 9:32 PM, November 28, 2014 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

I didn't. Bing just offered - that "See Translation" link just goes to the "translation", you don't get any options.

At 11:07 PM, November 28, 2014 OpenID q-pheevr had this to say...

Sorry, Kathie! Didn't mean to step on your toes.

But, since I'm encroaching anyway…:

If I type "Um, no" into with "auto-detect" selected, it does indeed choose Portuguese. If I leave out the period, then it renders it as "A, in"; with the period at the end, it comes out as "A, no."

Assuming that Bing's translation program was trained on a written corpus, I guess it would make sense that there would be more tokens of um in Portuguese than in most other languages. (German should have a fair number, too.) And it sort of makes sense that it would interpret no as 'in (the)' only when it's not followed by a period, because it would be weird to have no in that sense at the end of a sentence. But it's still odd that it decided that a two-word post needed translating at all when it wasn't even going to translate both words.

At 6:00 PM, November 29, 2014 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

q-pheever, I was teasing you. I'm delighted that you have any interest in Portuguese, as so many Americans think of it as no better than an off-shoot of Spanish :-(


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