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 Anonymous Anonymous 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 Anonymous Anonymous 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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