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Will machines conquer English?

Dato:
04-12-2018
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  |  GD Translation
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This is not as far away as you may think. You can already dictate a text message in Danish into your mobile via Siri; send the message to your French friend, who can then use Google Translate to translate the text into French. Your French friend can then have Siri read the page aloud. It’s not perfect, but the jump to the conference scenario doesn’t seem that great, and of course there’s technology around that is a little better at this than our smartphones.

If all this does transpire, then why learn a foreign language? Could this be the death of English as the lingua franca?

The future of English and machine translation (MT) was the subject of a recent TAUS (Translation Automation User Society) webinar. The webinar formed the basis of an internal workshop on the issue at GlobalDenmark.

There is no doubt that right now English is the dominant language of commerce, of science, and not least of the internet. According to Lane Greene, one of the expert panellists in the webinar, in northern Europe 80%-90% of the population can converse in English. In southern Europe the figure is less, but if we focus on the under 55s, then the figures again approach 90%. In Africa, where the population is expected to grow most over the next 50 years, English is the fourth most spoken language. The first three are Swahili, Amharic and Hausa, so when China invests in a new road or mining project in Africa, English is more than likely to be the language in which the stakeholders communicate.

So, according to Lane Greene such growth is proof that English will continue as the lingua franca.

The second expert, Nicholas Ostler, takes the opposite view. He thinks machines will take over translation and interpretation. His primary argument is that if we don’t have to learn a language we won’t. Learning a language is a pain and we’ll always take the easy way out. He also argues that Lane Greene’s perspective is based on relatively short-term data. In the long term, MT will get better and better and negate the need to learn another language. He believes the use of English will peak in the 21st century. Nicholas Ostler continued that large countries like Japan and China, and countries in Latin America already have their ‘lingua franca’; namely Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese. People from these countries are much happier with what they know rather than having to bother with a new language.

On the other hand, we’re also converging on English through other channels. Children today tweet, snap, watch movies and chat on computer games in English every day, no matter where they come from. They learn English at school from an ever-younger age. Perhaps all this will mean that the next generation will automatically grow up almost bilingual and they’ll only need to make a minimal effort to hone their already acquired English skills to speak fluently and comfortably. In other words, supply will feed demand. The more people who speak English the more useful it will be to speak English and thus the greater the demand.

So where does all this leave us?

I believe that, no matter what, we humans innately develop our own local language or dialect. So in my view we’ll all be speaking different languages - always. If one disappears, we’ll just find/invent another. But we need a lingua franca for commerce, science ……and, well,  ‘Fortnight’. In the long term, I tend to agree with Nicholas Ostler. If a machine means we can speak our mother tongue, then we’ll always feel more comfortable speaking our mother tongue, no matter how good we are at a second language. When it comes down to it, human laziness will prevail.

What do you think? 

Tags:
Tags: lingua franca, machine translation, maskinoversættelse
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En praktikants rejse fra universitet til den virkelige verden

Dato:
22-09-2017
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  |  GD Translation
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Af Signe Knudsen, studerende og praktikant i GlobalDenmark

Jeg læser engelsk med profil i oversættelse og formidling på 3. semester af min kandidatuddannelse på Københavns Universitet. Jeg var så heldig at møde Barbara fra GlobalDenmark, da hun for nogle måneder siden holdt et oplæg omkring fagsproglig oversættelse på et af mine kurser. Det var utroligt spændende at høre om, hvilke erhvervsmuligheder en sproglig uddannelse giver, og det inspirerede mig til at undersøge muligheden for at starte i et praktikforløb hos GlobalDenmark. Heldigvis var de indstillede på at byde (endnu) en praktikant velkommen i deres virksomhed, og jeg ser frem til et interessant og lærerigt forløb, der afsluttes i januar. Jeg vil komme til at snuse lidt til alle virksomhedens opgavetyper i de forskellige afdelinger, samt udarbejde indhold til virksomhedens online-profil. Jeg håber, I vil læse med.

Teori vs. praksis

Jeg er ikke sikker på, hvad jeg havde forestillet mig, inden jeg startede i min praktik, men jeg havde ikke forventet, at jeg så hurtigt ville få lov til indgå på lige fod med de øvrige medarbejdere i virksomheden. På anden dag af mit forløb fik jeg min første ”rigtige” oversættelsesopgave. Med ”rigtige” mener jeg en opgave, som ikke blot skulle læses igennem en enkelt gang af en underviser og vurderes med en karakter, for så at blive arkiveret. Nej, den kommer rent faktisk til at blive brugt ude i ”den virkelige verden”, og det var en ret tilfredsstillende følelse at færdiggøre den, selvom det også var meget udfordrende. Heldigvis var jeg ikke helt overladt til mig selv, for en af virksomhedens erfarne oversættere læste og rettede oversættelsen igennem sammen med mig, mens vi drøftede de ændringer, han lavede. Dette er i sig selv en meget lærerig proces.

Jeg har efterhånden læst alverdens teori om oversættelse, men at kunne omsætte teori til praksis er lettere sagt end gjort. For der findes (desværre) ikke nogen facitliste til den perfekte oversættelse. Oversættelse er et kommunikativt redskab, der varierer fra opgave til opgave, og man er derfor nødt til at kombinere sin teoretiske vidensbase med en masse praktiske færdigheder for at blive en god oversætter. Og det gør man netop, når man kommer ud i praktik.

CAT Tools

Disse færdigheder kan understøttes af forskellige værktøjer. Hos GlobalDenmark anvender man et CAT- tool (Computer-Assisted Translation tool), der hedder MemoQ. Dette værktøj letter arbejdet som oversætter i høj grad, og jeg tror ikke, mange professionelle oversættere arbejder uden et sådant. Men det gør man på Københavns Universitet. I løbet af min uddannelse har jeg kun en enkelt gang fået mulighed for at arbejde med et CAT-tool. Ellers har jeg lavet samtlige af mine oversættelsesopgaver ’manuelt’, selvfølgelig med hjælp fra ordbøger og diverse databaser. Dette har naturligvis lært mig en masse om at oversætte, men det var altså en næsten ny verden for mig at skulle løse en opgave ved hjælp af et CAT- tool, som er et uundværligt værktøj for de fleste professionelle oversættere. Dette vil uden tvivl styrke mine kompetencer inden for brug af oversættelsesværktøjer og gavne mig i fremtiden. Min teoretiske baggrund vil selvfølgelig ligeledes hjælpe mig rigtig godt på vej, når jeg som færdiguddannet skal ud på arbejdsmarkedet, men arbejdsmarkedet forventer ofte mere end teoretisk viden, og jeg er derfor meget taknemmelig over at have fået muligheden for at være en del af GlobalDenmark for en stund.

Jeg er også meget glad for at se, at regeringens iværksætterpanel nu sætter fokus på værdien af praktikforløb for universitetsstuderende, for som de fastslår: ”[d]anske virksomheder har brug for arbejdskraft, der ikke kun har brugt uddannelsen med næsen begravet i bøger”.

Læs også artikel fra DR

Tags:
Tags: Oversættelse, CAT tool, praktik
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Maskinoversættelse - tør vi tænke tanken?

Dato:
09-12-2016
Kategori:
  |  GD Translation
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All you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about machine translation

OK, bit of a naff heading, but with the latest claims from Google of a breakthrough in neural machine translation, perhaps it’s time to write another GlobalDenmark blog with a little information about the current state of play.

What’s the difference between machine translation and computer-assisted translation?

First it’s important not to confuse machine translation (MT) with computer-assisted translation (CAT).

With MT, the computer does all the work: input a French text, push a button, and out comes an Italian text. The text then usually needs post-editing.

With CAT, the computer will search through terminology databases and databases of previously translated sentences and match the input (source) text with terminology and sentences (or part sentences) in the output (target) language. Then the computer suggests a best match the translator can use or discard.

All professional translators have been using some form of CAT for many years. As I recall, at GlobalDenmark we purchased our first CAT tool in around 2000. This post is about MT, not CAT.

Are there different types of machine translation?

Now, traditionally there have basically been three types of MT: Rule-based MT (RbMT), Statistical MT (SMT) and hybrid systems combining the two. You can almost guess the difference.

With RbMT, masses of linguistic rules and dictionaries about the source and target languages are entered into the computer. The computer then applies these to do the translation. As you can imagine, putting all these rules and other input together is extremely demanding, and as languages develop the rules have to be changed too, so there’s a good deal of maintenance.

With SMT, the computer itself analyses monolingual and bilingual texts to build its own models. The computer learns from the input texts, so the larger the input, the better the model and the more superior the translation. The computer will also ‘learn’ and develop with the language.

Of course, the input must be appropriate and of high quality for the computer to learn, and this can be a problem for SMT. However, if the input texts are all very similar, for example instructions and manuals, terms and conditions, etc. the computer can put together a very good model.

Finally, as I said, there are systems that combine the two approaches.

What’s Google doing?

There’s a newer, fourth type of MT, and this is what Google is getting excited about, as I mentioned in the introduction. It’s called neural machine translation (you guessed it – NMT).

To be honest it’s pretty heavy stuff and having read a lot of articles and Wikipedia I still don’t feel much the wiser. However, it seems we’re in the artificial intelligence world, with an artificial neural network in the computer based on the biological neural networks in the human brain. One advantage with NMT is that it circumvents the need for the vast memory capacity required by SMT.

…..and what’s Google’s breakthrough?

In a paper published in September 2016, Google claims that “in some cases human and Google NMT translations are nearly indistinguishable” and that the “quality of the resulting (neural) translation system gets closer to that of average human translators”.

Of course, others have been quick to question these claims, and have been especially critical of the fact that the translations in the study were based on a sample of “well-crafted simple sentences”.

What do you think?

I think it’s interesting that Google mentions average human translators in the quote above. We should be careful of comparing all ‘human’ translators with all MT. Similarly, you can’t say all translation jobs are the same. Of course, MT without the right rules/statistical data/’neurons’ will never be good, and humans need the right linguistic skills, insights into specialist areas, etc. too. There’s a need for MT and there’s a need for human translation. I believe they’re complementary rather than competitive.

At GlobalDenmark we’re looking at MT in all its forms, and I’m looking forward to getting involved: to benefit ourselves and our customers.

Simon Palmer

December 2016

Tags:
Tags: maskinoversættelse, oversættelse
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At GlobalDenmark, reading aloud is more than a bedtime story for the kids

Dato:
17-05-2016
Kategori:
  |  GD Translation
Tekst:
Most of us only experience reading aloud when we have small children demanding a bedtime story before they go to sleep. Once our children pass the age of six or seven, reading aloud stops, but at GlobalDenmark Translations it’s an important part of our quality assurance.
Walk around the GlobalDenmark offices and you’ll hear people reading aloud contracts, legislation, reports and of course speeches. It’s often not quite as exciting as the latest Harry Potter, but it’s how we check our translations.The idea came from checking financial statementsSimon Palmer, Head of Translations at GlobalDenmark, started his career as an accountant.
Back in the 1980s, it was normal practice to write financial reports by hand before having them typed up. The procedure then was to read the typed draft, including figures, while a colleague followed in the hand-written version. Errors or omissions were inserted by hand, then the typed draft was returned to the typist for correction.We’ve come a long way since then, but at GlobalDenmark we still believe that reading a translation aloud while a second linguist follows in the source text is a vital part of peer review, and we are convinced that it is the reason for continued praise from our customers for the quality of our translations.

You can get your computer to read your text for you

Did you know that the Microsoft Office package has a function that will speak any text or email you write on your computer? Logically enough it’s called ‘Speak’ (Tale in Danish), and as far as we know it’s available in all versions of Word, PowerPoint and Outlook.You can find it under the arrow on the extreme right of the quick access toolbar in the top left-hand corner of your screen in Word. Select ‘More Commands’ (Flere kommandoer…). Next choose ‘All Commands’ (Alle kommandoer) from the roll-down menu with ‘Popular commands’ (‘Oftest anvendte kommandoer’). Next select ‘Speak’ (Tale), click ‘Add’ (Tilføj) and then close. A speech icon will appear on your Quick Access toolbar and you can hear your text read aloud.

Pretty cool!
Tags:
Tags: kvalitetssikring, oversættelse, quality assurance, translation

GlobalDenmark a/s

Hauchsvej 14

1825 Frederiksberg C


Tlf: 33 86 29 30

CVR: 16 21 54 81


E-mail: global@global-denmark.dk

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GlobalDenmark a/s

Hauchsvej 14

1825 Frederiksberg C


Tlf: 33 86 29 30

CVR: 16 21 54 81


E-mail: global@global-denmark.dk




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