Jan 26 2005

Translation Software Cited in Washington State Web Site Blunders

Published by at January 26, 2005 8:30 pm under CAT/MT,Translation

Translation software has its limits, the Washington state secretary of state’s office is learning.

On the agency’s Web site, for example, a statement about Secretary of State Sam Reed proposing “statewide mandates to restore public trust” became “Swampy weed suggests whole state order recover open trust” in Chinese and “A plant reed proposes national mandate to recover public property trust” in Korean.

Both examples were cited by the Section 203 Voting Rights Coalition, which takes its name from a federal Voting Rights Act provision requiring equal access to election material. The agency includes the state Elections Division.

“A poor or inaccurate translation misinforms and frustrates voters and conveys the unintended message that the state does not equally value their participation in the political process,” the coalition said in a prepared statement.

“It’s critical that all the information that’s being offered is accessible to folks who want to know what’s going on, especially when it relates to election materials and voting,” coalition activist Debbie Hsu said. “It’s even more critical that they are offering correct information.”

A Chinese translation option was removed from the Web site on Jan. 12 and Korean got the heave-ho Tuesday without word on whether or when they would be restored.

“It’s not a perfect system. It does the best it can,” said Matthew Edwards, the agency’s webmaster. “We pulled it because of the complaints. If it’s totally confusing, it’s worthless.”

Systran S.A., based in Paris, receives about $6,000 a year to convert English on the Web site for viewing in Russian, Japanese, French, German, Spanish and Italian, all of which remain available. Edwards said he would ask the company about improving the Chinese and Korean translations.

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