Archive for the 'CAT/MT' Category

Jun 28 2005

English/Persian Voice-to-Voice Translation Tool

Three years of work by a large interdisciplinary team at the University of Southern California has created a rudimentary but working two-way voice translation system that allows an English-speaking doctor to talk to a Persian-speaking patient.

The Transonics Spoken Dialog Translator turns a doctor’s spoken English questions into spoken Persian, and translates patients’ spoken Persian replies into spoken English.

Shrikanth Narayanan leads the large multidisciplinary USC Viterbi School team that developed Transonics. One member of this team presented a report on the system June 25 at the Association for Computational Linguistics conference in Ann Arbor Michigan.

“Fluent two-way machine voice translation is one of the holy grails of engineering,” said Narayanan, an associate professor of electrical engineering, computer science and linguistics at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering who directs the Speech Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL) in the Viterbi School’s Integrated Media Systems Center.

“We are years away from perfecting it, but we think the choices we have made about how to go about creating such a system are working. We hope to have something that will be useful in emergency rooms or ambulances within two years or so.”

The system that exists, funded by two DARPA grants totalling $3.8 million, is a result of intensive research in information technology, critically supplemented by careful observation of patient-doctor dynamics in numerous bilingual interaction sessions staged for the project.

Narayanan noted that the Transonics approach relies not just on computer code, but also on the ability of humans to use even imperfect tools. This approach, he adds, grows directly out of the extraordinary difficulty of the technical problems involved.

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In contrast to my last post (Ky. Secretary of State Web Site Now Multilingual), this post offers a more realistic look at machine translation. Narayanan notes that he is “years away from perfecting it” and that “the Transonics approach relies not just on computer code, but also on the ability of humans to use even imperfect tools”.

One response so far

Jun 28 2005

Ky. Secretary of State Web Site Now Multilingual

The Web site for the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office now offers translations into six new languages. The new service makes the office one of the first multilingual Web sites in Kentucky state government.

The site is translated through an automated and computerized process and occurs dynamically, allowing the site to be translated immediately after it is updated in English. The site will now be accessible in Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Italian and traditional Chinese.

Forms for the office will not be translated as state laws require “the document shall be in the English language.” All visitors to the site whose computers are programmed with the appropriate characters will have access to the translations.

Nearly 2 percent of the 1.8 million yearly visitors to the the secretary of state’s Web site come from foreign countries. The languages chosen primarily reflect the demand for the languages as determined by constituents’ requests or the international visitors that most frequently visited the site.

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To understand why this doesn’t work, pick a string of text (any string of text,) go to, enter your string of text, pick a language (any language) to translate it into, take the resulting translation and use the same system to back translate it into English and see what you get.

Two sayings come to mind: On the one hand: “something is better than nothing.” On the other hand: “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

One response so far

Apr 26 2005

New Research from Common Sense Advisory

Common Sense Advisory has published a new Quick Take. Last month we wrote that Lionbridge acquired Berlin-based Logoport for its translation memory technology and that Irish language service provider (LSP) Transware PLC bought globalization management (GMS) supplier Global Sight. The Lionbridge deal makes sense, while the Transware purchase seems misguided. In this Quick Take we lay out what makes one deal better than the other. (Renato Beninatto)

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Apr 25 2005

Innovative Arabic Language Translation Software Now Available to U.S. Government

The remarkably fast, accurate, and versatile Sakhr translation software
will allow U.S. government agencies to translate documents from Arabic to
English in a matter of seconds or minutes instead of hours or even days. The
translation capabilities of Sakhr may be equally applied in reverse, allowing
English to be quickly translated into Arabic, opening up a variety of
applications for the software beyond the national security arena. For
example, as Iraq develops its democracy and works to rebuild, this translation
software can play a valuable role in helping to provide needed medical
information, textbooks, engineering documents, and much more from the U.S. and
other English-speaking countries to the Arab world

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Caveat emptor!

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Feb 07 2005

Web of Words: Online Translation Services

English just about remains the prevalent language online, but making sense of some sites is tricky unless you’ve taken the time to learn a new language.

However, technology is on hand to help out with those moments when you find material online, in books and magazines or from far-flung friends or family that has you reaching for the language phrasebook.

Alternatively, there may be an important document from Europe or further abroad that you need to respond to quickly. Fear not, as the internet provides online language translators. It can even help you get on with things when you’re abroad if you have access to a handheld computer and know where to look.

Fishing for meaning
Babel Fish is the most famous online translator. Its name is taken from the novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, who in turn borrowed it from the Bible. The Babel Fish lived in people’s ears and translated languages from all over the universe into English for the book’s hero.

Surprisingly, given its reputation as the original translation site, Babel Fish seems to have been slightly outdone by an upstart. Once again Google’s translation service picks up where others have left off and, although it makes no great strides toward perfect English, it does at least manage to pick up on some of Babel Fish’s omissions…

Online translators should not be relied on to provide the exact meaning of foreign words and phrases, but they can give a good idea of the gist of the meaning and when the alternative is knowing nothing at all, it’s not exactly a risk.

Web of words
Many sites also provide the option to translate an entire web page from its native language into English. Altavista and Google both have a section where a web address can simply be entered into a box. From there it will automatically take you to a version of the site where all block text has been translated.

Again, expect varying results from this method and be aware that text in images will not be translated. The good thing about this is that any links you click on while looking at the translated site will also be translated into the language you requested.

If you’re looking for something a little more accurate, it is possible to buy software that considers the nuances of words and grammar to give a much better translation.

Try Systran as a starting point. The company provides the software that powers the Altavista site but also offers professional translation tools to home users. However, the company warns in its promotional literature that this software is mainly for getting the gist of what a document is trying to say and if you want to read or publish in any higher quality then a good degree of user input may be required.

Babylon Software
also offers translation tools for Windows…

A roving eye
There may be times when it is essential that you get a very accurate translation of a foreign document but you don’t want to fork out huge amounts of money on software that may not necessarily provide you with the perfect answer.

Sometimes having a human eye run over it is the only possible alternative.

Don’t worry if you don’t know anyone that speaks or reads Japanese, Arabic or Spanish, because there are websites that can provide you with this service at a reasonable price. One reliable site is TransAction which does the whole thing online if you wish, including getting a quote and receiving and delivering the requested documents.

You may think that to get a foreign document translated you will first have to type in all the text for the software to analyse, along with all those unusual grammatical and punctuation marks. Not so, as a scanner and optical character recognition software can take the strain here.

The software recognises the shape of letters by scanning them in; each scanned letter or symbol is then converted to the character, number or symbol it represents. Occasionally it will mistake a letter, especially if the print quality of the document is poor but this can be solved with a bit of common sense and a spell checker.

Of course, the optical character recognition software has to feature support for the language you want to translate from. Readiris Pro… recognises 104 languages while FineReader… understands up to 107.

Verbal dexterity
If you find yourself dealing quite a lot with foreign documents or speaking to people from other countries online, you may decide that you’re ready to take the plunge and learn the language. If so, there are numerous pieces of software that can help you out.

Linguaphone courses now come on CD-ROM and as downloadable software…

Wordace (available at Amazon) is another useful tool as it helps the user get to grips with the complexities inherent in speaking like the natives, as well as having hundreds of thousands of word translations and verb conjugations, some of the building blocks of language.

If you’re simply looking for useful phrases to help you get around when you’re in a country, try Phrasebase. It’s a simple-to-use site with a whole range of phrases in many languages that have been categorised into easy to understand areas. Simply click on an area, find the phrase you’re looking for and away you go. It’s much cheaper and easier than buying and using a phrasebook, if you have online access while you’re away.

You can also buy software for handheld computers that contains hundreds of useful phrases for holidaymakers, and many will actually read out the translation so you can perfect your pronunciation and impress the locals with your efforts. Mobilearn covers French, German, Italian and Spanish…

Handy tools
If you’re staying in a foreign country, accessing the internet may not be as easy as it would be at home. Even then, would you know how to ask where the nearest cyber-cafe was? At such times, having a handheld PC with translation software installed may be the perfect solution.

One company that specialises in such software is Ectaco. It provides a range of different applications that can be used on your Pocket PC, Palm and even some advanced mobile phones.

You can even purchase software that will take a phrase you speak, translate it and then speak it back to the person you are talking to. However, this is expensive and for less… you can get a more basic phrasebook with translation capabilities.

If you’re looking to keep costs down, there are some free versions available. One example is Pocket Translator from Innersky for Pocket PCs. The website provides easy-to-follow instructions to get it up and running. But as with most things, the free versions won’t provide the same depth or ease of use as those you pay for.

Everything becomes clear
If you’re simply looking to find a way to read foreign text, and all you need to know is the basic gist of what’s being said, then the internet is the perfect place to start looking. There are lots of online translation tools that can change a slab of text, or even an entire foreign website, into English but don’t expect to understand everything that comes back using this method.

If you’re looking for more detailed translation, expect to pay for it. Generally, the better the quality of translation, whether through software or translation services, the costlier it is.

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Of course, Linguistic Solutions breaks down language and cultural barriers through translation, interpretation, foreign language instruction and cross-cultural training.

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Jan 31 2005

Automatic Translation of the Four Languages in the Spanish State

The Eleka Ingeniaritza Linguistikoa company is leading an R+D project in order to design and develop a system of automatic translation of texts and websites from Spanish to Basque and also to the other two official languages within the Spanish state: Catalan and Galician. The principal novelty lies in that the system will be an open code one and of free distribution, thus enabling the system to be modified with total freedom in order to update and optimise it for new users and applications Another important novelty is that, for the first time, a single system involving the four official languages is to be developed simultaneously by groups based in different geographical locations.

Although Catalan and Galician-Portuguese already have other systems of automatic translation, this technology is totally novel in the case of the Basque language. Eleka Ingeniaritza Linguistikoa will direct the design and development of the first system of automatic translation from Spanish to Basque, in collaboration with the IXA Group at the University of the Basque Country and the Elhuyar Foundation.

It is projected that the system of automatic translation will be ready and available on-line within one year, i.e. by the beginning of 2006…

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Jan 26 2005

Translation Software Cited in Washington State Web Site Blunders

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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Jan 14 2005

Japan Backs Multilingual Devices

Japanese who command no foreign languages may soon converse with English-speaking guests over a phone connected to a translation system.

The system, being sponsored by the Japanese government, will offer audio-text translations in Japanese, Chinese, English and Korean, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday.

The project, likely to be completed during fiscal 2005, will enable multilingual communications through cell phones and personal digital assistants.

The system would have a database of 500,000 phrases, or 5 million words, in the four languages.

Current translation systems have much smaller vocabularies and limited voice-recognition ability, and can translate only the most commonly used greetings or phrases.

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Jan 06 2005

Ultralingua, Inc., Releases Version 5.0

Ultralingua announced today the release of Ultralingua 5.0 for the Microsoft Windows operating system, a significant advancement for their line of powerful bilingual and monolingual dictionaries.

With the advent of version 5.0, Ultralingua Translation Dictionary software users will now have the benefit of vastly enhanced databases, stemming (recognition of conjugated and other inflected forms) for most languages, a special mini-mode (to take up less room on the desktop), seamless interaction with other applications, and much more.

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Dec 27 2004

New Etisalat Mobile Translation Service Generates Popular Response

Etisalat has announced that the recently-launched SMS-based translation service has received an enthusiastic response from mobile users in the UAE. Data shows that 2500 messages were translated by mobile phone users on the first day the service was in operation.

Mohammed Al Fahim, Executive Vice President- Marketing, Etisalat, said: “We are very pleased to see that the ‘Tarjim’ (translation) service has been received so well. Our market research told us that this service would be of immense benefit to students, the business community and visitors. It is encouraging to find it being utilized by so many people so quickly.”

The service allows prepaid or postpaid subscribers to send SMS text to the number 1001. The service can translate from English to Arabic and vice-versa. Each message in English of 160 characters is charged at 60 Fils, and each Arabic message of 70 characters is charged at 60 Fils.

A common list of abbreviations that the system recognizes is available on Full details are also available by calling 101.

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Dec 16 2004

Emmy Award Winning TM Systems Installed at MTV Networks Latin America

Emmy Award Winning TM Systems, developers of the industry’s only “end to end” language translation, dubbing and subtitling system, has added MTV Networks Latin America, headquartered in Miami Beach, Florida, to its growing list of international language localization users.

The TM Systems technology will offer MTV Networks Latin America the ability to subtitle all of its broadcast material, to and from any language, with the efficiency of a digital, fully integrated system that brings a greater flexibility, increased continuity, expedited completion time and greater overall accuracy.

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Dec 16 2004

equinux Releases English-German-French Translation Tool

equinux has released iTranslate, a new translation tool for Mac OS X. The freeware application is a German-English and German-French translation tool.

iTranslate accesses information from the online dictionary LEO, provided by the Technical University of Munich. The program also allows you to look up words in the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. The application is a small window that fits easily on the desktop, precluding any need to click back and forth.

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Dec 13 2004

Etisalat Launches SMS-based Translation Service Powered By Sakhr

Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) today announced the launch of the new Tarjim service, which allows mobile users to receive translations between Arabic and English of words or phrases.

Users send a phrase or word to a number in one of the languages and receive the translations on their phone. This service is offered in partnership with Sakhr Software Co., operators of, one of the most popular online translation resources in the region.

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Dec 06 2004

Kurzweil Predicts Instantaneous Translation Devices on Cellular Telephones by the End of the Decade

Another example is the development of instantaneous language translation devices, which Kurzweil predicted will be common on cellular telephones by the end of the decade.

“Within a few years, we will be able to talk to anyone, regardless of language,” he said.

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Hat tip: Language Technology Business

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Nov 29 2004

Add Multiple Language Translation To Your Website For Free!

Caveat emptor! (Buyer beware!)

Half of the world either can’t speak English or they prefer to search the web in their own language. If your website is not multilingual these people are never going to find you. Translingo provides dynamic translation ( real time, on the fly translation, without additional page or storage requirements ) of your website to and from over 30 languages.

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Note: Before you buy, try using Translingo to do a back translation of the translation it provides and see what you get. (You’ll get a “real time, on the fly” lesson on the limits of machine translation.) For human translation, call Linguistic Solutions.

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