Saturday, December 12, 2015

Error in Translation

I am not kidding… This is what the (Bing) Translator app showed on its live tile last week (3/12/15):

Get Off

What the actual hell? Who the hell… How the hell did this translation got through to unsuspecting users like me?

For those Hindi-illiterate readers out there, let me explain. The Hindi question shown above doesn’t mean the English question at all! Not in a million years textbooks! What it actually means is “Where do I get discounts/freedom...?” The correct translation to Hindi would be something like “मुझे उतरना कहाँ है?”

To make matters worse, if you enter the above English phrase (Where do I get off?) in the app itself or the website, the translation offered is much more horrible! It spits out this: “मैं कहाँ मिलता है?” which, to say the least, is not even grammatically correct! It literally translates to “Where is[sic] I got/found?” What the hell indeed!

Now, I can see some of you starting to take higher moral grounds and offering dishing out suggestions like, “Just Use Google”. To that I say, let’s give it a try and it gives a correct translation: “मैं कहां उतरूं?”!

To complete the story, let’s try the second half of the experiment:

Google: “Where do I get discounts?” → “मैं कहां से छूट मिलता है?”, which is bulls-hit.
Bing: “Where do I get discounts?” → “मैं छूट कहाँ मिलता है?”, which is slightly less so because it doesn’t add ‘से’, which makes the Google question ‘from where’ not just ‘where’!

But both are contextually and grammatically incorrect as they haven’t realized that the verb associated with ‘discount’ needs to be of a different form. They use all the ‘right’ words but eventually do not offer the correct translation, which is the phrase on the above photo: “मुझे छूट कहाँ (पर) मिलेगी?”. So the differences are:

मैं (I) → मुझे (~to Me)”;
मिलता है (wrong form of ‘get’) → मिलेगी (right form of ‘get’ for ‘discount’).

I see some of your twinkling smirks ready to suggest that Google is still better and to that I reply, I don’t care about any of these if they can’t even get the right verb-form which forms the basics of Hindi grammar.

Anyway, that’s too much knowledge sharing & ranting on my part so I leave you with an article about how are machine translations done.

Learning to Translate