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Google Translate and the Fox's Secret

24 December 2016

My previous post on Google Translate and the Basilisk suggests that the introduction of A.I. has had only a minimal impact on the quality of translations compared with translations from seven months previously.

A more charitable view of the improvements in Google Translate (GT) becomes possible if the comparison is pushed back further in time. In fact, I have an earlier page dating back to 2007 looking at GT and Altavista translations of 1) the French version into English and 2) the English versions into Chinese and Japanese. For some reason I didn't include a GT translation from French to Chinese or Japanese.

The following is an update on that page. The glosses are quite literal, but even so it's difficult to capture the ways in which the translations both get it right and get it wrong.


1. Original French to English

Original On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
Altavista One does not see well that with the heart. Essence is invisible for the eyes.
GT Then We never see the heart as well. The essential is invisible to the eyes.
GT Now One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

A big improvement, n'est-ce pas? But there is something suspicious about the way that GT has suddenly discovered the cleft construction. It suggests that GT has been cribbing from other translations rather than generating its own.


2. French to Chinese (Altavista), English to Chinese (GT)

French Original On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
Altavista 你没很好看见那与心脏。 精华为眼睛是无形的。
You have not seen well that with [physical] heart. The cream [essence] for the eye is invisible [formless].
GT Now 仅一个与心脏清楚地看到。本质是无形的眼睛。
Only with a [physical] heart clearly see. Fundemantal nature is invisible [formless] eye.
Woods 1943 Original It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Altavista 它仅是与一个能确实看的心脏; 什么是根本的是无形的对眼睛。
It is only with a heart that can see exactly; what is basic is invisible [formless], to the eye.
GT Then 它不仅与心,一看就看到正确;什么是重要的是看不见的眼睛。
It not only with the heart, one look can see the exact; what is important is the invisible eye.
GT Now 只有心里才能看到正确的; 什么是必不可少的眼睛。
Only the heart can see what is exact; what is the indispensible eye.
Cuffe 1995 Original You can only see things clearly with your heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.
Altavista 您能清楚地只看事物与您的心脏。 什么是根本的是无形的对眼睛。
You can clearly only see things, with your physical heart. What is basic is invisible [formless], to the eye.
GT Then 你只能看到事物显然与你的心。什么是重要的是看不见的眼睛。
You can only see things, it is clear, with your heart. What is important is the invisible eye.
GT Now 你只能用你的心清楚地看到东西。 什么是必不可少的眼睛。
You can only use your heart to clearly see things. What is the indispensible eye.
Testot-Ferry 1995 Original It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.
Altavista 它仅是与一个能清楚地看的一的心脏。 什么是根本的是无形的对眼睛。
It can only with a [physical] heart that can see clearly. What is basic is invisible [formless], to the eye.
GT Then 因为只有在一个人的心,人们可以清楚地看到。什么是重要的是看不见的眼睛。
Because only in a person's heart, people can see clearly. What is important is the invisible eye.
GT Now 只有用心,才能看清楚。 什么是必不可少的眼睛。
Only with the heart, can see clearly. What is the indispensible eye.
Wakeman 1997 Original We only really see with our hearts. What matters is invisible to the eyes.
Altavista 我们真正地只看见与我们的心脏。 什么事关是无形的对眼睛。
We really only see, with our [physical] heart. What are concerning are invisible [formless], to the eye.
GT Then 我们只有真正看清了我们的心坎上。要紧的是看不见的眼睛。
We have only to see really clearly the depths of our hearts. The urgent is the invisible eye.
GT Now 我们只有真正看到我们的心。 重要的是看不见的眼睛。
We have only to truly see our hearts. The important is the invisible eye.
Howard 2000 Original One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.
Altavista 你仅看见清楚地与心脏。 根本的任何是无形的对眼睛。
You can only see clearly, with the [physical] heart. Whatever is fundamental is invisible [formless], to the eye.
GT Then 其中一个洞若观火,只有心。什么重要的是看不见的眼睛。
Of them a hole like seeing fire, only the heart. What is important is the invisible eye.
GT Now 人们清楚地看到只有心脏。 任何必要的东西是看不见的眼睛。
People can see clearly, there is only the [physical] heart. Any indispensible thing is the invisible eye.

There are definite improvements to Google's translations, but some other changes have little meaning (such as the change from 'invisible eye' to 'indispensible eye'). What is particularly interesting is that tiny differences can result in different translations. For example, 'invisible to the eye' and 'invisible to the eyes' appears to be the trigger for the different versions 'indispensible eye' vs 'invisible eye'.


3. French to Japanese (Altavista), English to Japanese (GT)

French Original On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
Altavista 1つは中心とのそれをよく見ない。 本質は目のために見えない。
? Do not see that which is with the centre. Fundamental nature cannot be seen because of the eye.
GT Now 一つは、唯一の心ではっきりと見ています。必須のは目には見えないです。
One is, with only one heart are seeing clearly. What is obligatory is invisible to the eye.
Woods 1943 Original It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Altavista それはが正しく見ることができる中心とだけある; 必要である何が目に見えない。
? That is only with the centre than can see rightly; something that is necessary is invisible to the eye.
GT Then それは1つのことだけで、心臓が正しく参照してください。何が必要不可欠なのは、目に見えました。
That is only one thing, the heart please refer correctly. What was indispensible, the eye could see.
GT Now 人が正しく見ることができるのは心臓だけです。 不可欠なものは目には見えません。
What people can see rightly is only the [physical] heart. Indispensible things are not visible to the eye.
Cuffe 1995 Original You can only see things clearly with your heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.
Altavista あなたの中心とだけ事をはっきり見ることができる。 必要である何が目に見えない。
You can can only see things clearly with your centre. What is necessary is invisible to the eye.
GT Then だけで物事を見ることができ、お客様の心を明確にします。何が必要不可欠なのは、目に見えました。
? Only with can see things, will make the customer's heart clear. What is indispensible, could be seen by the eye.
GT Now あなたは、あなたの心で明確に物事を見ることができます。 不可欠なものは目には見えません。
You can see things clearly with your heart. What is indispensible is invisible to the eye.
Testot-Ferry 1995 Original It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.
Altavista それはがはっきり見ることができる中心とだけある。 必要である何が目に見えない。
? That is only with the centre than can see rightly; something that is necessary is invisible to the eye.
GT Then それだけでは、自分の心を参照してくださいを明確にすることはできます。何が必要不可欠なのは、目に見えました。
Just with that, refer to your heart, ? can make clear. What is indispensible, could be seen by the eye.
GT Now 人が鮮明に見ることができるのは自分の心だけです。 不可欠なものは目には見えません。
What people can see vividly is only their own heart. Indispensible things are invisible to the eye.
Wakeman 1997 Original We only really see with our hearts. What matters is invisible to the eyes.
Altavista 私達は私達の中心とだけ実際に見る。 重要である何が目に見えない
We actually see only with our centres. Something important is invisible to the eye.
GT Then 私たちだけで、実際に私たちの心を参照してくださいました。肝心なのは目に見えています。
Only with ourselves, [someone] referred to our hearts for us. What is critical can be seen by the eyes.
GT Now 私たちは本当に私たちの心にしか見ません。 重要なことは目には見えません。
We can really only see our own hearts. Important things are invisible to the eye.
Howard 2000 Original One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.
Altavista 1つは中心とはっきりだけ見る。 必要な何でも目に見えない。
One thing is only to see clearly with the centre. Whatever is important is invisible to the eye.
GT Then 1つだけで見て心臓を明確にします。本質的には何も見えないの目から見ています。
Looking only with one, makes clear the [physical] heart. Fundamentally are looking with the eye that can see nothing(?)
GT Now 心臓だけが明瞭に見えます。 不可欠なものは目には見えません。
Only the [physical] heart can see clearly. Indispensible things are invisible to the eye.

The big improvement in the Japanese translations is that GT no longer translates 'invisible to the eyes' as 'visible to the eyes'. There is also some improvement in grammaticality. Granted that this a difficult fragment to translate, the GT translations still disappoint.


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