The simplest litmus test I have come with to know if a translation software is free from flaws consists in checking its output under a recursive translation between two languages. I like to call this “iterlation”. I like Spanish and English, so these are my preferred languages.

To iterlate text I normally do this. Defining x as an iteration step, do this:

x=0; Translate a sentence, paragraph, or piece of text from English to Spanish.

x=1; Translate the output back to English.

x=2; Translate the output back to Spanish.

You can keep iterating to your heart needs.

If the software is flawless it should converge to the expected translation. If not, it must has a flaw. If the software amplifies the signal-to-noise ratio don’t buy it.

Over the years I have tested many online translation services and almost all fail.

This morning I tried one that was mentioned on a local TV station: Reverso.net.

As input seed I used the first sentence from the first paragraph of the page at reverso.net:

This on-line free translator is designed to translate short texts

After just three iterations the litmus test reveals noise amplification:

x=0;
This on-line free translator is designed to translate short texts
Este traductor en línea libre(gratis) es diseñado para traducir textos cortos

x=1;
This translator in free (free) line is designed to translate short texts
Este traductor en la línea libre(gratis) (libre(gratis)) es diseñado para traducir textos cortos

x=2;
This translator in the free (free) line (free (gratis)) is designed to translate short texts
Este traductor en la línea libre(gratis) (libre(gratis)) (libre(gratis) (gratis)) es diseñado para traducir textos cortos

The iteration shows quite disappointing results.

First, “is designed” should be translated as “está diseñado”.

In addition, the very first translation is semantically incorrect since “en línea libre (gratis)” means that the line is free. Also, “en la línea libre” is an incorrect translation.

Lesson: Don’t believe everything you see on TV.

Advertisements