Sunday, December 09, 2007

Google's Automatic Moronic Translation

Readers! I am aghast. Lately I have been noticing that my texts in this blog have been automatically translated by Google into, so far, Dutch and Spanish. I can't judge the Dutch, but the Spanish is a disaster. It sounds like it is spoken by Hal2000 when it was losing its mind, if poor Hal had been born with mental retardation. They even translated this very post. It is ridiculous. I don't know whether I should laugh or cry.

This is the letter I wrote to Google:

I am deeply concerned by your automatic translation program. It simply is incapable of rendering actual language, and it makes me sound like a retard. I have not given you permission to translate the content of my blog to Spanish nor Dutch, as you have done, and I ask you to desist, because it does me no service to be translated by a machine that does not get irony, and doesn't even know when or how to conjugate a verb. The resulting language is not Spanish, it is incorrect and absurd and offensive.
My question is, is Google translating this without the bloggers' consent, or are internet users using this service? If the answer is Google, you do not have my consent to translate my work automatically. If the answer is people, your translation machine is deeply flawed and not capable of real translation. It is beyond belief that you smart people think that a machine can process language like a human being. To judge from the automatic translation you provide, an ape would be more coherent. You are seriously damaging language by submitting it to an automatic translator. It makes everyone look dumb.
I know that it is impossible to control the fate of your texts in the internet. For all I know, there may be people in Fushe Kruje quoting, borrowing freely, God knows what of the unending rants of the Grande Enchilada. But to think that Google would pretend that a machine can translate language, and not only think it but unleash it on the web, is a serious cause of concern for the well-being of any language (and for the mental health of readers and writers everywhere). On top of everything, they have the gall to ask the readers of a translated text to give a better translation, obviously for free (ever tried translating something? It is one of the hardest things to do well), and without any criteria as to who can provide a trustworthy translation. The debasement and corruption of language is complete.
I don't even know where to begin to describe the implications of such use of language. The automatic translation renders every grammatical rule moot and useless. It does not distinguish gender in articles, does not know how to conjugate correctly depending on context, mistranslates words that may have more than one equivalent in English, leaves untranslated words (such as "asshole") when it doesn't know what to do with them, and it certainly wouldn't know irony, humor or nuance if it bit it in the ass.
In short, the outcome is not language. It's just an incoherent jumble of words.
Now, if Google went about trying to refine this monster in a way that would engage the writers to help, I wouldn't be so pissed off, but it seems to me they just do it and expect you to clean up the mess for them. Arrogant and stupid, so far. Smoke is coming out of my ears, dear readers.
I am appalled.

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