Google gets more multilingual, but will it get the nuance?


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I was at a bar in Sapporo many years ago and the miso soup was so delicious that I asked Mama what the secret was. "Ago dashi," she explained. I knew what dashi was, a broth or powder used in flavouring, but I didn't know what ago was.

When I looked it up on the internet, I found a page about ago dashi, but couldn't read it easily because it was in Japanese. So, I clicked on Google translate. Ago, by the way, is a flying fish. But when I saw the Google translation for ago dashi, it was "The jaw, it comes out!"

I have the same question as the headline, "Will it get the nuance?"

Probably not, because it's too far onto the machine side, a much better application, way over on the human side, is deepl. You input natural English and you get natural Japanese and vice versa.

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Same here: put any Japanese (or other language) whether serious or trivial through Google Translate and have a laugh at the result.

I do use GT to translate a text more to have all the words translated (which I then correct / re-organize) than a meaningful text.

A few years ago, there was that small handheld sound translation device that Kitano (Takeshi) did some advertising for which and which was supposed to translate so many languages to and from Japanese.

As I know French, German, English, some Spanish and Japanese did I run a back / forth trial run on all languages. The results were less than stellar.

We're still a years away from Star Trek-like translation devices, me thinks.

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'Nuance' is not 'language', per se. It is more 'cultural perception', a sort of 'meta-language', and even native speakers of a language can be blind to 'nuances' of the words they use as any good propagandist knows. The consistently correct interpretation of 'nuance' will have to await a 'Turing Test' perfect AI who has 'lived' among the culture for a which time Human translators will have become 'obsolete' and simultaneous translation headphones or earbuds a common appliance for travelers and media aficionados alike...and maybe not so far into the future...will this help us to finally become 'Humanity' rather than the many competing 'versions' of Humanity we are now? One can only hope...

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Out of the languages added 8 are Indian languages apart from Dhivehi, the language of Maldives.

What is surprising here is that it took so long for Google to add Sanskrit, which even though a dead language, is considered to be a natural language closest to a programming language with its rigid syntax and strict rules of sentence formation.

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@William Bjornson

Nuance' is not 'language', per se. It is more 'cultural perception', a sort of 'meta-language', and even native speakers of a language can be blind to 'nuances' of the words they use

Very true, but at the same time is nuance an inherent part of human language and communication.

For example:

そうですか?"Is that so?" becoming "Your BS'ing me" if you put the intonation on か or make it a かあ. As this does not "translate" well in a written context or that readers could (for obvious reasons in case of a written text) not "read" the underlying meaning we ended up piling up Emojis.

Other example: sarcasm or certain forms of humor or innuendoes, regional idioms, single words which from one country or regions have slightly (or sometimes very) different meanings. Spanish speakers may need to clarify what they are saying if from different regions in Spain, not mentioning Spanish speakers from Spain vs Latin America or French speakers from France vs Canada, Belgium or Swiss.

Language is also dynamic and expressions are trending as rapidly as they are dying out, but if some people still refer to them they may end up "forgotten" by the translation device. Remember the nikushoku joshi (carnivorous females) and soushoku danshi (herbivorous males) craze from over a decade ago? Two weeks ago I heard the expression again. I didn't hear it for over a decade or so but it seems some still refer to it...

Some forms of languages may be very abstract, like poetry or prose. Older forms of communications may also be very abstract like runes or hieroglyphs.

Language and communication is one of the most specific characteristics of a species. Humans made it more difficult than animals by adding culture, history and complex human feelings to the problem. Covering everything (even if only in an imperfect fashion) will take a lot of time despite computer calculation rate growing exponentially, me thinks. It would also remain a constant work-in-progress as well, this as we (and our languages and methods of communication) still continue to evolve day-by-day.

Somehow, it is also somewhat reassuring that there are still areas or fields, "human" ones, out there that the machines can not take over...yet.

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Well...Google cant translate Japanese correctly yet so.. nothing to get too exited about

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Google has gotten a lot better at Japanese. It used to be that if you took a short story for children, translated it into English from Japanese, and then translated it back again, you would have zero idea what the story was about. Now it still needs work, but it's better. But isn't there yet.

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Google’s translation of Japanese-English is quite poor; DeepL blows google away in accuracy and nuance.

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"Google Debuts Smart Glasses Built With Real-Time Language Translation"

The device basically brings Google Translate to a pair of smart glasses by displaying the translated text over the lenses.

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This is a little late but is the perfect example of 'nuance' versus 'meaning' which I had forgotten to include in my comment above. Not too long ago, an American crook by the name of Pence said of the U.S. on Twitter, "Patriotic education has been replaced with political indoctrination." The two phrases, 'political indoctrination' and 'patriotic education' are, technically, identical in 'meaning'. But, for the nonthinking mind, are very different in 'nuance'. Again, the art of the propagandist or marketeer...

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Sorry Google, but nature beat you to it:

Seriously speaking though, apart from sharing a classic bit of British humor, ... a word of caution - relying totally upon machine translation, could end up in tears.

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