They finally fixed it

5 April 2020

Summary of some previous episodes:
I fed Google Translate (GT) some Greek that wasn’t Greek, but masqueraded Interlingua. GT happily ‘translated’ that into always hilarious, sometimes repetitive, and often something that might perhaps be appreciated, if you’re into that type of texts (I’m not), as deeply philosophical English. Somewhat Zen-ish, maybe.

But sometime between 18 November 2019 and today, Google fixed the bug. When I now copy-paste fake Greek into GT’s screen, it refuses to translate it. The ‘English translation’ is also in Greek letters, and virtually identical with the original.

For a moment I thought GT for Greek was broken, and it would no longer translate even genuine Modern Greek. Fortunately that is not the case. I copied a random paragraph from the Greek Wikipedia, and GT turned it into English that makes sense, and is likely to be the translation of the Greek. (Except for a few words, I don’t know the language, but from the relation with other-language Wikipedia pages, and the position in the article, I can roughly infer what a paragraph must be about.)

To further assess the situation, I switched on a Greek keyboard layout, and manipulated the text in the left pane of GT. Because as said, I do not know the language, anything I change or insert causes errors. GT’s English translation slightly changed. So GT is still error-tolerant, and when translating less than perfect texts, it tries to guess what the author might have meant. That is a wise strategy, and up to a certain point, this is also what human translators do. And have to do, because real-life source texts to be translated are rarely 100% flawless.

When I stepped this up, inserting non-existent random words, even Dutch, Spanish or Interlingua words typed in Greek letters, and eventually short sub-phrases in such languages, at some point GT stopped offering an English translation of longer groups of words, copying the original in Greek letters instead. That too is a wise decision: there is a grey area between a text with an occasional typo or spelling error, and complete gobbledygook, garbage or gibberish. The former can be tolerated and translated, but a responsible translator, human or machine, should refuse to work on the latter.

Google Translate now does.

I didn’t test the famous Hawai'ian examples that are all over the internet. But I expect those are fixed now too.


Copyright © 2020 by R. Harmsen, all rights reserved.