Reverse translation

Last week we were introduced to the world of machine translation. Before this I had thought that this was a totally foreign concept that I have never come across before but I was wrong.

Google translate.

Yes, that happens to be a machine translator. That, along with the various other sites that are an intricate part of our lives today as aspiring linguists and digital natives!

So what did I learn? Well the main thing that I took from our tutorial is how inaccurate MT can be. Not that this came as a shock. I have used Google translate before I it is a great help, but you can never fully rely on it. Certain sayings and things like that the MT cannot translate accurately. Or in worse cases it will translate it directly.

So take for an example it you wanted to use the saying ‘stop beating around the bush’ in other languages and used a MT to translate it…

This is what google translate gives:

French: arrêter de tourner autour du pot

German: aufhören zu schlagen um den heißen Brei

Spanish: dejar de marear la perdiz

Now I am not positive but I don’t think these literal translations would get the intended message across in the other languages.


The second, more positive thing that I learned was the trick of reverse translation. We completed a task in class where we had to use a MT to translate a small paragraph into a foreign language. THEN we translated the result back into its original language. Some of the results were very inaccurate. Learning from this I applied this technique to my French essay and it turned out to be very useful.

I would use the MT if i was unsure of a phrase, view the output, change it as I saw fit, then use reverse translation to make sure it was accurate.


So what conclusions did I come to about MT?

Basically don’t trust it fully and use it wisely!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: