Greek peace message in… Robotic Pigeon-English! (Evaluating on-line Automatic Translation Sites…)

This post is a comparative test of Greek-to-English Automatic Translation in various sites, using one Greek sentence as test-data. Some of the results turned out to be… rather amusing. E.g.

Click here to repeat one of the tests...

Original Greek Sentence:

  • «Το ερώτημα είναι πως θα καταργήσουμε τα σύνορα, χωρίς να παραβλέπουμε την πραγματικότητα και χωρίς να πέφτουμε στην παγίδα του εθνικισμού.»

«Robotic Pigeon-English» translations:

1) InterTran (click here to test):

  • «Το quiz they are πως θα καταργήσουμε the frontiers , devoid of to παραβλέπουμε την reality and devoid of to πέφτουμε στην trap of the nationalism».

2) Babel Fish Altavista (click here to test):

  • «The question is that we will suppress the borders, without we overlook the reality and without we fall in the trap of nationalism».

3) Google translation (click here to test):

  • «The question is how to do away with borders, not to mention of the fact and without falls into the trap of nationalism».

The results show that automatic translation software is not only inadequate, but also suffering from inexcusable forms of ignorance:
1) Intertran translation was proved to be -by far- the worst (useless, in fact)! The Greek Natural Language processing used by it has serious lexical inadequacies as well as grave grammatical errors, possibly due to incomplete Greek grammar rules and bad Greek syntax definitions.
2) Babel Fish / Altavista scored very badly. However, (at least) it tried harder than Intertran and it was proved to be ciompletely free of Intertran’s serious lexical inadequacies (at least on a surface level).
3) Google translation was the best: It translated correctly the entire first part of the sentence (before the comma) but it did blunders after that point. The Greek phrase «χωρίς να παραβλέπουμε την πραγματικότητα» (correct translation=»Without overlooking reality») was wrongly translated «not to mention of the fact». This is evidence that Google’s «Sense Disambiguation code» sometimes… tries harder than necessary : -The simpler translation «not overlook» (of «μην παραβλέπουμε» ) was… overlooked (amusingly enough) adopting something more sophisticated semantically: «not to mention» – which waspure nonsense! (whereas Google’s competitor Altavista didn’t… try so hard, so got THIS one right)
Finally, the last part of Google’s translation, «falls into the trap of nationalism.» indicates that the agent or subject of the verb «falls» is missing from the entire translated sentence: Apparently, Google translation does little or no «post-processing» of the results, leaving serious semantic gaps open!
  • UPDATE: A friend told me (on the phone) that maybe this particular mistake was not so big, after all, since Google translation might have meant «falls» in the PLURAL (as in «The Niagara Falls»). Ah well, it still makes little sense, when you look at the sentence as a whole. And I am not really sure if it was meant in this way.
Ah well, all these big software companies typically employ conventional programmers, who use procedural programing languages like PHP and C++. They very rarely if ever advertise for hiring PROLOG programmers.
To a Prolog programmer (especially a veteran like myself!) all these problems can be solved (or at least reduced drastically) in various ways (a bit too technical to describe here).
I mean -for Heaven’s sake- the Greek test-sentence was NOT that difficult! Come on…
Some time ago I made a technical proposal, «Improving Automatic Translation Software, using Human text-corrections in Automatic Translation«. The idea was based on ILP (Inductive Logic Programing), to post-process the Automatic translation results, extracting automatically certain Correction Rules, by comparing exhaustively erroneous automatic translations with human (correct) translations of the same original texts.
Well, most big software companies (and ALL Greek software companies) do not and cannot do «such things», since they are «not interested in hiring Prolog programmers» . However, soon enough this might prove to be their worst competitive disadvantage:
  • Some of us (PROLOG programmers) are already working on the idea! 😉


  1. I love putting sentences into those translators! I once put a bunch of sentences of the sort you get in games into French then back: my favourite was «you opened a new character»!

  2. Yes, I think we can have quite a few good laughs with automatic translation.
    I will remind you of the «classic joke»:

    Original English:
    «The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak».

    Russian Automatic Translation (re-translated backwards)
    «The vodka was good but the steak was tasteless»
    (a result of TOO MUCH… Artificial Intelligence «matching», spirit -> alcoholic drink -> vodka, flesh -> meat -> steak)

  3. Time flies like arrows …

    Το γνωστό «οι χρονόμυγες γουστάρουν τα βέλη» …

    Αλλά αν το πήγαινα αλλού θα έλεγα ότι και πολλοί μιλάνε άψυχα, δε νομίζεις ;

  4. @Δε μασάμε Ρε
    Στο μεταξύ, το «time files like arrows» είναι χαρακτηριστικό παράδειγμα ασάφειας που μαστίζει την Αγγλική, αλλά πολύ λιγότερο την Ελληνική (λόγω πλούσιας μορφολογίας – το μόνο της προσόν από μηχανική άποψη).


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