Monday, August 18, 2008

A guessing game with online translators?

In the translation forums, there have been comments to the effect that Google translate and Yahoo babelfish translators where not designed as a language learning tool and not designed to translate only one word at a time. Their main goal is to quickly translate or create whole sentences in other languages.

Although they may use technologies such as SMT (Statistic Machine Translation) or Language Weaver or license other algorithms to arrange the translation in the proper logical grammar sequence, it is clear that they still base their translation mainly on a word-by-word basis.

For example, in English, there are words that are spelled the same but have totally different meanings based on the context of the sentence. Some examples are:

Train (transportation vehicle - railway engine with its carriages)
火车 huǒchē or 列车 lièchē

Train (prepare oneself, through instruction, practice, exercise)
培养 péiyǎng – cultivate or 锻炼 duànliàn – exercise

Temple (building in which people worship)
圣殿 shèngdiàn or 寺院 sìyuàn

Temple (flat part on the side of the forehead)
太阳穴 tàiyángxué

Calf (young cow or bull - young of certain other mammals)
犊 dú

Calf (back of the human leg)
小腿 - xiǎotuǐ

English to ChineseNow enter these English terms into Google translate or Yahoo babelfish as a single word in Chinese. What word will it choose for English? The first word in its electronic dictionary list perhaps??? What about in a sentence? Will it be smart enough to know the context of the sentence and choose the best word? Try: the calf on my leg. Or try: calf muscle ... each time it chooses baby cow for those sentences instead of the part of the body.

Definitely there is an issue in the translation. How can Google or Yahoo solve this issue? They will either need a better translation algorithm to know the context of the sentence (very difficult), or allow users to select the proper meaning/word.
Reflection translation is often useful to make sure your translation is correct.

This would allow you to enter the sentence just created/generated and run it back though the translation engine. For example, in Google or Yahoo, re-run your translation from English to Chinese, back though as Chinese to English. You may be surprised of how well it translates your sentences (as in it often fails to guess properly).

A better way to check your Chinese translation generated by Google translate or Yahoo babelfish by this site, If certain words of the translation are incorrect, (for example, Google guesses wrong at your English words), try translating those words in The Pure Language.

Chinese to English TranslationThe English to Chinese Translation will allow you to select the appropriate translation from the multiple word choices displayed.

The purelanguage doesn’t guess at the possible meanings of your English words. It lets you select based on your human intelligence. Who is more qualified to know the sentences context then the creator or the reader who knows the subject of the text.

Try the Pure Language today and improve your Chinese translations from Google and Yahoo translators.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Where's the Pinyin?

Chinese to PinyinMany people have asked why Google translate and Altavista/Yahoo babelfish translator cannot provide pinyin romanization for Chinese translations. Some would think that this would be an easy feature to add and would make their respective translators more useful.

Its often interesting to note that even native Chinese sometimes don’t know how to pronounce some of the less common characters. Would Pinyin help even a native Chinese? I have noticed that the older generations of Chinese people are not familiar with pinyin, however, I have found the younger generation are skilled enough to read pinyin and even write, although sometimes they not too sure about the tones.

So what really are the challenges faced by Google translate and Altavista/Yahoo babelfish in regards to showing Pinyin. One of the biggest challenges is how to display the pinyin cleanly with the character/symbol. You may have noticed here at the PureLanguage, for our translation output, we use tables to align the Chinese word/sentence/idiom, with the Pinyin and English. We also split the Chinese into logical words, so its not one big block of symbols. Splitting up the Chinese block, is also something that Google and Altavista/Yahoo do not attempt. To show the pinyin correctly positioned under the characters, they will need to change their output formatting and add the splitting functionality to their translation code.

Another obstacle they face is that there are some single Chinese characters that have multiple pinyin pronunciations. So which one to show? It’s difficult to know without understanding the context of the sentence. The Pure Language doesn’t guess at the meaning of the content, so it displays all variations. However, Google and Altavista/Yahoo do guessing to provide the translation and grammar, so it could easily select the wrong pinyin variation.

But wait! Hold on! Google has created a Chinese to English Dictionary feature that allows you to look up an English word and get its pinyin, and English translation. Unfortunately, its limited to only one word at a time and there are no Pinyin tones??!! That’s right no Tones?? Very strange!!!
For example when I translated the character: 长
I got the following (somewhat correct, but no tones):
[Pinyin] [chang]
[Pinyin] [zhang]
· long
· to grow
· a strong point ; strength of someone or something
· the length
· the person in charge
· a senior ; a superior
· elder ; older
· to increase ; to acquire

Chinese to English DictionaryThis is extremely limited for someone who wants more than a few words into pinyin. How could someone be expected to use this for a whole page of Chinese characters? What part of the block of Chinese characters is actually the word/idiom? Also, in regards to the above translation from Google, it is my experience that cháng refers to Long (length), and zhǎng refers to Older (chief). There is no distinction from Google here., whereas the Pure Language makes this distinction clearly separating each Pinyin and English variations with slashes.

But who really would want to use this dictionary feature for more than a few words? There are faster and better methods, such as this site Pure Language.
Someone said in another online posts, that Google/Altavista/Yahoo translate where not designed as a language learning tool, but being able to quickly translate or create sentences in other languages. I see their main goal. That is why I have created this site. Not only is it a great learning tool, but also you can use it to validate the translations generated by Google/Altavista/Yahoo and others, to make sure it guessed correctly at the words/meaning of your sentence. You might find it very surprising when you check what you got from these other sites.

On this purelanguage site, you can also generate Pinyin from English entered, or even translate Pinyin back into English and Chinese. Give it a try today! Enjoy!!!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Choosing a Chinese Name

Have you joined a Chinese group where you live? Its often appropriate and fun to refer to ones by their new Chinese name. Have you decided what name you would like? Its often more complicated than choosing an English name or just a random selection.

Selecting a Chinese NameWhen someone selects an English name, usually the historical meaning and sound to match the other parts of their name, and the masculine or feminine reference is the main importance. What are some important factors when selecting a Chinese name? The meaning of the character used, radicals in the character and the masculine or feminine of the name. Even the look and shape of the character is important. Having characters that appear aesthetically beautiful and with a more square-based shape is considered. Some Chinese are very superstitious so date of birth, Chinese lunar year animal and other things will affect their selections.

Given the thousands of characters available to choose from, and the combinations of two or three character names, you can make it unique and personal. This is especially helpful to avoid name conflicts with someone else in your group especially if there is a question and answer session. So what will help you to decide your Chinese name?

Perhaps you could ask friends to help give you suggestions or maybe give you some insight on your final selections. There are some great resources on the web that lists English Names and a good translated Chinese name found here:

Chinese Name Translation - Generate Chinese Name based on your English name
Name Translation in Chinese - List of Girls and Boys Chinese names with English Index
Common Chinese Names and English meaning
General Information on Chinese Names at Wikipedia

If you find it challenging to select a name, don’t be dismayed, as even native Chinese speaking people consult experts to help them when selecting an appropriate name for their children.

Enjoy the Challenge to find your unique name. If you are just using the name in your Chinese group, don’t worry too much at the start if you are unsure about it. You can always change your name. Once you have settled on your final name, you can then purchase a Chinese wooden or jade stamp block and start to stamp your books with your name in Characters. Also learning how to write your name with a pen is an important first step once your name is selected.

Friday, September 21, 2007

How to Create a Talk in Chinese

Creating a Talk in Chinese could seem to be a daunting task. You may ask yourself, where do I start. Even if I do translate every English word to Chinese, how do I make sure the sentence obeys the Chinese grammar rules? Lets discuss a quick way that many have found useful to translate your English Talk into Chinese.

Step 1. Write your talk in English.
How to Create a Chinese TalkThis is a logical first step isn’t it? This way you make sure you add all the points you want to make and make sure its logical and coherent and teaches or conveys the ideas you wish to highlight and meets the desired goal of the talk.

A) Don’t write too much English:
Often, when you are new to Chinese, everything takes longer to say and read. Often a 5-minute English talk, might take 7 to 10 minutes to say it in Chinese, especially if you are not yet fluent. Also, make sure you don’t write too much. This will not only save you in translation time, but then you will not need to cut out some important points from your talk and rewrite the English and start over again if your way over time.

B) Write very short and simple English sentences:
The shorter the English sentence the better for 3rd Party Chinese translation software to translate. That’s right, in step 2 we will need to use software other than what provides, until thepurelanguage,com can produce a Chinese to English translation. By creating short sentences and with simple English, this allows for a more accurate translation by these online Chinese translators.

C) Use existing Chinese Text
If you are creating a talk based on a book, magazine or news article, use existing phrases and sentences from these sources. If they are not already in electronic form, use a computer scanner to scan in the text. This way, you can use existing specialized words and terms that translation programs might not be able to translate properly. Use the Chinese sentences in steps 2 and 3.

Step 2. Translate English sentence into Chinese Characters
Translate each sentence one at a time to Chinese.

Open a browser window to: Babelfish Chinese Translation and select English to Chinese-simp or English to Chinese-trad. Paste in an English Sentence one at a time and hit translate. How do you know if it translated correctly?

We need to test the translation. We could either reverse the process though another translation site or at the Free Chinese Translation at ThePureLangauge but we will leave until later in Step 3.

Translate Chinese TextOpen a browser window to: Google Chinese Translation and select English to Chinese (Simplified) Beta or English to Chinese (Traditional) Beta. Paste in the Chinese text from the first translation and see how it translates back to English. I use google translate as a check, because from my experience babelfish produces a more accurate translation than google – but this is taken with a grain of salt. Since, the longer the sentence produces a more inaccurate translation, you may have to reword or reduce the sentence length at times.

Why do we even use these 3rd party translation portals? It’s because they do put the sentence into a grammatically correct sentence structure with proper measure words and references to times/dates at the start of the sentence etc. If the sentence did not translate correctly, either rewrite the sentence or if you know the Chinese word that is not translating correctly, enter in the Chinese word directly in step 3.

Step 3. Get Pinyin and English
As mentioned in step 2, we can check the results of our English to Chinese Translation at the Open a new browser window to: Free Chinese Translation at ThePureLangauge and enter in the Chinese characters from babelfish. This will not only provide you with a second check that it was translated correctly from English, but provide the important Pinyin to pronounce the Chinese characters to you’re your talk in Chinese (if you are still learning the characters) and now in the correct grammar. It has also parsed the Chinese characters so they are no longer in one large block of characters, but now you know where the words start and end (although some words like peoples names, small cities, specialized words might not be in our list at this time and might split them up). With the enhanced version of the software, you can add your own words and override the Chinese translation with the Enhanced Chinese Translation at ThePureLangauge.

Step 4. Get Chinese Talk Proofread
If you have a Chinese friend, you can give them your document with your translated sentences in Chinese characters for them to proof read and make edits. I would recommend that your document is proof read to make sure it’s logical and coherent and the grammar is correct. Make sure you send the document in electronic form so they can make the edits, add or remove characters, electronically.

Step 5. Make final Document
Chinese Translation BlogGet back the electronic proofread document and run the modified, edited text through step 3. Create a formatted document with the three line translation Character-Pinyin-English from the results into a document that can be read out for your talk. Congratulations, you have just created a Chinese Talk. If you have any suggestions to this process, please add your suggestions to the bottom of this post in this Chinese Translation Blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ThePureLanguage Chinese Translation Blog

Welcome to Chinese Translation Blog that discusses current Chinese Translation tools available and how they can impact, simplify and change the way you learn Chinese. It’s our goal that the information in this Blog will save you time and increase the rate of learning for the Chinese language. This Blog will also comment on Chinese Translation experiences, challenges and success stories.

Please feel free to add your comments to this Blog to make it one of the best sources for Chinese Translation information, tips, suggestions and tools on the web. Please share your ideas and your discoveries of new technologies to help you learn The Chinese Language. Enjoy!

The Pure Language Team.

Chinese Translation Blog