Living in Central China without speaking Chinese, I frequently use Google Translate. At times it works incredibly well, other times it makes no sense. I see this because of the confusion in simple chat messages to Chinese people.
In the last few weeks I figured out a way to get much more reliable translations. Since it has been working reliably, I have now sent this in to the Google Translate team as well as publishing it on my blog.
All that is needed is to show the reverse translation at the same time so the user can rephrase. for example, just now I tried to say this:
“you are very busy, my assistant can do this instead.”
which translates to
So, when I try a reverse translation in Google Translate of that Chinese phrase to English to double check it, I get this:
“You’re busy, my assistant, and not able to do it.”
Clearly this does not make sense.
So now I try simplifying my English sentence by removing the word “instead”, changing it to:
“you are very busy, my assistant can do this.”
the Google Translate result is this:
When I check this new sentence with reverse translation, it comes back in English as this:
“You’re busy, my assistant can do this.”
Now I have a good translation. Local friends tell me it isn’t perfect Chinese, but it certainly is much better. Even though I don’t understand the Chinese, I already know it works because I see people understand me better.
This reverse translation could be easily viewable in real time while the user is writing the sentence to ensure they’re getting a usable translation.
I hope Google Translate implements this idea. I suspect it will work for many languages given it works for a difficult language like Chinese. Particularly for machine translation of simple things like tweets, this could be a game changing addition to Google Translate.