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Vlad Tverdohleb
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AI Translates News Just as Well as a Human Would

Published on 4/19/2018
For additional information  Click Here

Translation was traditionally considered a job in which the magic human touch would always ultimately trump a machine. That may no longer be the case, as a Microsoft AI translator just nailed one of the hardest challenges: translating Chinese into English with accuracy comparable to that of a bilingual person.

Chinese is so difficult a language that it takes years for a non-native speaker to just about manage the 3,000 characters needed to read a newspaper. Previous attempts at automatic translation have amused the world, with gems such as “hand grenade” to indicate a fire extinguisher or a mysterious “whatever” dish on a restaurant menu.

“For alphabetic languages, there’s what they call a virtuous loop between the writing, speaking and listening — those three categories constitute one composite skill,” linguist David Moser told the Los Angeles Times. “But the problem with Chinese […] is it breaks that loop. Speaking does not necessarily help your reading. Reading doesn’t necessarily help your writing.” These are three different skills that, when learning Chinese, have to be mastered in parallel.

After years of working on what it seemed a nearly impossible feat, Microsoft engineers finally achieved the so called “human parity” in translating a sample of sentences from Chinese news articles into English.

The team used a sample of 2000 sentences from online newspapers that had been previously translated by a professional. Not only did they compare the machine’s job with that of the human translator, but they also hired a team of independent bilingual consultants to keep an eye on the process.


Read more on Scribble&Scroll Blog.

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