Gweiadur helps improve Google Translate for Welsh

As part of a project to improve Google Translate ( results for a number of minority languages, the Gweiadur team have been assisting Google in expanding significantly the Welsh vocabulary available to their process of machine translation.

Almost 700,000 equivalent pairs of Welsh and English words were contributed and over the next few months, the Google translation team will incorporate these into Google Translate for Welsh in order to improve their translation algorithms.

Currently, machine translation, in general, has not reached a level of maturity where it is possible to depend completely on the quality of the results (and indeed, it is a topic of heated discussion whether this will ever be possible). But the results certainly come closer all the time to a level where it is possible to use them for personal purposes in order to understand the bulk of a foreign language text, or to prepare an initial draft translation. These uses are important for increasing the language’s accessibility and to open the door for new users and learners.

And this, perhaps, is the level that we should be aiming for. Would the world not be a poorer place if the work of interpreting, understanding and re-expressing in a different social, cultural and historical context which a professional translator offers, were replaced by “correct”, but homogenized and soulless translations from a machine?