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Machine Translation vs. Human Translators

机器翻 译对翻译人员
(English into Chinese translation of the title done using an online machine translation tool)
The machine translation to translates the personnel

(Chinese into English – back translation done online)

Last year, a group of Israeli journalists used an online machine translation tool to translate an email for the Dutch Consulate in Tel Aviv. The message should have been about an upcoming visit to the Netherlands for a seminar on Dutch politics. However, the final result was nothing close to that and they ended up asking the Dutch minister some senseless questions about his mother.

It is well known that machine translation has its limitations and it can’t be used for everything. In this situation, the blame is actually on the journalists and not on the online tool.

Everybody has access to these online tools and they are very helpful for personal projects and even more helpful when it comes to translation software packages – but none of these tools can replace the human touch.

Is machine translation something you can trust? How reliable is a translation provided by a computer? This depends on what you need the translation for: are you trying to chat with your friend in Germany or are you trying to write a professional letter to a Chinese manufacturer? Are you looking to browse a Japanese website in English to get an idea of the content, or would you actually like to have that website translated for commercial proposes? If it’s for your own use, to get an idea of the content, then machine translation is the cheapest way.

Translation software is designed to give the best approximation of the original text – to produce the gist of the content. But it has a lot of limitations:

  • it can’t translate cultural components of the source text into the target language;
  • the translation is very literal, word for word;
  • it doesn’t recognize idioms, slang, and terms that are not in the machine’s memory;
  • it lacks the creativity of the human touch.

In this article:

1. Free translation tools for small paragraphs and web pages
2. Free translation tools for chats and instant messaging
3. Translation software
4. Funny online machine translation tools

>>Translation Tools for Paragraphs and Web Pages

Google Translate

Service provided by Google to translate text paragraphs, or a webpage in another language. Languages offered: Arabic, Chinese Simplified and Traditional, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Cost: Free

Sample translation:

English source (

Machine translation , sometimes referred to by the abbreviation MT, is a sub-field of computational linguistics that investigates the use of computer software to translate text or speech from one natural language to another. At its basic level, MT performs simple substitution of words in one natural language for words in another.
Chinese Simplified translation

机器翻 译 , 有 时所提到的缩写吨 , 是一个分 领域的计算语言学认为 , 调查 , 使用 电脑软件的翻译文本或讲话 , 从一个自然 语言到另一个 。在其基本的水平 , 吨履行 简单的替代的话 , 在一自然 语言词在另一个 。

Back translation: Chinese into English

Machine translation, sometimes referred to by the acronym tons, is a sub-field of computational linguistics that investigation, the use of computer software or the translation of the speech from a natural language to another. At its basic level, tons of simple alternative to the case, in a natural language words in another.

Babel Fish

Web based application developed by Alta Vista. It uses a translation technology provided by Systran.

It translates between English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Cost: Free

Sample translation:

Chinese Simplified Translation:

机器翻 译 , 由 简称 MT 有 时提到 , 是 调查对计算机软件的用途翻译文本或讲话从一种自然语言到另一个计算语言学的子体。在它基本的水平 , MT 执行词的简单的代替用一种自然语言为词在另。

Back translation:

The machine translation, by is called MT sometimes to mention that, is the investigation to the computer software use translation text or the speech from one kind of natural language to another computational linguistics subfield. In its basic level, MT carries out word simple replacing with one kind of natural language for the word in addition.

Windows Live translator – known now as Bing Translator

Free online translation service provided by Microsoft. It translates from English into German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese ( Brazil), Chinese (simplified and traditional), Japanese and vice-versa.
Cost: Free

>>Instant Messaging Translation Tools

1. Google Talk ( Windows application for instant messaging available in: English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Chinese and Spanish.
Cost: Free

2. SDL Instant multilingual messaging ) (outdated): works with AOL instant Messenger, available in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and Norwegian.
Cost: Around $5/month

3. Zolero ): translates instant messaging conversations into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch and Portuguese. It can be used with Yahoo Messenger, AOL, and ICQ.
Cost: Free

>>Translation Software

Systran provides translation software products and solutions for everybody: home, small businesses and enterprises.

It can be used for real-time translation of web pages, emails, instant messages, letters, documents, etc. It works with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Here is a list of the source and target languages SYSTRAN works with. Many of the pairs are to or from English or French:  Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swedish, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Ukrainian, Urdu.

Power Translator

Translates almost anything including documents, websites, blogs, emails and instant messages. It’s available in 21 language pairs and different packages for personal, business or professional needs.

Other translation software providers:

@promt ( ), IdiomaX (, Babylon (

>>Funny online machine translation tools:

The Dialectizer
The Dialector can translate web pages and text into Redneck, Jive, Cockney, Elmer Fudd, Swedish Chef, Moron, Pig Latin, or Hacker.

Da Ali G translator
Translates into the vocabulary of Sacha Baron Cohen’s hip-hop journalist Ali G. Yo!

Felicia Bratu is the operations manager of wintranslation, in charge of quality delivery and client satisfaction. As a veteran who has worked in many roles at the company since 2003, Felicia oversees almost every aspect of the company operations from recruitment to project management to localization engineering. She recently received certification as a Localization Project Manager as well as Post-Editing Certification for Machine Translation. Felicia holds a BSc. in Industrial Robotics from the University of Craiova, Romania.

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