Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fast-learning computer translates from four languages

21.02.2008
Modern approaches to machine translation between languages require the use of a large ‘corpus’ of literature in each language. Now a European project has demonstrated a cheaper solution which compares favourably with the market leaders in translating from Dutch, German, Greek or Spanish into English.

The European Union now has 23 official languages. That means documents written in one language may need to be translated into any of 22 others, a total of 253 possible language pairs. Small wonder that the institutions of the European Union, and organisations dealing with international commerce, among others, have a keen interest in automating the process where they can.

Efforts to use computers to translate languages, known as machine translation, date from the 1950s, yet computers still cannot compete with human translators for the quality of the results. Machine translation works best for formal texts in specialised areas where vocabulary is unambiguous and sentence patterns are limited. Aircraft manufacturers, for example, have devised their own systems for quickly translating technical manuals into many languages.

The EU has been active in promoting research in this field since the large Eurotra project of the 1980s. In common with other projects of the time, Eurotra used a ‘rules-based’ approach where the computer is taught the rules of syntax and applies them to translate a text from one language to another. This is also the basis of most commercial translation software.

But since the early 1990s the new concept of ‘statistical’ translation has gained ground in the machine translation community, arising out of research into speech recognition. This dispenses with rules in favour of using statistical methods based on a text ‘corpus’.

A corpus is a large body of written material, amounting to tens of millions of words, intended to be representative of a language. Parallel corpora contain the same material in two or more languages and the computer compares the corpora to learn how words and expressions in one language correspond to those in another. An important example is a parallel corpus of 11 languages based on the proceedings of the European Parliament.

Pattern matching
“Parallel corpora are expensive and rare,” says Dr Stella Markantonatou, of the Institute for Language and Speech Processing in Athens, which coordinates the EU’s METIS II project. “They exist only for a very few languages and in small amounts and in specialised texts. So our idea was to try to do statistically based machine translation without this resource, using just monolingual corpora of the target language. For instance, to translate from Greek into English we use a large English corpus.”

To use a single corpus you need a dictionary for the vocabulary and a way to understand the syntax. In the original METIS project, completed in 2003, the corpus was processed to analysis sentence patterns and the text to be translated was then matched against the patterns.

In Greek, for example, the verb can precede the subject of a sentence. “So if you come in with a Greek sentence, ‘Eats Mary a cake’, you would like the machine to be able to translate it into English and rearrange the words to make ‘Mary eats a cake’,” explains Dr Markantonatou. “Pattern matching is a good way of doing that because it is able to take patterns from the source language and make them like the target language.”

METIS II takes the principle further by matching patterns at the ‘chunk’ level, a phrase or fragment of a sentence rather than a sentence as a whole, as this makes the pattern matching more efficient.

It can also use grammar rules to generate alternative possibilities for the translation and then use the corpus to identify which is the more probable. For example, where English would say ‘I like cakes’, some European languages might use the form ‘cakes please me.’ So in translating into English, METIS II can test alternative interpretations against the English language corpus. In this example, 'cakes please me' would get a very low score while the closest match 'I like cakes' would score highly.

Four languages
The partners have now built a system that translates from Greek, Spanish, German or Dutch into English. Trials so far show that it performs well in comparison with SYSTRAN, the rules-based market leader in machine translation. Considering that SYSTRAN is based on half a century of development while METIS II has only run for three years, that is quite an achievement. A prototype is already available on the internet.

The problem now is what to do next. Results from METIS II are being followed up in national research programmes in Spain and Belgium, but there are no plans as yet to further develop the whole system. Some of the components created in the project, such as dictionaries and associated language tools, could be marketable in their own right, but would need an industrial partner to provide the investment needed to turn the prototype into a commercial product.

“For Greek, it would be an excellent opportunity because there is nothing really good for [translating it] at present,” Dr Markantonatou tells ICT Results. “With a better lexicon, fixing bugs and making algorithms more efficient, this kind of thing could work. In another two or three years, METIS could be a very serious competitor to SYSTRAN. It’s a matter of funding.”

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89533

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches
25.05.2018 | Universität Ulm

nachricht Supercomputing the emergence of material behavior
18.05.2018 | University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>