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 Underwater acoustic localization of marine mammals and vehicles
23.11.2017 | IMDEA Networks Institute

nachricht NASA CubeSat to test miniaturized weather satellite technology
10.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight 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: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>