The makers of a University of Southern California computer translation system consistently rated among the worlds best are teaching their software something new: English grammar.
Most modern "machine translation" systems, including the highly rated one created by USCs Information Sciences Institute, rely on brute force correlation of vast bodies of pre-translated text from such sources as newspapers that publish in multiple languages.
Software matches up phrases that consistently show up in parallel fashion — the English "my brothers pants" and Spanish "los pantalones de mi hermano," — and then use these matches to piece together translations of new material.
It works — but only to a point. ISI machine translation expert Daniel Marcu (left) says that when such a system is "trained on enough relevant bilingual text ... it can break a foreign language up into phrasal units, translate each of them fairly well into English, and do some re-ordering. However, even in this good scenario, the output is still clearly not English. It takes too long to read, and it is unsatisfactory for commercial use."
Eric Mankin | EurekAlert!
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