Shodhan Sheth
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Thursday, June 02, 2005

The universal translator

teknikally, a perfekt universal translator is impossible. this is bekause of teh difference in the richness of the various different languages. having said that, here is someone bent on doing the impossible. at the google faktory tour they unvieled the google translator. auto-translation b/w various languages is undoubtedly a tough job. whats intresting is
This is the Rosetta Stone approach of translation. Let’s take a simple example: if a book is titled “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” in English, and the German title is “Also sprach Zarathustra”, the system can begin to understand that “thus spoke” can be translated with “also sprach”. (This approach would even work for metaphors – surely, Google researchers will take the longest available phrase which has high statistical matches across different works.) All it needs is someone to feed the system the two books and to teach it the two are translations from language A to language B, and the translator can create what Franz Och called a “language model.” I suspect it’s crucial that the body of text is immensely large, or else the system in its task of translating would stumble upon too many unlearned phrases. Google used the United Nations Documents to train their machine, and all in all fed 200 billion words. This is brute force AI, if you want – it works on statistical learning theory only and has not much real “understanding” of anything but patterns.

the brute AI approach had its diffikulties in finding training korpuses large enough required for kommercial quality results. but as ever(first with search, then gMail) GooGle changes the bottleneks.


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