Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Goldman Sachs: quarterly earning largely higher than waitings"

On July 10th, it hit the internet:

"Ryanair loan to make travel of the passengers upright."

and

"The Chinese car in ambush,"

(These quotations from the story at: French Paper Goes Global Risks Ridicule)

A major French newspaper has decided to turn to machine translation in its effort to reach more readers. Despite ridicule and concerns expressed by other news agencies, the translation community, and the French population at large, the editors say that they are confident that this is the best way to present themselves to the world. With a little "tweaking" they are certain that these translations will work.

"Tweaking"? La Tribune wants to publish its online paper in multiple foreign languages in real time by using machine translation. How much time will this really leave for "tweaking"?

Take this article on the possible flu outbreak in Italy:

"Seize up a: Italy waits from 3 to 4 million case by March 2010"

And from the article text:

"For the moment relatively saved by the virus, which did not still make any death, […]" "[A second plan] which will relate to in particular the elderly from 2 to 20 years."



Hmm. I'm sure all the high schoolers out there will be glad to know that they now count as "the elderly".

The rest of the article actually contains fewer easily defined errors, but is harder to understand. It is filled with numbers and changing tenses that make the reader struggle to figure out what has already happened, what is happening, and what is a prediction for the future. But surely this isn't a problem for a newspaper that deals with business, banking, and finance. No numbers there at least. Phew!

This story has been thoroughly hashed out in the translation community, but there is one aspect that I have yet to hear discussed-

What are La Tribune's legal liabilities if the computer translation claims that a suspect is guilty? If it trashes a company's image by mistranslating its financial situation? If it commits any of a number of likely errors?

I do not know what laws govern the French media, but surely knowing those laws and what tone or register is appropriate is a large part of being a journalist or of translating for the media.

1 comment:

Geo said...

No real problem here. The global community is rapidly adapting. Recently, the U.S. Congress passed major legislation without reading it. La Tribune has embraced the new reality; we have progressed beyond reading.