Reply to post: I'm not sure what the fuss is about

US Homeland Security installs AI cameras at the White House, Google tries to make translation less sexist

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

I'm not sure what the fuss is about

I think the fuss is about the limitations of phrasal recognition in translation without context sensitivity, which is a long standing issue.

Many languages - Germanic, Romance, Slavic - in the West are highly gendered. Some languages are not.

Take a language with non-gendered pronouns. Faced with the sentences equivalent to "This is Susan. It is a doctor", a human translator has no problem. She knows Susan is female, and so can translate into English as "This is Susan. She is a doctor." But a phrasal automatic translator will result in, given the usual statistical bias, "This is Susan. He is a doctor." Because it doesn't remember context from one clause to another.

A reverse example would be to take the sentence (transliterated Russian) "Vot Dima. Ona sobaka." Now sobaka is the common word for a dog in Russian and is feminine in grammar. "Dima" has a feminine ending. So a translation engine is likely to come up with "Here is Dima. She is a dog." In fact, "Dima" is a masculine nickname - as a human translator will know - and the correct translation is "Here is Dima. He is a dog."

Translation is as you say not an exact science. But humans are very sensitive to words even without taking modern sensibilities into account, and they would consider the misgendering a poor translation.And laugh at the stupid mistake.

Google Translate does a reasonably good job between related languages but that is actually less of a challenge - where it would be most useful is between unrelated languages. And it's issues like these that will take the most effort to iron out.

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