Scott Hanselman

Dynamic Language Translation Widget from the Windows Live Team

November 12, 2007 Comment on this post [16] Posted in Internationalization | Musings
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I'm playing with a dynamic translation service from the Windows Live Team. The user interface and implementation is incredibly clean and as with all computer based translation it's definitely questionable.

Here's the translation of my AboutMe page into Spanish. The part of what was the most fun was where it's that I worked in my "interior ministry" for Microsoft as a translation for "working out of my home office."

Here's an example:

"Mi nombre es Scott Hanselman. Me resuelvo de mi Ministerio del Interior para Microsoft como program manager mayor, apuntando separar la buena información sobre software que se convierte, generalmente en el apilado de Microsoft. Antes de que éste yo fuera el principal arquitecto en Corillian Corporation, ahora una parte de Checkfree, por los años 6+. También estuve implicado en algunas cosas del revelador de Microsoft durante muchos años como el MVP y los programas y yo del RD speak sobre las computadoras (y otras pasiones) siempre que escuche alguien."


My name is Scott Hanselman. I work out of my home office for Microsoft as a Senior Program Manager, aiming to spread good information about developing software, usually on the Microsoft stack. Before this I was the Chief Architect at Corillian Corporation, now a part of Checkfree, for 6+ years. I was also involved in a few Microsoft Developer things for many years like the MVP and RD programs and I'll speak about computers (and other passions) whenever someone will listen.

Still, you can get the jist. It's pretty nice and compares well against the Google one I blogged about in March of this year. Both have really nice UIs. All I had to do was add this script:

     <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> my page. It's currently on the right side under my contact information. I encourage you to try it out. I wonder if it's useful to international readers?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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November 12, 2007 6:33
Well, I am German and automatically translating to/from German still seems to be an issue for applications. The resulting text might be used as a base for a real (read: manual) trnaslation but that's about it: a lot of the text is fubar'd and more entertaining than helping in understanding the content...

P.S.: "home office" is translated to "Innenministerium" ("interior ministry"), too, so that one might be hardcoded in some way?
November 12, 2007 6:35
Heh - it's actually a perfect example why software translation is still incredibly hard. In British English, the "home office" is indeed the Department of Interior. In other words, without seeing that sentence in the entire context of your web page, it's a perfectly understandable mistranslation - and unavoidable.

Still like the idea of having automated translation directly on page - it's one step forwards towards the Jetsons ;)
November 12, 2007 8:29
As you pointed out, the quality of computer based translations is far from perfect, but sometimes it's better than nothing :)
November 12, 2007 12:30
Well, I tried to translate to French (the only foreign language I can recognize a little). Funnily, for this post it did not translate the English part of your sample text. Actually, the English part was plain missing from the translation....
November 12, 2007 15:30
Hi..i was going to send you e-mail but that would have cost me 12$!!!... I just like to tell you that you are displaying a rather reveling error on the right side of your page. You might wan´t to fix it before you get hacked! :-/ p.s Great blog btw!

Error displaying xml file:
The process cannot access the file 'd:\domains\\blog\SiteConfig\local_87641.xml' because it is being used by another process.


at System.IO.__Error.WinIOError(Int32 errorCode, String maybeFullPath) at System.IO.FileStream.Init(String path, FileMode mode, FileAccess access, Int32 rights, Boolean useRights, FileShare share, Int32 bufferSize, FileOptions options, SECURITY_ATTRIBUTES secAttrs, String msgPath, Boolean bFromProxy) at System.IO.FileStream..ctor(String path, FileMode mode, FileAccess access, FileShare share, Int32 bufferSize, FileOptions options) at System.IO.StreamWriter.CreateFile(String path, Boolean append) at System.IO.StreamWriter..ctor(String path, Boolean append, Encoding encoding, Int32 bufferSize) at System.IO.StreamWriter..ctor(String path, Boolean append, Encoding encoding) at Hanselman.TextLinkMacro.WriteAllText(String path, String contents, Encoding encoding) at Hanselman.TextLinkMacro.TextLinks(String adID, String inventoryKey)
November 12, 2007 15:45
I'm from Uruguay, South America, and I saw the translation to Spanish! It's horrible! I think that exists others translator that make a best job. Sorry, but I think that Windows Live Translator it's too inmature.

Great blog!
November 12, 2007 15:58
Being a spanish native, I also have to say that the translation is horrible. If I don't know you (and what you do), it will be very hard to know with this translation.

"Me resuelvo de mi Ministerio del Interior para Microsoft" Incomprensible

"Antes de que éste yo fuera" ¿¿que??

"del revelador de Microsoft" ¿¿revelador de fotos?

"y yo del RD speak sobre" ¿gramatica donde estas?
November 12, 2007 20:12

Translation into Spanish is really bad (Google's translation to Spanish is really bad too).

I took the Spanish translated text back to English and this is what I get

"I am solved of my Department of the Interior for Microsoft like program to manager greater, aiming to separate the good information on software that becomes, generally in the piled up one of Microsoft."</i>
November 12, 2007 20:28

I'm Spanish and translator, to boot. Obviously, a machine translation can't yet compete with a human being trained to interpret cultures (luckily!), but I don't think it's fair to judge the output of such services on those terms. It's becoming increasingly scary to see that texts translated by a computer actually make sense with little effort!

This is even clearer with domain-specific texts, like technical documentation. I normally read the technical documentation in the source language, but out of curiosity I've checked out the MT service provided by Microsoft for Spanish and most of the time you can figure out what is meant. That's a huge step forward considering that those documents would never be considered for human translation.

Reading a text translated automatically is hard, and making any progress here seems unlikely in the short term. However, if we lower the reader's expectations (something reasonable for throw-away texts) and the original copy is written with MT in mind, I think that we're not far from a MT dominated world.

Hopefully, all that will only make good translators a more valuable asset! ;-)

November 13, 2007 3:59
Being a native Spanish speaker from Argentina I have to agree with everyone above and let you know that the Spanish tranlation is horrible. It does do an OK work to get you started, but some sentences just don't make any sense.
November 13, 2007 5:34
The dangerous thing about machine translations is not that they are awkard and difficult to understand. The dangerous thing about machine translations is the sentences that are not awkward. There is no guarantee that the machine translation has completely missed or incorrectly translated the meaning of the original sentence. And while bad grammar or typographical errors are annoying, there is nothing worse than a translation that has gotten the meaning wrong.

By the way, I translate from Japanese into English, and there is nothing more funny than a Japanese-to-English (or English-to-Japanese) machine translation. The vast cultural and linguistic differences between Japanese and English magnify any machine translation errors beyond the level present in languages such as English to Spanish.
November 13, 2007 7:51
</i> Why do folks bother at all then?
November 13, 2007 20:16
I've been playing with the Google translator and I must say I'm impressed with the result (EN > ES, VBA help file). Apparently their crowdsourcing approach is proving to be effective.
November 13, 2007 22:25

I think translating software need to get into a next level to understand syntax better. Certain sentences are translated accurately and certain ones are just bad. Short sentences tend to do fine. Slang is also another challenge.

I have used Google translation tools in the past but then I review the translated document to correct those sentences that went bad.

I think people bother because eventually it will get to an acceptable level -- and do "serious damage" as a noted podcaster says
November 21, 2007 12:27
I'm Spanish native also. Sorry, that translation is highly misleading. Looking at the source I can see why can't be helped, an automated translation is really hard.

quote: >>>>>> As you pointed out, the quality of computer based translations is far from perfect, but sometimes it's better than nothing :) >>>>>>

I strongly disagree. This is worst than nothing because creates more confusion and time wasted, you will need to get to the original source anyway, so such a bad translation is only getting in the way.
November 30, 2007 12:04
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.