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Fallen Into the Gap Between Words

“The last job that only humans can accomplish is that of translation.” In this NPR segment, Andrei Codrescu contemplates why languages resist translation.


One Response to “Fallen Into the Gap Between Words”

  1. Sidonie says:

    The response to the question – why natural languages resist translation – is quite obvious. Translation means not translating language, but translating ideas and feelings. Language, written or spoken, is nothing but a skin for our thoughts and emotions. Computer translate texts – words, phrases, paragraphs, using different rules in order to find out proper translation. In fact, some human translators do the same (especially the beginners), but a really reliable translation needed a complete understanding of the initial text. To create a new text using the rules of the foreign language is also a hard task, but it is much more formal and, consequently, more easy for the machine. The most difficult task in interpreting the source text, finding out its meaning. Surely, a computer would never provide as accurate translations as a human translator, but it can come nearer and nearer to the ideal, involving new rules and new language regularities. On one hand, each natural language must be regular enough, because otherwise people coudn’t translate each other. On the other hand, in every language, there are enough exceptions and irregularities which are obscure for the computer, just as well as computer binary codes are obscure for humans. That’s why it’s so interesting for me to observe the evolution of machine translation systems – because it’s an attempt to penetrate into the secrets of the human mentality. Surely, I never use machine translation for translating poetry, God save us! I use some online translators, such as just to collect information in different languages. It’s just it was designed for.

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