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The Limits of Machine Translation (FF4 Love Here)

Posted: 22nd November 2017 14:31
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Funky Fantasy: Final Fantasy IV Meets Google Translate

Translation is a profession filled with lots of stories of impending doom these days: "Get out while you still can! Retrain! The computers are gonna steal your job!"

Google's neural nets and fancy point-the-camera apps providing instant translation and even fully voiced interpretation would have you believe language-learning is a thing of the past, a skill of no significance beyond simple mental acrobatics--an oddity, like knowing how to use an abacus in the age of pocket calculators or knowing how to write love letters in beautiful script with a fountain pen in the age of tiny, non-tactile predictive text keyboards, 140-character Reader's Digest thinking, and gorgeous one-click desktop publishing templates.

Of course, with the automation work-pocalypse right on the horizon, I'm sure translation isn't the only profession very vocally being recommended last rites.

But every once in a while, a little glimmer of hope appears. Google's bots seem to have a mysterious way of figuring out and replicating the routine yet quite complex language and conventions used across patent filings or descriptions of drug doses in PK reports, but when it comes to flowered prose and lively, natural dialogue in a book or elsewhere, the bots seem not have way... with... those word things.

Take this lovely little project:

Someone with a great love of Final Fantasy IV and at least a modicum of interest in the world of machine translation came up with this wonderful project: Run the text of FF4 through Google Translate, then re-insert it back into the game and play. Better yet, he did it right on the cusp of Google's quiet unveiling of their new neural-network-based translation engine, allowing him to compare and contrast traditional statistical methods with neural nets, widely considered the cutting edge of MT. He analyzed the resulting texts to death and turned it into a beautiful, glossy book which arguably every Final-Fantasy/Machine-Translation junkie should own! And the result and analysis provide some little hints about where MT continues to fall short, and where good human translators still need to step in.

When I came across the book, I absolutely had to share.

Please enjoy, share it on Twitter if that's your thing (I'm sure the guy would love the extra boost of publicity), and perhaps even consider, as I am, making a purchase. Personally, I think I might just keep this perpetually tucked into my knapsack to pull out and brandish in the face of the next human translation doomsayer I run into.

Official Site:

Preview of the Book:

Tweet Promoting This Project:
Post #213967
Posted: 22nd November 2017 16:34

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This is really interesting in the preview, though the price of the actual book might be a bit dear for me personally as someone who would really probably just enjoy the comedy of it. The "German Infatuation" page, though, might be worth the price of admission, as well as the evil "Mister Leg." It's a shame, though, that he was stuck backporting the text into a version of the game that couldn't support its length. I suspect that if he'd worked with a more experienced modder the results could have been better for his many screenshots.

It would be interesting to see what the neural net could come up with for some of the other widely-debated translations out there too, particularly VI and VII.

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Post #213970
Posted: 27th November 2017 06:10

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Good old Tomato for doing this. I appreciate the effort but the price is a bit steep for me.

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