OT: machine translation, or how German Schlagsahne wound up as "impact suspect"

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sat Feb 5 20:56:33 UTC 2005

   Machine translation evidently has a few kinks to iron out before it becomes entirely reliable. A few weeks ago a former student needed help in translating a blueberry pancake recipe into German.

   While helping her I checked Google for various recipes in German and then for the heck of it clicked on "Translate," and one of the ingredients turned up as "impact suspect." I wondered: "What in the world is impact suspect?" so I went back to the original German recipe.  And there was "Schlagsahne" (whipped cream). The machine translation had divided this compound word in the wrong place. Instead of Schlag (a blow) + Sahne (cream) it analyzed the word as "Schlags" + verb "ahne(n) = suspect, have a presentiment of.

    All of which raises the question: Will machine translation ever become as reliable as human translators?

Gerald Cohen

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