Technoleg Iaith a Lleferydd || Speech and Language Technology
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Google Translate in Welsh

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Google Google Translate is now available for Welsh.

The following is a copy of the post posted on our Murmur blog by Delyth following its launch.

Yesterday Google added the Welsh language to the list of languages supported by their automatic translation, or machine translation service, Google Translate.

At the same time Google added Afrikaans, Belarussian, Iclandic, Irish, Macedonian, Malayan, Swahili and Yiddish. This brings the total amount of languages supported by Google Translator to 51.

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These translations are produced by statistical approaches to machine translation – that is, Google uses the vast amounts of text on the web in order to find patterns between the words, and by using parallel texts of different languages are able to produce what appear to be translations.

The technology isn’t perfect yet, and one of our worries is that unscrupulous organisations and companies will misuse the technology to produce inferior Welsh language translations. Some organisations that claim conformance to the Welsh Language Act are likely to be very tempted to use a free automatic service such as this without a care for the legibility and linguistic correctness of their texts in Welsh. This of course was not the intended purpose of Google Translate : its aim is to provide a gist translation that allows a user to read and understand texts that are in otherwise unaccessable languages, and also to provide initial rough translation for a human translator to work on before being properly published.

However, Google have achieved quite a feat with their automatic translation for Welsh to English. Translating from English to Welsh is not as good, but it looks promising. The ability to translate between Welsh and other languages is a very useful feature, since the service translates between all possible language pairs of the 51 supported languages. It appears English is used as an intra-language in the translating, translating from Chinese for example shows the English word ordering in the Welsh translations.

We hope that this is only the beginning for Google and that further improvements will come. This could be good news for the translation industry in Wales. As we know, the demand for translations between Welsh and English is virtually inexhaustible. Improved tools for initial rough translations will allow translators to translate more texts in less time. This will keep costs down to reasonable limits. It could also mean that there could be no need to translate from Welsh to English anymore, since a gist translation might be sufficient. Will we still need to translate our own Murmur blog entries from Welsh to English from now on? We’ll see – but in the meantime, very warm congratulations to Google on their first efforts with Welsh-language translation.