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Google Translate's Chinese-English translation just got a big AI upgrade

Web giant puts 'neural machine' to work on tackling Chinglish

Image from Google Translate
Web giants Google have unveiled a new version of Google Translate that employs artificial intelligence to provide its best ever translations of Chinese into English. Launched yesterday (Tuesday 27 September), the updated Google Translate uses 'neural machine translation' to give far more accurate translations of Chinese characters to English. If it catches on and can make it beyond the Great Firewall, it might even spell the end of Chinglish (though thankfully that's probably some way off).

So what on earth is neural machine translation? It's a concept that - ironically - makes our brains hurt, so here's Wired with a brief explainer:

Modeled after the way neurons connect in the human brain, deep neural networks are the same breed of AI technology that identifies commands spoken into Android phones and recognizes people in photos posted to Facebook, and the promise is that it will reinvent machine translation in much the same way. Google says that with certain languages, its new system—dubbed Google Neural Machine Translation, or GNMT—reduces errors by 60 percent.

赞! Practically, it means that you can now copy and paste lumps of Chinese characters into Google Translate and get near-human like translations. Here's an example taken from the Google blog on the matter, with GNMT being the new improved service and PBMT the old one:

google 2
The new and improved AI-infused service is currently only available for Chinese-English translation, but is expected to be rolled out for other languages soon. Google admit it's still not perfect, but say it's certainly an improvement:

Machine translation is by no means solved. GNMT can still make significant errors that a human translator would never make, like dropping words and mistranslating proper names or rare terms, and translating sentences in isolation rather than considering the context of the paragraph or page. There is still a lot of work we can do to serve our users better. However, GNMT represents a significant milestone.

So there you go - VPNs on and happy translating.

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By: Mat Gallagher
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