Translation, Theory and Technology
Previous section Contents

Barker Lecture

Annex: A showcase example of machine translation

The following English sentence was taken from a source text chosen by a major machine translation vendor. The source text was translated by computer into French, German, and Spanish and the output was offered as an example of what machine translation is like when things go well. Even here, note the different ways the abbreviation ATP was handled. In this English text, it obviously stands for Advanced Technology Program. However, in the French text, it was expanded into a French chemical term for the organic chemical that is called 'adenosine triphosphate' in English. This compound, which is broken down from more complex substances such as sugars, is the immediate source of energy to the cells of our body. Clearly, this is a serious translation error. The compound adenosine triphosphate, abbreviated ATP, has nothing to do with the Advanced Technology Program, also abbreviated ATP, except that it has the same abbreviation. The computer mechanically substituted the full French form for the chemical use of ATP, demonstrating a lack of understanding of what is being translated. In the German translation, something strange is going on as well. The abbreviation has been reduced to lower case, except for the first letter. This is probably because it has been treated as a normal German noun, and all German nouns are capitalized. In the Spanish translation, the acronym was left untouched. This is a mistake as well, since the full form was translated and the Spanish version should be abbreviated as PTA.

* English source text: The purpose of the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) is to assist United States businesses to carry out research and development on pre-competitive generic technologies.

* French machine translation: Le but du program de technologie de pointe (triphosphate d'adénosine) est aider des entreprises des Etats-Unis d'effectuer la recherche et le développement sur des technologies génériques précompétitives.

* German machine translation: Der Zweck des Programms der neuen Technologie (Atp) ist, Staatgeschäfte zu unterstützen, Forschung und Entwicklung auf vorwettbewerblichen generischen Technologien durchzuführen.

* Spanish machine translation: el propósito del programa de la tecnología avanzada (ATP) es asistir a los negocios de Estados Unidos realizar la investigación y el desarrollo en tecnologías genéricas precompetitivas.

Previous section Contents

| Homepage | Theory | Technology | CLS Framework | About us |
Copyright © 1999
Translation Research Group
Send comments to
Last updated: Wednesday, January 3, 1999