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2012: The Fourth Google Translate Challenge

Google Translate

Google Translate, the challenge…

Welcome to the fourth Google Translate Challenge! To recap: In 2009 I ran two sets of Thai phrases through Google Translate. I shared one list online and the other I kept to myself. Here’s the first set: 2009: The First Google Translate Challenge.

In 2010 I reran both sets of Thai phrases through Google Translate. I also created another set to keep to myself. The two sets can be found here: 2010: The Second Google Translate Challenge.

In 2011 I reran everything through Google Translate yet again: 2011: The Third Google Translate Challenge.

As you’ll see below, a few of the sentences have settled into some sort of consistency, while the rest are still evolving. Also apparent is how question marks are not always being addressed.

The results of the fourth Google Translate Challenge…

Be careful! There is swine flu!
2009: ระวัง! มีไข้สุกร!
2010: โปรดระวัง มีสุกรไข้หวัดใหญ่เป็น!
2011: โปรดใช้ความระมัดระวัง! มีไข้หวัดหมูเป็น!
2012: ระวัง! มีไข้หวัดหมูเป็น!

I have swine flu already, thanks!
2009: ฉันมีสุกรไข้หวัดใหญ่แล้วขอบคุณ!
2010: ฉันมีไข้หวัดหมูแล้ว, thanks!
2011: ฉันมีไข้หวัดหมูแล้ว, ขอบคุณ!
2012: ฉันมีไข้หวัดหมูแล้วครับ

I don’t know! Why do you ask?
2009: ฉันไม่ทราบ!ทำไมเจ้าถาม?
2010: ไม่ทราบ! ทำไมคุณถาม?
2011: ผมไม่ทราบ! ทำไมคุณถาม?
2012: ผมไม่ทราบ! ทำไมคุณถาม?

Did you eat yet?
2009: คุณกินยัง?
2010: คุณไม่กินหรือยัง
2011: คุณไม่ได้กินหรือยัง
2012: คุณกินหรือยัง

Oh no! You’re a liar!
2009: แย่ละ!คุณเป็นคนพูดเท็จ!
2010: Oh no! คุณโกหก!
2011: Oh No! คุณโกหก!
2012: โอ้ไม่! คุณโกหก!

I don’t want to see your face again.
2009: ฉันไม่ต้องการดูหน้าของคุณอีกครั้ง
2010: ฉันไม่อยากเห็นหน้าคุณอีกครั้ง
2011: ฉันไม่ต้องการที่จะเห็นใบหน้าของคุณอีกครั้ง
2012: ฉันไม่ต้องการที่จะเห็นหน้าคุณอีกครั้ง

He is busy lighting a mosquito coil.
2009: พระองค์คือยุ่งแสงสว่างที่ยุงม้วน
2010: เขาเป็นไฟม้วนยุ่งยุง
2011: พระองค์ทรงเป็นแสงยุ่งขดลวดยุง
2012: เขาเป็นแสงสว่างว่างม้วนยุง

Don’t put any fish sauce on the rice. It stinks!
2009: โปรดอย่าวางใดน้ำปลาใน ข้าว. มัน stinks!
2010: ไม่ใส่น้ำปลาบนข้าว It stinks!
2011: ไม่ใส่น้ำปลาใด ๆ บนข้าว มัน stinks!
2012: ไม่ใส่น้ำปลาใด ๆ บนข้าว มันเหม็น!

The first Google Challenge control group…

I first ran these sentences through Google Translate in 2009 and 2010, but I didn’t post them until 2010.

He tells me that he loves me with all his heart.
2009: เขาบอกผมว่าเขารักฉันกับหัวใจของเขาทั้งหมด
2010: เขาบอกว่าเขารักฉันด้วยหัวใจทั้งหมดของเขา
2011: เขาบอกผมว่าเขารักฉันด้วยหัวใจของเขา
2012: เขาบอกฉันว่าเขารักฉันด้วยหัวใจทั้งหมดของเขา

Do you speak English?
2009: คุณพูดภาษาอังกฤษ?
2010: คุณพูดภาษาอังกฤษ
2011: คุณพูดภาษาอังกฤษ?
2012: คุณพูดภาษาอังกฤษ? /kun pôot paa-săa ang-grìt/

What did the nurse say?
2009: อะไรได้พยาบาลกล่าว?
2010: พยาบาลพูดว่าอะไร?
2011: พยาบาลพูดว่าอะไร?
2012: พยาบาลพูดว่าอะไร?

That water buffalo meat comes from the north.
2009: นั่นควายเนื้อมาจากทางเหนือ
2010: ที่เนื้อควายมาจากภาคเหนือ
2011: ว่าเนื้อควายมาจากทางทิศเหนือ
2012: ว่าเนื้อควายมาจากทางทิศเหนือ

Please give me a glass of orange juice.
2009: กรุณาให้ฉันหนึ่งแก้วน้ำส้ม
2010: กรุณาให้แก้วน้ำสีส้ม
2011: กรุณาให้ฉันแก้วน้ำสีส้ม
2012: กรุณาให้ฉันแก้วน้ำส้ม

The turtle reaches the finish line before the rabbit.
2009: เต่าที่ครบตามเส้นชัยก่อนกระต่าย
2010: เต่าถึงเส้นชัยก่อนกระต่าย
2011: เต่าถึงเส้นชัยก่อนกระต่าย
2012: เต่าถึงเส้นชัยก่อนกระต่าย

The 2010 Google Challenge control group…

These sentences were created in 2010 but kept under wraps until 2011.

How was last night?
2010: เมื่อคืนนี้นี้เป็นยังไงบ้างคะ
2011: วิธีการคืนสุดท้ายคืออะไร
2012: วิธีการคืนสุดท้ายคือ?

Did anything exciting happen last night?
2010: เมื่อคืนนี้มีอะไรเกิดขึ้นบ้างตอนที่ฉันไม่อยู่
2011: สิ่งที่น่าตื่นเต้นเกิดขึ้นเมื่อคืน?
2012: ทำอะไรที่น่าตื่นเต้นเกิดขึ้นเมื่อคืน?

Sleep comfortably?
2010: หลับสบายไหมคะ
2011: นอนหลับสบาย?
2012: นอนหลับสบาย?

So very tired today.
2010: วันนี้เหนื่อยมากเลย
2011: ดังนั้นวันนี้เหนื่อยมาก
2012: ดังนั้นวันนี้เหนื่อยมาก

Because last night you snored.
2010: เพราะ(ว่า)เมื่อคืนคุณกรน
2011: เพราะคืนสุดท้ายที่คุณ snored
2012: เพราะคืนสุดท้ายที่คุณ snored

Google translate does have กรน /gron/ for snore and การกรน /gaa-rók ron/ for snoring/snore. Curious.

More Google Translate…

I haven’t been keeping up with everything Google Translate this past year but I did delve into a few of the improvements. Noticeable (to me anyway) is Google Translate’s New Look. And being able to listen to translations is a great addition: Google Translate, Now With Voice Input. The Google Translate App for iPhone and Conversation Mode in Google Translate for Android are well worth looking into (I’ll do just that in my coming apps review). On the broken side (for Thai anyway), Alternate Translations didn’t happen, and when I tried Usage Examples it came back with “no examples found”. But hey, two negatives out of all those positives isn’t too shabby. I’ll take it.

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

13 Comments

  1. Iove this series.

    Has anyone from Google ever contacted you?

  2. Google has come along way for Thai translation, I love seeing กรุณา used as the default translation for please. I can’t think of a time that I have ever heard กรุณา spoken, yet it’s in every phrase book and 4 years running on Google translate.

  3. Thanks Luke. No, Google hasn’t contacted me. I do wonder if, same as here, they are keeping tabs on how their translations are evolving. I’d be interested in their evaluation!

    Ditto Justin. I only read กรุณา and hear it in songs – poetic Thai? I do have one Thai friend (60’s) who says that it’s in use but when pressed she admitted that it’s mostly for super polite Thai. So it might be generation specific as well. If that’s the case I’m guessing that it’d be at least the 50’s and over because another Thai friend who’s in her mid 40’s says it’s no longer used.

    Here’s a recent song using กรุณา: http://youtu.be/wiAF-g8Gu8c

  4. Catherine – Google has indeed come a long way, your 2009 and 2012 translations do differ quite a bit. However my experience of Google Translate from Thai to English is quite often a cocktail of confusion with very few sentences you can understand. Here’s an example translation (Thai to English) about an ice rink which is proposed to be built at Udon Thani’s Central Plaza.

    …….. The persistence of Mali, President of ABC Wi.eaem.wi.ec. Land Developer Services Ltd. announced that they are engaged with the open space. In Bangkok and the provinces. Retail clothing stores. Costume And components of apparel. The Music Palace business with over 40 million fund recently I bought a franchise from The Rink Ice Skating In Central Plaza Rome, by the growth of this channel. This is the first of its kind in the Northeast. By looking at the family market with a new group….

    Okay, I do realize my excerpt is a long one and your examples are short phrases but I think Google Translate should rename themselves Gogole Trenslata until they’ve fine-tuned their program.

    It’s a decent language source but only for short sentences.

    Nice post and as Google Translate would say:

    Have a large 24 hour time-scale and January your troubles be small twos. (Have a good day and may your troubles be small ones).

    My conclusion… Google and I both write rubbish.

  5. I was very surprised that Google does an excellent job translating English to Chinese (Mandarin) and vice versa – I tried using it to chat with a Chinese friend who was shocked that I could suddenly ‘speak Chinese really well’). But with Thai it’s nothing short of appalling. It’s very interesting to see how it’s evolving (present tense – it’s nowhere near complete!), with some phrases being much better than they were, and some being bizarrely incomprehensible when they were OK before.

    It could be just a matter of the number of people who use the languages. I would expect Google to spend way more time (i.e. money) on Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese – even Hokkien), even Bahasa Indonesia – simply for the number of people that speak those languages. And in the case of the European (Romance and Germanic, at least) languages they probably don’t need to invest an awful lot of time anyway, because they are relatively more straightforward to translate to/from English.

    As for กรุณา I think it’s a lovely word and I see it written a lot, but seldom hear it spoken. You are far more likely to hear โปรด when spoken, but see กรุณา on signs. Even the same phrases – call your bank’s robot and when you press a digit for some service it will say โปรดรอสักครู่ … even though the signs in the same bank are far more likely to say กรุณารอสักครู่ if a teller has gone out briefly.

    One final point about Google Translate – I have worked with software that tried to translate Thai/English and it’s actually very difficult to do automatically. The first part is that it’s *hard* to write a program that can tell the computer where to break the words up, and the second part is that Thai is heavy on context, with sometimes a meaningful sentence being conveyed by a word or two, simply because you know enough to fill in the blanks from the previous sentences. And don’t get me started on pronouns or the levels of politeness. (I know five words that mean ‘eat’ that are not uncommon, and saying the wrong one can get you in trouble!)

  6. Martyn, we are in total agreement. I have Chrome set to translate foreign languages to English and I’m usually disappointed at the Thai translations but other languages often come out quite well.

    Scott, I didn’t realise Google puts money into cleaning up the translations for some languages, I assumed it was crowdsource dependent. But makes sense to try and give a quality product to the most popular languages, such as Chinese. Compared to other languages, Thai doesn’t come close in numbers.

    “Thai is heavy on context” … isn’t that the truth. When I ask if my Thai sentences are correct I often have to explain the context before I’m given a yes or no.

  7. Stephen Cleary

    July 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    I am one of those Thai speakers that does use กรุณา from time-to-time, however, usually over the phone to a client or to my wife when I want her to iron my shirt for work!

    As a prof. translator of Thai>English have clearly noticed how some clients want a discount on the ‘job’. ie.. “Mr Steve.. we would like you edit/proofread this document instead of translating, so hope you can give us a discount”. When in fact they just used googletranslate!

    Steve (etymologist/writer/translator)

  8. The 2010 Google translation of “So very tired today” was correct, unlike the last versions!
    Anyway, agreed, on a whole, Googletranslate has gone leaps-n-bounds.

  9. Stephen, what is your wife’s response when you use กรุณา – does it work?

    “hope you can give us a discount…” the translation industry seems just like the design industry. But there are no decent push button solutions for either (yet).

  10. Cat, great series… Google has come a long way but with casual Thai Google is severely lacking still. Very short sentences usually turn out good but longer day to day Thai Google still manages to mangle quite well…I ran my own pseudo test 2 months back when I was communicating with cute little Thai lass in Bangkok and she was using Google translate exclusively and it made for quite a few very interesting conversations.

    I used Google translate one time during the exchanges and I managed to insult her mother somehow :P

  11. Talen, you insulted her mother? Ouch! I used to chat with a friend in French. A translator was involved and the results were hilarious. I don’t remember which one he was using – babelfish? – it was years before GT.

  12. I have used Google a few times to write to a child I am helping in Thailand. Because my Thai is so limited I am not sure if the translation is correct. After reading these posts I am wondering what I am actually saying to him. How does Google know when translating that I am a woman and when I write “I…….” it needs to use the female word for I? If I would study my Thai more diligently and learn a little more I would not have to rely on Google Translate. But, alas………..

  13. Sophie, GT is pretty bad in places but it seems to be getting better. If you stick to the simplest of sentences you’ll have a better chance of being understood. I guess for polite particles, edit where needed. GT also messes up questions, so take care with those as well.

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