The Duel: Machine vs Professional translation

Everybody who keeps up with scientific news no doubt knows about the current research being done in making machines with human intelligence (also known as artificial intelligence, or AI). This is certainly not a new dream; scientists have been working on the problem for decades (and indeed sometimes it seems that software engineers do little else). However, despite the time that has been put into solving this problem, it hasn’t been until recently that we have been able to make an AI capable of doing things that a human can do.

One recent advance is the self-driving car, which used to be a fantasy but has been made a reality by Google. It has been shown to be able to drive itself for thousands of mile without human guidance or accidents. This is possible through a combination of new sensor technology and clever algorithms. However, is the car actually intelligent, or is it just following a set of rules?

This is the fundamental question behind much of AI research–can we make a machine that actually thinks and creates? One fundamental part of intelligence seems to be the ability to use language. Certainly this is what sets humans apart from many other animals.

Although the competition between Microsoft and Google is certainly nothing new, their recent fight over translation apps is particularly important because it marks an important advance in artificial intelligence. Last December, Microsoft’s Skype Translator provided a way for mobile users to translate speech, the first time that this has shown up on the market. A month later, Google released their own version of the app.

This new development spurred us to try comparing machine translators to our own human translators. We firmly believe that a major part of the translation process is accurately carrying nuance across the language barrier. “Yeah, right” is very different from “okay,” but a machine would not necessarily understand that. This is what we wanted to put to the test.

We decided to test both written and spoken translators. We had to use Google’s app (and tested both the desktop and mobile versions) instead of Microsoft’s because the Skype Translator was not available to test. On the human side, one of our top Spanish translators, Adriana, volunteered to translate the same document that the machine translator would. Gaby, another one of our translators, would judge both outputs based on grammar, cultural idioms, comprehension, and general strengths and weaknesses.

By the end of our testing, it was clear that, while Google’s app was very good at translating the gist of both the document and recorded speech, it was unable to effectively translate the nuances. It tended to translate extremely literally instead of interpreting idioms as idioms. One example of this was “Lets get high demand in foreign markets and provides services,” which is, at the very least, not grammatically correct.

Our human translator, on the other hand was able to translate the original connotations and intent. Her version of the above example was “it allows for creating high demand products in foreign markets and provides services” which flows much more smoothly.

Clearly, humans are still superior to machines… at least as far as translation is concerned.

verbal-ink (1)

Dakwak API: Get Translation

Dakwak Get Translation API allows you to request a translation for a phrase, by choosing a language to translate to and the level of translation. By default, it will return the published translation of the given term. If that doesn’t exist, the best unpublished translation will be returned instead.

Request

Send a GET request to the following:
dakwak.com/api/translate.json?apikey=API_KEY&lang=LANG&phrase=PHRASE

Then, replace the bold capitalized words with their corresponding values:

  • apikey: this is long unique string used to identify your website, and to allow you to access the search API. To request your website’s API Key, go to Dashboard -> My Website Content -> Settings then click on blue the button “Request API Key”. An email will be sent to the support staff at dakwak and they will contact you with your website’s API Key.
  • phrase: the phrase you want to translate
  • lang: the language of the translation you want. Use the shortcut of the language, based on this table:
    Language Shortcut Language Shortcut Language Shortcut
    Afrikaans af Greek el Romanian ro
    Albanian sq Hebrew iw Russian ru
    Arabic ar Hindi hi Serbian sr
    Belarusian be Hungarian hu Slovak sk
    Bulgarian bg Icelandic is Slovenian sl
    Catalan ca Indonesian id Spanish es
    Chinese (Simplified) zh-CN Irish ga Swahili sw
    Croatian hr Italian it Swedish sv
    Czech cs Japanese ja Thai th
    Danish da Korean ko Turkish tr
    Dutch nl Latvian lv Ukrainian uk
    English en Lithuanian lt Vietnamese vi
    Estonian et Macedonian mk Welsh cy
    Filipino tl Malay ms Yiddish yi
    Finnish fi Maltese mt Urdu ur
    French fr Persian fa Chinese (Traditional) zh-TW
    Galician gl Polish pl French (Canada) fr-CA
    German de Portuguese (Europe) pt-PT Spanish (Latin America) es-LA
    Portuguese (Brazil) pt-BR

The request should look something like this:
dakwak.com/api/translate.json?apikey=12356789abcde&lang=ar&phrase=hello
Or, if you want to get the spanish translation:
dakwak.com/api/translate.json?apikey=12356789abcde&lang=es&phrase=hello

Response

When you send the request, and if all fields are valid, you will get a response that looks like this:

{"apikey": "12356789abcde",
"lang": "es",
"phrase": "hello",
"translation": "hola"}

  • apikey, lang and phrase fields contain the same values of the request
  • translation: the requested translation of the phrase. By default, the published translation will be returned. If no published translation exists, the unpublished translation with the highest level will be returned instead.

Error codes

If you get an error instead of search results, it means your request contains invalid information or misses some required information. Please check the correct request format.

  • 1100: ‘apikey’ is a required field
    You left the apikey field empty, didn’t include it in your request, or misspelled ‘apikey’
  • 1101: ‘lang’ is a required field
    You left the lang field empty, didn’t include it in your request, or misspelled ‘lang’
  • 1103: ‘phrase’ is a required field
    You left the phrase field empty, didn’t include it in your request, or misspelled ‘phrase’
  • 1300: apikey must be valid
    You used a wrong API key; make sure you copy the full API key of your website
  • 1301: language is not valid or supported
    The language you requested is not supported by dakwak.com or does not exist. Make sure to choose the correct language shortcut from the table above
  • 1500: language is not included in your plan
    The language you chose is not included in your plan, please choose another language
  • 1400: could not find the requested phrase
    The phrase in your request has not been translated yet

Want to learn about your web visitors? 3 ways analytics can help!

It’s not just sales numbers that can tell you how many people are checking out your website every day—and important information about these people. Thanks to the proliferation of analytic measuring tools, website owners can track how everything from the translation of their pages to recent changes in content impact audience engagement and growth.

Three of the best ways site owners can use analytics include free Google and Yahoo analytics, services to check in on the competition, and individual site dashboards (including Dakwak’s).

Search engine analytics

Google Analytics specifically also shows a breakdown of which countries

This is a great way to tap into an underutilized group of readers or customers, without wondering if they were looking in the first place. Both analytics services also help track what time of day users come to the site, whether they’re new or returning and how long they spend on each page—which can help site owners further tailor content to a worldwide audience.

Sites about competitors

Keeping tabs on the competition is always helpful in bringing users back to your site. Using sites like Compete.com, site owners can get information about what their competitors’ customers are doing, the sites’ traffic volume and why people ended up on different sites in the first place. Many of Compete’s services are free, but for a fee, Compete can tell users which specific keywords are sending customers to their competitors’ websites. Using SEO optimization or language sites like Dakwak, problems like “not speaking the same language” (figuratively or literally) as a customer become an easily spotted problem that’s incredibly fixable.

In-depth dashboards

Measurements on tools like Dakwak’s dashboard show users how many views their page has received over the past day, week or month. On Dakwak, users can divide the measurements between each page’s translation (for example, a Spanish version of a site may have had 50% more traffic than an English version of the same page). This can help with an easy look of how a website is doing, breaking down simple versions of traffic patterns over

the site since it was translated, had certain content added or did something like get a new partner.

Check out the dashboard and other features today with: sign up for a dakwak free trial.

Joe has a great idea for foreign-Language Site…If Only He Spoke The Language!

Meet Joe. He wants to connect American Bonsai tree enthusiasts with Japanese gardeners (a mini-tree hotline). If he could just get his site idea up and running in both English and Japanese he’d be rolling in cashola. Just swimming in it.

Problem is Joe grew up in Wisconsin, and his only impression of Japan comes from Hollywood portrayals of tea ceremonies and ninjas. Clearly, he’s not fit for the localization job.

So, Joe does the next best thing. He opens up Internet Explorer and starts translating his site copy into Japanese line by line. Not knowing a lick of Japanese doesn’t deter him. Surely, Japanese gardeners will understand his unique vision. He can even ask his otaku friend to smooth over the translations and everything will be just peachy. Right?

Wrong. Not in any of the universes would this work out for Joe. Not only would his translation suck, his website design would be completely off, and most importantly, the technical hurdles would prove too much for him to overcome.

…Runs into 110 Meters of Technical Hurdles (in List Form)…

  1. SEO

The first thing Joe realizes is that he doesn’t know anything about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Even if Joe did have a passable understanding of SEO, how would he optimize his keywords and metatags or make a sitemap in a language he doesn’t know?

Answer: He can’t. SEO is an entire industry in and of itself. Site discoverability is no longer just a matter of making sure you type the right words into WordPress’s automated SEO tags. If you don’t know what the word “sitemap” means or what a “crawler” is, you’ve already dropped the ball, and when we say “ball” we really just mean the English language market.

SEO optimization for a foreign language site? Even if it is just ONE other language? Totally different ballgame. Which leads us to the next technical hurdle:

  1. Cultural Differences

Even masticated Japanese can be SEO-optimized, but it doesn’t mean anyone in Japan who stumbles upon Joe’s site is going to give it more than 15 seconds of their time (even if they’re bonsai enthusiasts).

Now would be a good time to point out that the average attention span of most Internet users in 2010 was less than 9 seconds. In other words, a goldfish can remember things longer.

With this in mind, Joe probably wouldn’t want to rely on Google’s translation tool (which, of course, doesn’t take SEO into account). He probably won’t want to rely on his Japanophile friend, either.

What he might think he needs is a professional consultation to account for cultural differences that might cause him to unwittingly offend his readers. What he doesn’t know is that a professional translator and programmer will cut a hole in his pocket the size of his car. Not only that, a professional translator isn’t scalable due to the need for…

  1. Manual Updates

Everytime Joe wants to add a single line or even change a specific word in the English version of the site, he’ll probably want to do the same for the Japanese version.

If he was using a basic CMS (Content Management System), it would be a nightmare. CMS’s aren’t optimized for this sort of thing at all, not to mention each addition is another piece of the SEO puzzle. And if he relied on a professional translator, it would cost too much in the long run.

Neither option is appealing – the best solution would be for Joe to somehow automate the entire process on the Japanese end and not have to worry about a thing. Even so, he’d still be spending tons of…

  1. Time & Effort

This is the straw that would really break the camel’s back. If Joe was doing all this on his own, tweaking, monitoring, and optimizing the Japanese version of his site (forget about writing new content and communicating with clients on the English side), he would burn out. The toll on his quality of life just wouldn’t be worth it.

…And Realizes He Needs a Scalable Solution

Even if Joe did know Japanese, translating and maintaining a site in just one other language is a gargantuan undertaking. The technical hurdles aren’t worth jumping over each time he wants to add content.

Moral of the story? Website localization is a hugely sophisticated industry. In our next post we’ll go over how Joe should go about putting up the Japanese version of his site.

Client Success Story: TimeToPlayMag.com

Goes Global with Dakwak Website Translation

Background:

TimeToPlayMag.com is a leader when it comes to kids space. Reviewing toys, books, movies, and electronics to help parents make smarter decisions for their kids.

Challenge:

After establishing themselves as a leader in that space, they realized their potential readers are not only English speakers. Therefore, they started looking for a solution that will take their website multilingual, saving them time, money, and effort while still being an SEO-Friendly solution.

Dakwak’s Solution:

Through a simple sign up form, TimeToPlayMag.com was running in 5 different languages with zero lines of code written at their end. Then with a tiny configuration they had those languages running directly under their domain name.

“We decided to use Dakwak because the translated website is fully functional, live and is search engine visible” said Erik Keichkhafer, Lead Developer of TimeToPlayMag.com. Therefore, people searching in their native language for the products they review will be able to find them in search engine results.

When we asked Erik who’s in charge of implementing Dakwak, “How do you rate Dakwak on a scale of 1-10, 1 being worst and 10 best, he simply said “Of course 10 out of 10, this is why we are using you guys“.

TimeToPlayMag.com was translated in less than 2 minutes to Latin-American Spanish, Russian, German, Canadian-French, and Brazilian-Portuguese.

Impact:

Since TimeToPlayMag.com started using Dakwak’s website translation platform in November 2012:

  • Launched all 5 languages in less than a month
  • 7% increase in their total traffic
  • 68% of traffic on translated website came from Search Engines
  • Adding 5 more languages in the future

Data based on period of 6 months from Nov 2012 – Jun 2013

Website Translation by Dakwak