Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Machine translating a heading/Traduction machine d’un titre

The following heading appeared on an Internet business website:

US factory orders jump

Using machine translation, the French equivalent by the LDS engine was as follows:
1) Les ordres d'usine d'États-Unis sautent

Using the Altavista translation engine, the following was provided :
2) Saut d'ordres d'usine des USA

Two vocabulary mistakes first of all :

1) the French word for order (meaning a promise to buy) is called commande.

2) Whereas in English jump may mean a) to spring clear of the ground, to leap; b) to rise suddenly; c) to rise suddenly in amount, price, etc., the verb sauter means to jump(a), to blow up or to fry. So the French can be read as United States orders blow up (?!)

To express the idea of a sudden increase implied in the verb jump, we could say augmentent soudainement. The syntax or word order and grammar in translation #1 are not correct: we could say instead

Les commandes des usines

since these are orders from many factories, not just one, and to show the country where this takes places, we would say

Les commandes des usines aux États-Unis.

So putting everything together, we would get

Les commandes des usines aux États-Unis augment soudainement.

One notices that sentence #2 just changed the word order and substituted orders jump with jump in orders. Otherwise, still the same ordrer/commande error as well as the jump/augmentent error.

Moral of the story: beware of machine translation if no native speaker is handy to touch up the results. You might offend the reader and lose a customer – is it worth it?

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