Google and Its Smart Chinese Translation Neural Machine Thing

October 5, 2016

Google has a new neural translation system for Chinese. Read more here. It sort of works, but poetry is not its strong suit. Many Chinese student memorize Shi Jing’s “Cry of the Ospreys.” In Chinese, the first line of the poem is:


Google produces this translation of the line:

“Guan guanju dove, in the river of the continent.”


A standard English translation is:

Guan, guan, trill the ospreys, upon the island in the creek.

The standard English translation makes evident the sound of the ospreys from the island in the creek. Google sticks in a “dove” and dumps the island. Close enough for ospreys if not making the meaning clear to a non Chinese reader. Shi Jing is not around to offer an opinion which is probably a good thing.

Stephen E Arnold, October 5, 2016


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