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International football chat uses machine translation

Whereever you go in the world, the one topic that unites just about everyone – regardless of language – is football.

With the World Cup in full swing, the BBC has been exploring the potential of machine translation for real-time international football chat with their World Cup Team Talk forum.

The forum uses Google Translate to allow participants to post comments in their own language. Comments are then automatically translated into 11 different languages, allowing for live discussion between fans around the world.

Naturally, some post-editing of comments was required to ensure the sense of each message was not lost in the automatic translation (and also to remove any potentially offensive commentary!).

Machine translation is useful for instantaneous conversions between languages, and the BBC’s use of the technology for recent online multilingual forums shows that its use is becoming increasingly common place.

However, a quick read of the translated comments shows that, while the sense of a message can be relayed with machine translation, the quality never reaches a professional level and cannot match that of a human translator.

As the BBC explained, their emphasis ‘was not on the strength of the translation but on bringing football fans to chat online, regardless of their first language.’

You can read some of the conversations and comments here – the forum will be open next for the World Cup final on July 11th 2010.

Christian Arno, Founder and President, Lingo24

Christian Arno is Founder and President of Lingo24. He started the company in 2001 after graduating from Oxford University with a degree in languages. He has won numerous awards including HSBC Business Thinking and International Trade Awards (2010), and TAUS Excellence Award (2012) for innovative technology. He contributes to leading industry publications and has been featured on the BBC, in the Financial Times and other media around the world.

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