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Is Google Translate improved or degraded by Duolingo?

Do you think Duolingo, or more to the point, Duolingo's users, improve Google Translate (GT) or make it worse?

I use GT and its phrasebook feature to build a set of flash cards based on the Duolingo sentences. For simple sentences the translation often matches the Duolingo version and it's a simple copy, paste and add to phrasebook. For more complex sentences I often need to manually edit Google's answer before adding it my phrasebook (it's a slight chore but I find it educational). When I do that a message appears saying "Is this translation better than the original?" together with a button to answer "Yes, submit translation". I never press this button.

I can't believe I'm the only one using GT in parallel with Duolingo, so I guess some users have pressed that button. In your opinion, would submitting Duolingo translations improve GT or not? Is it obvious it must improve if many Duolingo approved sentences are submitted, or will meaning be eroded because too many individually nuanced alternatives are sent?

(I'm trying to learn Portuguese and I think some of the original translations actually came from GT because they are sometimes questionable, but as more users try this system the pool of possible translations is increasing all the time and some may have been fed back to GT.)

June 23, 2013



To try and answer the original question...

When Google Translate runs it doesn't look up individual words to create a sentence, nor does it look up a phrasebook of translations. Google Translate would be using some sort of artificial intelligence which is trained by giving it a vast set of texts along with reliable translations. If GT returns a bad translation then the artificial intelligence needs improvement. When you submit a better translation, that translation won't be stored so that it can be fetched next time someone wants the exact same thing translated. It could however be used to try and improve the artificial intelligence by identifying it's weaker areas. Or perhaps there is even an automatic feedback that improves it without the need for human intervention. Duolingo could of course submit to Google all the articles which we translate, however I doubt that Google is running low on available known translations.


I used Google Translate on a German short story. I downloaded the original and pasted it one sentence at a time on to GT. Then took the English translation, edited it, and downloaded it on to my word processor. Except for very simple sentences, I needed to make extensive changes to the English text. to make any sense out of it. Sometimes the GT translations were quite ludicrous. Google Translate uses a statisicial analysis of huge amounts of data instead of traditional AI methods. Therefore it makes no attempt to understand the text it is translating.


I have had the same experience. i do translations from other languages and have no qualms about using Google but all you get is a basic outline THEN THE REAL WORK begins. making sense out of it and producing a piece of work worth reading. GT's value for me is in the time saved looking up individual words. but the sentences could make for a great comedy program.


Learning Portuguese here and using Google translate would be a bad idea. Google translate as far as I know uses European Portuguese and Duolingo uses Brazilian Portuguese. So you might be making a lot of mistakes using GT as a crutch.


The translation for "breakfast" by GT is the Brazilian Portuguese (BP) term "cafe de manha". GT also frequently uses the gerund which is generally not used in European Portuguese (EP), so I'm not sure about the idea that GT uses EP alone. The system is trained over a huge set of texts, probably some of which are EP and some of which are BP, which means for long translations, the result probably contains a bit of EP and BP.


An now I know.


Google Translate relies on statistics like frequency of phrase A being translated into B, so you may see Brazilian Portuguese slightly more often because there are more web documents in that dialect. Same thing applies to other languages.


The only impact I could think of is if/when Duolingo starts adding more obscure languages (or the community does) there will be an influx of articles in that language (maybe) and, because the language is so obscure, Google Translate will be affected.

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