Marco's message and Google's Detect Language

Jane McGary
Fri, 01 Jan 2010 10:42:15 PST
Diane wrote,

At 03:40 PM 12/31/2009, you wrote:
>I have discovered something new in Google Translate:   Detect Language.
>I wasn't sure which language Marco's out-of-office message was written
>in, as Spanish to English didn't work at all, but Detect Language knew
>it was Italian, and translated it.
>Very useful.  I wonder how it will manage with rarer languages?

Using online machine translation is still a gamble! I'll never forget 
the letter I got that had been translated into English from German 
using one of these applications, and if you know German and that the 
letter was about exchanging seeds, you will know why I fell on the 
floor laughing.

Our area newspaper sometimes runs a humor feature with examples of 
what happens when you run an English sentence into one of these 
machine translation apps, then run the result back into English. I 
don't mean to denigrate the efforts of specialists in computational 
linguistics (an actual subdiscipline), but I think there will long be 
a use for human multilingualism.

It is nice to hear we have a correspondent in Iceland (the lovely old 
characters for our modern English th's are an instant clue). 
Hafsteinn, don't give up on bulbs: I started to grow them when I 
lived in interior Alaska, chilling them in pots under the bed in my 
cabin, where the soil sometimes froze. I put them under grow-lights 
to flower them, as the winter sunlight was so brief and dim.

Best wishes for the New Year,
Jane McGary

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