How often do you use online translation on foreign web pages? graph of japanese statisticsThis recent survey from goo Research, reported on by japan.internet.com, into online automatic translation services found Google on top in both usage and satisfaction, a quite amazing change from just a year ago when Google was nowhere to be seen.

Demographics

Between the 8th and 12th of June 2011 1,082 members of the goo Research online monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 53.0% of the sample were male, 16.5% in their teens, 18.0% in their twenties, 21.3% in their thirties, 16.4% in their forties, 15.8% in their fifties, and 12.1% aged sixty or older.

I must agree that Google does produce the best results, but Japanese to English is always a tricky task due in no small part to subjects or objects often being dropped from sentences, the present and future tenses being identical, singular versus plural often not distinguished, etc, etc. As Google Translate says japan.internet.com (or is that comb the Internet?) summed up:

Not rely on automated translation is fairly but not all, at least you go up enough to understand the accuracy of the translation summary, Soredake, would do less well in the language barrier.

Research results

Q1: How often do you use an automatic translation service to translate a web page in a foreign language? (Sample size=1,082)

Always (to SQ) 5.0%
Not always, but frequently (to SQ) 7.5%
Sometimes (to SQ) 29.7%
Rarely, never (to SQ) 57.9%

The question above doesn’t distinguish between people hitting the back button on coming across foreign languages and those who can read foreign languages.

When asked about which services they used, the 456 people who used them at least sometimes said Google Translate was top, with 265 users or 58.1%, next Yahoo! Translate with 253 users or 55.5%, and Excite Translate with 240 users or 52.6%.

Q1SQ: How satisfied are you with the accuracy of the following automatic translation services? (Sample size=456, multiple answer)

  Votes Percentage
Google Translate 115 25.2%
Yahoo! Translate 90 19.7%
Excite Translate 88 19.3%
Infoseek Multi-Translate 10 2.2%
@nifty Translate 7 1.5%
livedoor Translate 7 1.5%
Fresh Eye Translate 3 0.7%
Other translation service 7 1.5%
Don’t know 70 15.4%
Not satisfied with any 153 33.6%

2 Comments

Steven · June 28, 2011 at 13:10

In my experience all of those translation websites are a joke– like literally something to laugh at. I’ve seen people accidentally say some lewd things caused by Google translator. If it were a more formal or professional situation perhaps it could have been a bad experience rather than just a funny one.

Incidentally my mother in law was intent on buying translation software before I forced her to read their reviews on Amazon Japan… you can really find some expensive translating software out there if you look. Apparently it’s all garbage though. Some of the software is identical to what is used on Google/Yahoo/etc. They just repackage it and sell it at a high price, which appears to spark enough interest to get poor people to buy them. Until they make a program that somehow learns a language through absorption, they will never get it close right, let alone natural.

Nanya · June 29, 2011 at 01:31

There will never be a magic device that will translate / interpret everything for us perfectly, no matter how much is invested in such a technology. Language proficiency takes dedication and in large, consistent doses.

I think most people who believe they are hopeless at foreign languages would do much better if they aimed to interact with speakers of that language rather than merely aiming to ‘learn a language’ or ‘get a certification in said language’. By having fun interacting and communicating with people of different backgrounds, it doesn’t seem like a chore anymore and what once had no shortcuts, reveals its easier passageways.

Behind Tennoji Station, a ‘sports bar’ opened up and the foreigners who work in the area immediately took a liking to it. Soon after opening, the bar / restaurant had a constant flow of foreign customers, but on more than few occasions I noticed that the owner and staff were not very happy with who their clientele turned out to be. One night, when I had gone there for dinner, I noticed new menus sheathed in plastic folders, with a Microsoft Office look that clearly showed one of the staff members had
put a lot of effort into them. However, one look
at the menu’s text and the bastard child of Google Translate screamed from its pages. The
translations were such a jumbled nonsensical
mess that it was beyond comedic; it was
farcical.
Here they were, making a menu with English
translations to accommodate their foreign
customers but were too proud to a) ask any of
them to give it a once over b) get a pro
translator c) get ANYONE they might know that
knows even a little English to fix it up. Hell, most
of their custeez were English teachers who
might’ve done it for free. So, here is where the
three adversaries meet; inability to speak a
language, avoidance to interact with a native speaker two inches away from you and (easy out) Google Translate. I don’t like to belittle anyone who makes an effort in a foreign
language, because that takes courage. That being the case, defaulting to Google Translate instead of actually trying could be deemed a form of cowardice… and that menu was properly
ridiculed.

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