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Pozo Bene

by Anton Shulke
The title sounds ridiculous and of course, it is but wasn’t exactly my invention. Google translate is guilty, not me. Do you use Google Translate? Maybe as a quick dictionary, at least? Well, I do sometimes, it is pretty basic and would be a bad idea translate big and important stuff with it, like contracts for example. But for the purpose of quick checking one world seems fine to me. And it is fine if you use it for Language 1 – English (or vise a versa), but as soon as you do Language 1 – Language 2, no English involved things change, tremendously.
I am trying to find Russian equivalent for Spanish “(el) Pozo”, pozo is a noun and means “the well” in English (a deep hole made in the ground through which water can be removed), Google Translation gives me хорошо which means good/well. I was very surprised, but of course, when I wrote it in English it doesn’t surprise you much, pozo – well – good/well. Meaning this language pair is not translated straight but through English, this way: Spanish – English – Russian.

pozo bene
Adding an extra language (read extra translation) means an extra possibility to make an error, that what happened.
I understand even almighty Google unable to arrange every single pair of languages, not using “basic” English, impossible to expect Hindu – Icelandic pair of course. But same family, important languages? Say Spanish – Italian? Surely Google does not translate Spanish to English and then to Italian, that would be madness! Let’s try: I type “pozo” in Spanish window, expecting to see “pozzo” but it is “bene” (good/well). Yes, Google does it through English. I have tried Russian – Polish and a few other close related languages and got the same result, well with the mysterious exception of Russian – Ukrainian…
I reported this particular error to Google about a year ago, but….Google is too big. That particular error is easy to correct: extremely rare when noun translates by an adverb or anything else but noun, so small adjustment in the algorithm will make sure it won’t happened again. But the problem is deeper, as I mentioned before, Google must organize translation same family languages through the “Parental” language, or one of the same family one.
I wonder about AI Google using already, it is good to understand that yankee new york is about baseball (thanks Bill Slawski for this example), but not good enough to realize pozo is not bene? Or it is a case when Google is too big and on office doesn’t know what the other one does? And of course, funds, Money speak English not Spanish or Italian.

Anton Shulke

Anton Shulke