What is Statistical Machine Translation?

Over the past few years, a transformation has taken place in machine translation tools as rule-based translation systems have given way to statistical language analysis techniques that use known translations (e.g., United Nations archives and other open content) to derive nuances and meanings not easily addressed by rule-based systems. Tools like Google Translate have used statistical methods to move machine translation to the point where it is now a viable, low-cost, and easy option for automated, rapid translation on web content. While the translation tools are not yet perfect, they are fairly accurate in most cases, and are well-suited for credible on-the-fly translations.

The ability to embed translation tools quickly and easily into websites such that the viewer may choose a preferred language removes the need to prepare individual copies of online material in different languages. This simplifies upkeep and maintenance as well as making it easier to deploy new content quickly. Statistical machine translation is an increasingly robust and low-cost option that has developed to the point where it is a viable and easy solution for institutions looking to make general information easily available in multiple languages.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • As the quality of machine translation inevitably improves through ongoing use and associated deepening of the resources that constitute its statistical fodder, this will become an increasingly valuable way of providing multilingual access to museum information in all sorts of contexts. - rob.lancefield rob.lancefield Oct 10, 2012
  • - nhoneysett nhoneysett Oct 14, 2012 Agreed and I think that this issue is actually broader than translation, its about machine meaning and comprehension. Computing power and access to data is what drives the accuracy of this, and both of these things are increasing so will fuel the success of machine translation (and meaning and comprehension). Has to be a potential when you look at the emerging BRIC countries adoption of the internet.
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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