WikiBhasha: ingenious but not helping

After the Google TranslateKit, now Microsoft came up with a tool to translate articles from Wikipedia in English to other languages: WikiBhasha. With all due respect: It seems to be a nice tool, but I doubt that it will really help people translating and creating useful new articles.

I tried to create the article ‘Clunia’ from English into German. The automatic translation is disappointing: Every sentence needs a brush-up; sometimes only a grammatical marker went wrong (‘begrenzte’ instead of ‘begrenzter’; contractions such as ‘in dem’ -> ‘im’ do not work). But most sentences have to be totally rewritten more or less. You often have to read the English original (and really understand it, without the misleading computer translation) in order to understand how to correct a sentence. By the way, some flaws and poor wordings in the English article make translating not easier.

The introduction by Aishwarya claims that ‘you do not have to be a subject matter expert to contribute’. Nothing could be less true than that. In my ‘Clunia’ article I stumbled over ‘the decline of the Western Roman Empire’, which was translated by Microsoft into ‘Rückgang des römischen Reiches’. Even such a standard expression was not translated correctly (it’s ‘Untergang’, and where is the ‘Western’?).

‘Barbarian invasions’ was translated into ‘barbarische Invasionen’; actually it is ‘Völkerwanderung’ in German (‘migration of the peoples’). Similar problems with the Wikipedia terminology: ‘External links’ has been translated into ‘Externe links’ – but in German language Wikipedia, we use ‘Weblinks’.

Wiki markup as the real problem

Later, after importing the source text into the Wikipedia editor, I saw what went wrong in the WikiBhasha editor, for example wrong management of italics. For about half of the links to other articles are red – the articles usually exist in German, but the article name is not linked correctly. All categories are red, too.

Finally, I did not save the translation, it would have cost me much more work to make it right. I also had problems with the collect/compose/submit thing. Using the tool does not make translating and wikifying easier or faster.

The makers of WikiBhasha want to have users enter word-by-word translations to improve the Microsoft translations. Okay. Still, I have the impression that the makers did not really understand what makes it difficult to create a Wikipedia article.


2 thoughts on “WikiBhasha: ingenious but not helping

  1. I don’t think that this problem is limited to automated translations. On the German Wikipedia, you can find, well, due to the total number of articles probably thousands of examples where the translator “mastered” the language of the original article, but not the topic at hand.

    I can’t speak for the Hindi Wikipedia, but as a reader I prefer articles where the authors (i. e. the people who put the words on my screen :-)) have a sound understanding of the topic and all referenced sources have been checked by them. Otherwise, this “Stille Post” game can lead to errors that are hardly every noticed.

    1. Yes, even a sentence-by-sentence translation with all of the references has less “quality” than the original, from this point of view…

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