Google Translate: Background information when reading Is That a Fish in Your Ear?

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?

Translation and the Meaning of Everything

by David Bellos

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2011, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2012, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Google Translate

Print Review

It is a universally acknowledged truth that Google has changed the world we live in, and one of their newer features, Google Translate, is also likely to have a big impact on the future of language and translation.

Traditionally, mechanical translation has relied on systematic matching of word meanings between languages, and reordering words based on different grammatical and structural rules. This literal methodology is faulty and full of pitfalls. The vocabularies and grammars of languages do not always line up in perfect or equivalent ways, which - though the linguistic diversity is beautiful - can make mechanical translation a frustrating process. According to an article in Slate, this is "the kind of process that translates kindergarten as children garden."

Google Translate's method, however, is very different from the traditional manner of "this equals that." According to Google, their translator surveys language patterns in a possibly endless variety of documents, books, and articles, and gives the reader an intelligent guess for how to best translate the language. This process is known as "statistical machine translation."

In Is That a Fish in Your Ear? David Bellos makes the point that Google Translate could not work without the countless human hours that have gone into translating the documents that are now available on the web. Essentially, as David Bellos sums it up, Google Translate relies on what has already been said in order to say something new; it simply reinvents the wheel of human activity. Though the software is recent, the process is timeless, akin to a baby cobbling together words for the first time after having listened to the way adults speak.

For more information about Google Translate and how they "teach" computers new languages, watch the video below.


This article was originally published in November 2011, and has been updated for the October 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Before We Sleep
    Before We Sleep
    by Jeffrey Lent
    Katey Snow, aged seventeen, leaves home one night. "There was a void within her and one that could ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Hermit
    by Thomas Rydahl
    If you can be comfortable with Scandinavian noir played out against the sun-drenched backdrop of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Radium Girls
    The Radium Girls
    by Kate Moore
    In 1915, Austrian-born Sabin von Sochocky developed a luminescent paint that used radium to create a...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Weight of Ink
    by Rachel Kadish

    An intellectual, suspenseful, and entertaining page-turner.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.