Why Computers Suck At Translation

Why Computers Suck At Translation

Machine translation’s a useful tool, don’t get me wrong. But if you actually try to use it for regular conversation, it’ll fall down really quickly. Why? What makes it so difficult?

Written with GRETCHEN MCCULLOCH: http://gretchenmcculloch.com – http://twitter.com/GretchenAMcC
[Update: her book BECAUSE INTERNET is out July 2019! https://gretchenmcculloch.com/book/ ]
More from Gretchen at ALL THINGS LINGUISTIC: http://allthingslinguistic.com – http://twitter.com/AllThingsLing

BONUS LINK: How do you translate nonsense words? http://allthingslinguistic.com/post/64517588622/jabberwocky-how-do-you-translate-a-word-that

Directed by MATT GRAY: http://mattg.co.uk – http://twitter.com/unnamedculprit

And more from me: http://tomscott.com – http://twitter.com/tomscott

50 Comments

  1. Ian Francisco on November 19, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    Council of Hydraulic Ram will decide your fate



  2. Tom Kenning on November 19, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    Does anyone have any info about polychronic systems? I want to know how the hell that works



  3. sofia t on November 19, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    so thats why my family has always turned up at parties 3 hours after it begins



  4. Erin Peterson on November 19, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    and if youre my friends, "we are meeting at 7pm" means we are meeting at 9pm and telling YOU that its at 7 so you might be there roughly on time



  5. Lissie Lamb on November 19, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    This is so cool



  6. banana jin on November 19, 2019 at 6:35 pm

    water sheep… u were ahead of time



  7. copzz za on November 19, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    so there’s still hope for translator career?



  8. Stop Motion Epicness on November 19, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    4:12 🤔



  9. punty punty on November 19, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Dutch to english:
    Hoe is het tegenwoordig met je – How are you today
    English to dutch:
    How are you today – Hoe gaat het vandaag
    Dutch to english:
    Hoe gaat het vandaag – How are you doing today
    English to dutch:
    How are you doing today – Hoe is het met je vandaag



  10. Alon Judkovsky on November 19, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    So why can’t, logically, machines are unable to understand socital subtleties?



  11. Brent C on November 19, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    Generally in America, if someone tells you "oh, that was brave" they’re calling you an idiot.



  12. bodine219 on November 19, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Any other Americans have trouble understanding his accent? I’m from the midwest. It’s a really interesting topic though XD



  13. Oscar Carlsson on November 19, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Its fun that the title of the video is translated



  14. Mark Schultz on November 19, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    0:46 You can’t say in French "Quoi est ton nom?", you have to say "Quel est ton nom?".



  15. Tajpizza52 on November 19, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    Rest In Peace Watersheep



  16. Niko on November 19, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    who promises to be there @ 7pm and then expects me to get angry when they show up 10 past without a good reason?



  17. SpikeTheBear on November 19, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    Can you somehow make youtube translate titles? Or was it just coincidence that this one was translated?



  18. Lil Pistol on November 19, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    WATER SHEEEEEP!!!!!!!!



  19. The One True Kira on November 19, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    What about the videos on youtube that are in English but if you turn subtitles on you get some mental compound of wordspazm come out the other end ?



  20. Georgina Nemeth on November 19, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    1:19 Tom is PewDiePie confirmed



  21. The Hand on November 19, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    Siskel and Ebert, famous film critics who had a film review show from the ’70’s into the 90’s, reviewed a Russian film about a camp for juvenile delinquents. In the clip they used, the two men in charge had a discussion about the best approach for dealing with the boys in their care. One said it was best to be their friend. The other said it was best to be an authority figure. And the boys should address the men as "sir" and using the formal second-person pronoun. The otherwise English subtitle used "vous."



  22. [Closed] on November 19, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    Tom Scott – One of the person who predicted the future of pewdiepie.



  23. Jose David 1507 on November 19, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    You in Spanish:
    vos

    vosotros
    ustedes



  24. Taolo Samuel on November 19, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    I got a translation app ad before this



  25. ColourMeJaemin on November 19, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    I’ve been learning Korean for about two years and it’s so hard to explain the different formalities in the language to people, even though I understand it myself perfectly after so much time and effort.



  26. Angel Gonzalez on November 19, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    I see this all the time when my friends try to do there Spanish work at school and at someone who is bilingual I just laugh when it makes no sense



  27. The Ultimate Reductionist on November 19, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    For all practical purposes, computers translate INFINITELY better than humans. A human may be fluent in at most 2 languages. Maybe 3 tops. Even the super-linguistic geniuses of history: 5 languages fluently, tops?
    Computers have been programmed to translate over a hundred languages, hence, ten thousand pairs of languages.



  28. trin on November 19, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    RIP hydraulic ram, you were like father to me



  29. Narakarr arr on November 19, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    i do not understand polychronic languages. Someone please explain



  30. Jino Lim on November 19, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    1:16
    That bruh moment when Tom predicts PewDiePie killing Water Sheep with a hydraulic ram/death machine.



  31. StarWarsomania on November 19, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Polychronic = "an entire culture too lazy to look at a damn clock"



  32. Ash of Eden on November 19, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    An overwhelming amount of musicians seem to run on polychronic time



  33. Chris Starling on November 19, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    WATER SHEEEP



  34. Arominit on November 19, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    How many ideas for videos do you have?
    Tom Scott: Yes.



  35. Kurtyboi on November 19, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    WÄTERSHEEP



  36. Caliou The fireman on November 19, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Rip Hydraulic Ram



  37. Predator_Taha on November 19, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    1:16 council of water sheep gave tom the infinite knowledge of the universe to see the future



  38. Asus McTablet on November 19, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    DECEARING EGG!!!



  39. The Ultimate Reductionist on November 19, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    1:41 "That’s a brave idea." Oh thank you!! My Mom (Mum) always told me… HEY WAIT A MINUTE!



  40. Captain Communism on November 19, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Water sheep time travel confirmed



  41. Nimfodder on November 19, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    W a t e r s h e e p



  42. Gogolatomic on November 19, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Lmao « quoi être votre nom? »



  43. Pino2logical on November 19, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    i am from nepal and in our language as well we have 3 ways of saying you according to age and respect , teme , ta and tapai , but during speaking , its become more alter by respect and age, because while being rude you say ta , and after you cool down you might say teme . its really a vast language word



  44. vaiyt on November 19, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Polycronic time person here. We have a separate way to say time when we want to say it’s precise



  45. Samson Cooper on November 19, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Don’t tell our American friends our ways of insulting them whilst they think they are receiving a compliment



  46. Michael Ibrahim on November 19, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    Hold on hold on… Assuming you majored in linguistics in college, don’t they make you take a second language to get your degree? Linguistics becomes infinitely more interesting once you know multiple languages and can understand what you learn in context. I feel like knowing multiple languages is a really important skill for a linguist to have.



  47. Hi People on November 19, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    2:20 same goes with Korean (and other languages) 안녕하새요= hello. If translated to English, it loses its formality because English has no way of showing formality (within the word) and because 안녕 also means hello, but its informal, it could be translated back into Korean as either one.

    Also, to be clear, if you speak Korean /are Korean please correct me! I don’t speak much Korean. I know like 10 words/phrases and can read/write Hangul. I most likely messed something up here.



  48. Cyber Wasp on November 19, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    Actually, tu and vous in French isn’t just a honorific system. Tu is literally used when referring to one person, Vous when reffering to many.



  49. Mia Hamilton on November 19, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    *woter sheep*



  50. Expandedsky5280 on November 19, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    1:19
    WATTER SHEPPP