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Translating Documents Online, An Experiment

One thing that I do fairly often is translate documents on the internet. I normally use Babelfish and usually I am translating Spanish and Portuguese. I do have enough of a working knowledge of both languages that I can muddle through press releases without help. But it saves time and prevents possible human error if I have the translator do most of the heavy lifting and then zero in on the important parts with my own analysis.

I did recently translate some documents in Dutch and German in Google and noticed that they were better than some human translations I have seen in those languages. (Dutch and German do seem more straight forward than Romance languages.)

Anyway, I decided to do a side by side comparison. I am using a Braskem press release issued earlier this week on an accident at one of its plants. I figured I would share the result because businesspeople, scientists, and curious people of all kinds are using translation services more and more.

Braskem’s original Portuguese:

Em continuidade aos comunicados divulgados anteriormente, a Braskem esclarece que sua unidade de Cloro Soda de Alagoas permanece inativa por decisão da companhia e nenhum outro vazamento foi detectado desde o primeiro evento.

A Braskem prossegue com o trabalho de identificação das causas dos eventos e está colaborando com as autoridades e órgãos competentes no esclarecimento dos fatos.

Cinco trabalhadores da Mills, atingidos no início da manhã de hoje pelo rompimento de uma tubulação quando preparavam uma inspeção para identificação das causas do primeiro evento, receberam atendimento médico no Hospital Geral do Estado. Um deles foi liberado ainda pela manhã e os demais continuam sob cuidados médicos.

Here’s Braskem’s translation:

Complementing the notices to the market published previously, Braskem clarifies that its Chlor-Alkali in Alagoas will remain inactive by decision of the company and that no other leak has been detected since the initial event.

Braskem continues to work to identify the causes of the event and is collaborating with the applicable authorities and agencies to clarify the events.

Five workers from Mills, who were injured early this morning by the rupturing of a pipe as they were conducting an inspection to identify the causes of the initial event, received medical care at the State General Hospital. One of the workers was released this morning and the other workers remain under the care of physicians.

Babelfish:

In continuity to the divulged official notices previously, the Braskem clarifies that its unit of Chlorine Soda water of Alagoas remains inactive for decision of the company and none another emptying was detected since the first event.

The Braskem continues with the work of identification of the causes of the events and is collaborating with the authorities and competent agencies in the clarification of the facts.

Five workers of the Mills, reached at the beginning from the morning of today for the disruption of a tubing when they prepared an inspection for identification of the causes of the first event, had received medical attendance in the General Hospital of the State. One of them was set free still per the morning and excessively they continue under medical cares.

Google:

Continuing those reported previously disclosed, Braskem explains that his unit Soda Chlorine Alagoas remains idle for the company’s decision and no further leakage was detected from the first event.

Braskem continues the work of identifying the causes of events and is collaborating with the authorities and competent bodies in clarifying the facts.

Five employees of the Mills, reached earlier this morning by the rupture of a pipe when preparing an inspection to identify the causes of the first event, received medical care in the General State Hospital. One was released later in the morning and the others remain under medical care.

I would say that Braskem’s translation wins hands down.

Babelfish and Google both make a mess of the first paragraph. I would give the nod to Babelfish because the Google version of the first phrase is completely bewildering.

I give Google a slight edge with the second paragraph. “The Braskem” sounds too much like “The Batman”. I am, however, not crazy about “competent bodies”. It works in this case, but I wonder if other senses of the word “órgãos” can be conflated. “Agencies” captures the meaning better.

Both translators confuse matters in the third paragraph. They begin by giving the impression the workers were “reached” or rescued, not “injured”, which is sort of the opposite. Google, however, makes sense towards the end of the paragraph. Babelfish makes it seem like the workers medical care was “excessive” for some reason.

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