3 Tips to use Google Translate wisely

Sunday, 4 September, 2011

I’ve translated three TV entertainment series, 72 episodes, about 130,000 words form English to Chinese (both spoken and written). Google Translate has ben useful in my work but using it blindly can be outright dangerous. I will share with you 12 tips of how to use Google Translate wiser.

1) Sanity checks

If you don’t know the language you are translating into (e.g. Chinese), you should use it with extreme cautious. Don’t let Google Translate make you look like a fool. At a minimum, use Google Translate to perform a sanity check on itself.

What is a “sanity check“? Well, if you want to translate English to Chinese (or any language you don’t know), at least use Google Translate to translate the text right back to you.

Real sample English text from CBC News, Sept 4, 2011 report “Tropical storm Lee sparks fresh flood warnings“,

“U.S. forecasters are warning a lumbering tropical storm Lee could bring floods and tornadoes to more south and central-eastern states as it moves northward Sunday after saturating the Gulf coastline.”

Translation from Google Translate to Chinese,


Sanity check is using Google Translate to translate the above Chinese to English. You see I added emphasis for the potentially problematic areas.

“The U.S. forecasters warned the storm could bring tropical logging floods and tornadoes Lee in more southern and eastern countries, as it moved north after the Gulf coast on Sunday saturated.”

Observation: The Chinese translation is actually quite confusing, much more confusing that the sanity check is showing.

Here is a “work around” that is not a guarantee “solution” but better than nothing. Use short sentences. Change your English words so that the sanity check won’t give you garbage.

2) Pronunciation

I love Google Translate‘s Chinese pronunciation. It just sound great. I wonder how good is Google Translate‘s pronunciations in other languages? Please add comments to this post if you speak other languages fluently and can judge Google Translate‘s pronunciations as a native speakers of those languages.

3) Google Translate is NOT your magic bullet

To me, the purpose of language is to communicate so I try my best to avoid miscommunication. I started writing this post because I’ve noticed some Chinese Google+ users using Chinese in their comments to English posts.

I think those commenters may be assuming their non-Chinese readers can simply use Google Translate to help understand the meaning of their words. Take the following Sept 1st, 2011 comment in this post for example,

“睡不着,還能hangout,也算失之東隅 吧?”

Here is the English translation using Google Translate,

“Can not sleep, can hangout, also considered is neglected, right?”

People may be able to guess what the author means. But the words “also considered is neglected” are annoying because you can’t be sure exactly what the commenter really meant. You see, what the Chinese commenter means is roughly,

“Can’t sleep but I can still hangout, not bad right?”

The commenter used the words “失之東隅” which is a Chinese proverb. I don’t think I will use Chinese proverb if I were the commenter. You see, isn’t it the point of leaving a comment so that other people, including author of the post, can understand what you try to say?

4) Closing comments

To me, I see clear and clean communication as the reason for languages. I use and love Google Translate as a tool. But it is a tool, at its current capability as of Sep 2011, it is a still a very young, immature, and not that reliable tool. It cannot be trusted blindly.

One final sanity check example to remind us why Google Translate can’t and shouldn’t be trusted blindly using the first sentence of this article.

“I’ve translated three TV series, 72 episodes, about 130,000 words form English to Chinese (both spoken and written).”

Translation from Google Translate to Chinese,

“我翻譯的三個電視系列,72集,約 13萬字英文的形式向中國(包括口頭和書面)。”

Google Translate - pix 01

Translation from Google Translate back to English,

“I translated three television series, 72 sets, about 13 million words in English in the form of the Chinese (including verbal and written).”

Google Translate - pix 02

Do you notice one glaring problem? How did 130,000 words become 13 million words? The stupid thing is that “13萬” is actually 130,00, totally correct! But turning “13萬” into “13 million” is just total rubbish!


Central, Hong Kong Pretty Girls – courtesy of HK newspaper Apple B.B. Daily (a lesson about freedom of press)

Friday, 5 August, 2011

*** Hong Kong Pretty Girls ***

Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girl - pix 13

I am a keen observer of pretty girls in HK and around the world. Unfortunately today, against my better judgement, I will argue the Hong Kong newspaper Apple B.B. Daily should voluntarily stop taking photos of some of these pretty girls (中環我至靚) in Central, Hong Kong. Yes, some of these photos taking and publishing has to be stopped!  Especially many of the photos that I love the most. Isn’t this paradoxical?

Lets look at some of the photos of the pretty girls in Central, Hong Kong as reported by Apple B. B. Daily. And see if you notice a very important pattern.

Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girl - pix 01Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girl - pix 02

Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girl - pix 03Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girls - pix 04

Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girls - pix 05Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girls - pix 06

??? Have you noticed a pattern yet? Lets look at some more pictures.

Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girls - pix 07Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girls - pix 08

Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girls - pix 09Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girls - pix 10

Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girls - pix 11Apple Daily HK Central - Pretty Girls - pix 12

If you read Chinese, you can see the full Flickr set which I also posted the original Apple Daily text that goes with the photos for added context.

*** Observations ***

As you may have noticed already, the pretty girls in only 3, yes three, out of the above 13 photos actually post for the photos! And as you can read from the Flickr set, only those 3 photos have people’s names attached.

As you see, the other photos are of people talking on the phones or walking on the street simply going about their businesses. I have no indication that these people actually has or has not given Apple B.B. Daily permission to publish their photos on a column dedicated to photos of pretty girls in Central, Hong Kong!

Is this ethical behaviour? How will you react if this is your newspaper? Or if this is practiced in your city/country?

And if you live in Hong Kong, what do you think about this?

*** The Freedom of Press Paradox ***

While I don’t know the specific Hong Kong law but I suspect what the photographers of Apple B.B. Daily have done here are safely within the boundary of Hong Kong law. And I bet a Canadian dollar that a Canadian newspaper can legally take and publish photos of pretty girls standing on a public street too (although I can’t be sure).

The brave men and women of Apple B.B. Daily are truly the pioneers of newspapers and poor-tastes. At the end of day, no one can blame them for their total pursuit of making money through sex and smut at the same time as speaking truth to the powerful Chinese Beijing and HK governments.

Yes, seriously, Apple B. B. Daily do fight for democracy at the same time as they insert B. B. (bouncy breasts) of ladies in bikinis into completely serious news article!

*** Concluding Thoughts ***

Hong Kong is a really vibrant and strange market for newspapers, for both paid and recently free newspapers. Apple B. B. Daily bossman Mr. Jimmy Lai is one of the most intriguing and interesting entrepreneurs in Asia unfortunately the way he runs his newspapers (or allowed his newspapers to be run) just make me sick.

English and Chinese Interview with Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人)

Monday, 1 August, 2011

with Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) in Calgary - pix 05

In English (英文)

The Alliance‘s Lee Cheuk-yan and Mak-hoi-wah visted Calgary yesterday (July 31, 2011) and I had a chance to interview Mr. Lee Cheuk-yan. The following are clips of my video interviews with him.

中文 (In Chinese)


My English video interview with Lee Cheuk-yan

My Chinese video interview Part 1 and Part 2.

Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) in Calgary - pix 01

Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) and Mak-hoi-wah (麥海華) in Calgary - pix 02

Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) and Mak-hoi-wah (麥海華) in Calgary - pix 03

Interview with Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) in Calgary - pix 06

Mr. Lee‘s bio in Chinese.





Yoyo Sham 岑寧兒 and Charatay 格勒底

Sunday, 10 July, 2011

三人行 - Yoyo - pix 01

I am slow and just discovered the cool sound of Yoyo Sham 岑寧兒 (Facebook) (her website) and her accapella group Charatay (格勒底, the six members are 岑寧兒、陳詠謙、張傑邦、梁仰詩、洪豐盈、袁慧妍) (Facebook). You can find out more about her music by joining her Facebook group and check out Charatay. [HT Eva]

At the moment, I love her best in her part of 三人行 – 重編新唱版本.

Here are some other songs to check out from a quick YouTube search of her name Yoyo Sham 岑寧兒 and also from the Charatay Bong’s YouTube channel.

Hill Cheung 10 Years (re-edit ) (May 2010)

Read the rest of this entry »

Virtual Prisoner’s Life in Freedom City, China

Monday, 27 June, 2011

From CNN, “Chinese activist Hu promises parents he will be ‘careful’ in future

“In a phone call to CNN affiliate iCable News in Hong Kong on Sunday, Hu [Jia] said his parents had asked him to not clash with the system.

“Once I saw my family, I understood how much I owe them, especially my parents, my wife and my kid. I realize I’ve done nothing for them. There is a Chinese saying that ‘patriotism and filial piety don’t go hand in hand,'” he said in the phone call.

“They told me to be a good citizen and don’t clash with the system. This system is very brutal. It uses government’s power to violate people’s dignity. I can only tell my parents, I will be careful.”

[…] “Hu Jia told me that he won’t change, and police told him they may put him under house arrest in that case,” she said. “I’m prepared for it.”

“As long as there’s no democracy or the rule of law in China, our situation won’t change at all.”

Last year’s Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, also a rights activist, was convicted of the same crime as Hu. Liu is still serving an 11-year jail term.”

我的名字叫鄺嘉豪、陳詠妍 – ‪蘋果延伸‬ “‪你死你事‬”、”仗義欺寧弱小”‪精神

Sunday, 10 April, 2011


“‪蘋果日報法庭‬記者,英勇拍攝口交男女生法庭外逃跑情況,捍衛凌駕於三權之上的‪蘋果公審‬/羞恥‪權‬‬。延伸‪蘋果‬ “‪你死你事‬”、”仗義欺寧弱小”‪精神‬”

“蘋果‪法庭‬編輯/記者 捍衛”‪你死你事‬”精神 公審口交男女生”

讀/看完4月9日蘋果法庭”男女生照口交“新聞及互動片段(見下)之後,心中悲痛。早前我在““自殺獲救”娛樂化: 新聞自由=你死你事?”一文中我問,


報告法庭新聞本應非常重要,但一件簡單法院案件有須要窮追當事人嗎?真的有須要仗勢(報館的鏡頭)欺寧弱小,拍攝案中男女在法庭外逃跑,避開鏡頭的情況嗎?有須要將案件動畫化,加上抵死對白及攪笑音樂,將一件控方同意撤銷控罪,改以簽保守行為方式處理,裁判官頒令兩人自簽 1,000元,守行為 12個月的案件,放大萬倍嗎?有考慮到法庭已經給了他們法制下應得的懲罰嗎?‪我想知道,蘋果從‬何時開始得到‪凌駕於三權‬(行政,立法,司法)‪之上的蘋果公審/羞恥權?‬



P.S. 與‪蘋果日報相比,明報專訊(見下)的報導,因為沒有的互動片段,則比較溫和。另見東方報導

繁忙時間 港鐵銅鑼灣站梯間 警巡過 男女生照口交 – 2011年04月09日
瀏覽人次:101,600 Facebook Twitter 轉寄朋友

【本報訊】人流如鯽的港鐵銅鑼灣站,一對年輕男女學生,公然於傍晚時分在樓梯間卿卿我我。有巡警覺得可疑曾上前查問,惟二人待巡警走後,留在原位,就地口交。巡警透過廣角鏡窺探,發現二人淫行,現身拘捕時,男生露出勃起的陽具。涉案學生本被控有違公德罪開審,昨在東區裁判法院獲准簽保守行為,不留案底。 記者:楊家樂

事發今年 2月 6日年初四晚上 6時半, 19歲女學生陳詠妍及 22歲男學生鄺嘉豪,處身港鐵銅鑼灣站內連接月台及車站大堂的 B4號樓梯。當時陳女坐在地上,上半身倚靠在男方的小腿位置。一名隸屬鐵路警區的警員巡經該處,見狀上前查問兩人是否不適,他們否認。
巡警懷疑他們有違法勾當,遂假裝離去,步向上層樓梯轉角位,透過牆上廣角鏡繼續監視。只見兩人維持相同姿勢 4至 5分鐘,巡警遂靠近觀察,赫然發現陳女將頭埋在男方兩條大腿之間,頭部上下左右移動。
巡警見狀,走到兩人背後,叫陳女站起,陳女照做,此時巡警看見鄺的褲子拉鏈全開,勃起的陽具展現眼前。巡警立即拘捕兩人,警誡下,陳女承認犯案出於一時衝動,鄺則指陳女自願替他口交。 Read the rest of this entry »

Ai Weiwei detained. Here is his TED film

Sunday, 10 April, 2011

Ai Weiwei detained. Here is his TED film.

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