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# Automatic Translators are Not Really Capable of Learning

A year ago, I conducted a small study on the quality of modern translation programs (see *Communications of the ACM*: Google Translate Does Not Understand the Content of the Texts). Some selected sentences were translated using Google Translate and DeepL. This repetition is intended to show whether the automatic translators have learned. The new translations are shown in blue. Shortcomings in the May 2019 translation are marked in red.

*Source text 1*

Es gibt hauptsächlich drei Arten analoger Rechenschieber: Rechenstäbe, Rechenscheiben und Rechenwalzen.

**Google Translate**

There are mainly tghree types of analogue slide rules: Rulers, calculating discs, and raking rollers.

There are three main types of analog slide rules: slide rules, calculating discs and calculating rollers.

**DeepL**

There are mainly three types of analog slide rules: slide bars, slide disks and rake rollers.

There are three main types of analog slide rules: slide rules, discs and rollers.

*Source text 2*

Zu den wichtigsten Formen der Rechenschieber gehören der Rechenstab, die Rechenscheibe, die Rechenwalze und die Rechenuhr.

**Google Translate**

Among the most important forms of slide rule are the ruler, the ruler, the rake, and the ruler.

The most important forms of slide rule include the slide rule, the calculation disk, the calculation roller and the calculation clock.

**DeepL**

The most important forms of slide rules are the slide bar, the disc rule, the screen roller and the screen clock.

The most important forms of slide rules are the slide rule, the disc rule, the roller rule and the clock.

*Correct technical terms*

Rechenscheibe circular slide rule

Rechenschieber slide rule

Rechenstab linear slide rule, straight slide rule

Rechenuhr pocket watch slide rule

Rechenwalze cylindrical slide rule

*Source text 3*

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz gilt als Erfinder des Sprossenrads und der Staffelwalze.

**Google Translate**

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is regarded as the inventor of the sprocket wheel and the squadron roller.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is considered the inventor of the sprout wheel and the graduated roller.

**DeepL**

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is regarded as the inventor of the sprocket wheel and the relay roller.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is considered the inventor of the sprocket wheel and the relay roller.

*Correct technical terms*

Sprossenrad pinwheel

Staffelwalze stepped drum

*Source text 4*

Wir sind auf der Suche nach einem verschollenen römischen Handabkus aus Elfenbein.

**Google Translate**

We are looking for a lost Roman ivory handcuff.

We are looking for a missing Roman ivory hand-held copy.

**DeepL**

We're looking for a lost ivory Roman handabku.

We are looking for a missing ivory Roman hand abcus.

*Source text 5*

Im Unterschied zum chinesischen Rechenrahmen hat der römische Handabakus keine Stangen mit Kugeln, sondern Rillen mit Knöpfen.

**Google Translate**

Unlike the Chinese framework, the Roman Handabakus has no rods with balls, but grooves with buttons.

In contrast to the Chinese arithmetic frame, the Roman hand abacus does not have rods with balls, but grooves with buttons.

**Deep L**

In contrast to the Chinese calculation frame, the Roman hand tobacco has no rods with balls, but grooves with buttons.

In contrast to the Chinese rake frame, the Roman hand abacus does not have bars with balls, but grooves with buttons.

*Correct technical terms*

Handabakus hand abacus

Rechenrahmen abacus

*Source text 6*

Im Altertum nutzten die Griechen für Berechnungen die Rechentafel. Die Römer verwendeten hingegen einen tragbaren Handabakus mit Rillen und Knöpfen. Das Mittelalter kannte Rechenbretter, Rechentische und Rechentücher mit Linien und Rechenmünzen. Der Zählrahmen mit Stäben und Kugeln war in China, Japan, Russland jahrhundertelang sehr beliebt.

**Google Translate**

In antiquity, the Greeks used the calculator for calculations. The Romans, by contrast, used a portable handabaku with grooves and buttons. The Middle Ages knew calculating boards, computer desks, and books with lines and computing coins. The counting frame with bars and balls was very popular in China, Japan, Russia for centuries.

In ancient times, the Greeks used the calculation table for calculations. The Romans used a portable hand-held abacus with grooves and buttons. The Middle Ages knew calculating boards, calculating tables and calculating cloths with lines and calculating coins. The counting frame with bars and balls has been very popular in China, Japan, Russia for centuries.

**DeepL**

In ancient times, the Greeks used the calculation board for calculations. The Romans, on the other hand, used a portable hand tobacco with grooves and buttons. The Middle Ages knew calculation boards, calculation tables, and calculation cloths with lines and calculation coins. The counting frame with rods and balls was very popular in China, Japan, and Russia for centuries.

In antiquity, the Greeks used the calculating table for calculations. The Romans, on the other hand, used a portable hand tabacus with grooves and buttons. The Middle Ages knew abacus, calculating tables and calculating cloths with lines and calculating coins. The counting frame with bars and balls was very popular in China, Japan, and Russia for centuries.

*Correct technical terms*

Handabakus hand abacus

Kugel bead

Rechenbrett counting board, calculating board, abacus

Rechenmünze counter, token, casting counter

Rechentafel counting board, calculating board

Rechentisch reckoning table, counting table, table abacus

Rechentuch reckoning cloth, counting cloth

*Source text 7*

Ursprünglich waren Computer Menschen, die mit mechanischen Tischrechenmaschinen Berechnungen durchführten. Später kamen elektromechanische Relaisrechner und elektronische Röhrenrechner auf, die schließlich von Transistormaschinen abgelöst wurden.

**Google Translate**

Originally computers were people who performed calculations with mechanical desktop calculators. Later came electromechanical relay computers and electronic tube computers, which were eventually replaced by transistor machines.

Computers were originally people who performed calculations with mechanical desktop calculators. Later electromechanical relay computers and electronic tube computers appeared, which were eventually replaced by transistor machines.

**DeepL**

Originally computers were people who performed calculations with mechanical table calculators. Later, electromechanical relay computers and electronic tube computers came into being, which were eventually replaced by transistor machines.

Originally, computers were people who performed calculations with mechanical desktop calculators. Later, electromechanical relay computers and electronic tube computers appeared, which were finally replaced by transistor machines.

*Source text 8*

Einer der frühesten Erfinder von Automaten war Heron von Alexandria (1. Jh. n.Chr.). Leonardo da Vinci, der vor 500 Jahren starb, entwarf äußerst komplexe Roboter, u.a. einen selber fahrenden Wagen, einen mechanischen Löwen und einen mechanischen Krieger. Im 18. Jahrhundert gab es großartige Figurenautomaten (z.B. Zeichen-, Schreib- und Musikautomaten), die heute noch voll funktionsfähig und z.T. auch programmierbar sind.

**Google Translate**

One of the earliest inventors of automatons was Heron of Alexandria (1st century AD). Leonardo da Vinci, who died 500 years ago, designed extremely complex robots, i.e., a self-driving car, a mechanical lion and a mechanical warrior. In the 18th century, there were great figurative machines (such as drawing, writing, and jukeboxes), which are still fully functional and some are still in use today.are also programmable.

One of the earliest inventors of automatons was Heron of Alexandria (1st century AD). Leonardo da Vinci, who died 500 years ago, designed extremely complex robots, including a self-driving car, a mechanical lion and a mechanical warrior. In the 18th century there were great automatic figure machines (e.g. automatic drawing, typing and music machines) that are still fully functional today and some. are also programmable.

**DeepL**

One of the earliest inventors of automatons was Heron of Alexandria (1st century AD). Leonardo da Vinci, who died 500 years ago, designed extremely complex robots, including a self-propelled carriage, a mechanical lion and a mechanical warrior. In the 18th century there were great figure automatons (e.g. drawing, writing and music automatons), which are still fully functional today and partly also programmable.

One of the earliest inventors of automatons was Heron of Alexandria (1st century AD). Leonardo da Vinci, who died 500 years ago, designed extremely complex robots, including a self-propelled carriage, a mechanical lion and a mechanical warrior. In the 18th century there were great figure automatons (e.g. drawing, writing and music automatons), which are still fully functional today and some of them are also programmable.

*Correct technical terms*

Figurenautomat automaton figure, automated figure

Musikautomat musical automaton, music automaton

**Conclusions**

The field of artificial intelligence has had many successes. Nevertheless, doubts are in order. One does not get the impression that the two translation programs are self-learning and have made real progress. Deep learning seems to be rather superficial. One may wonder whether an approach based mainly on statistics (big data), which cannot explain and justify decisions, is appropriate for demanding texts.

**Herbert Bruderer** is a retired lecturer in didactics of computer science at ETH Zürich. More recently, he has been an historian of technology. bruderer@retired.ethz.ch, herbert.bruderer@bluewin.

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