Noami Yamashita and Toru Ishida (Kyoto) Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2006). [pdf]
Abstract: Even though multilingual communities that use machine translation to overcome language barriers are increasing, we still lack a complete understanding of how machine translation affects communication. In this study, eight pairs from three different language communities–China, Korea, and Japan–worked on referential tasks in their shared second language (English) and in their native languages using a machine translation embedded chat system. Drawing upon prior research, we predicted differences in conversational efficiency and content, and in the shortening of referring expressions over trials. Quantitative results combined with interview data show that lexical entrainment was disrupted in machine translation-mediated communication because echoing is disrupted by asymmetries in machine translations. In addition, the process of shortening referring expressions is also disrupted because the translations do not translate the same terms consistently throughout the conversation. To support natural referring behavior in machine translation-mediated communication, we need to resolve asymmetries and inconsistencies caused by machine translations.

Task for experiments: order figures through a chat interface, via a third language (English) and with own lanuage+ MT.
The process of agreeing on a perspective on a referent is known as lexical entrainment [4, 11].

Although machine translation liberates members from language barriers, it also poses hurdles for establishing mutual understanding. As one might expect, translation errors are the main source of inaccuracies that complicate mutual understanding [25]. Climent found that typographical errors are also a big source of translation errors that hinder mutual understanding [7]. Yamashita discovered that members tend to misunderstand translated messages and proposed a method to automatically detect misunderstandings [30].

In machine translation-mediated communication, shortened referring expressions are not necessarily translated correctly; even when referring expressions overlap considerably, machine translation may generate something totally different based on very small changes. Because abbreviation is problematic for machine translation, we expect that participants will identify a figure using identical referring expressions throughout the conversation.

… translations between two different languages are not transitive: translation from language A to B and back to A does not yield the original expression. The intransitive nature of machine translations results from its development process; translation from language A to B is built independently of translation from language B to A. In such conversations, the addressee cannot echo the speaker’s expression as a way of accepting it, illustrating that they are referring to the same thing.

We also found that in their second trial, speakers using machine translation preferred to narrow expressions rather than simplify them. …We infer that “narrowing” is observed more frequently in machine translation-mediated communication because distinctive terms such as “kimono” have few alternatives in translation, and thus, participants feel safe using them to match the figures.

Moreover, participants avoided focusing on the incomprehensible part of messages to discover what was wrong. Since translations are not transitive, it appears that they cannot efficiently solve the problem. Speakers have little choice but to offer more information and proceed with the task.

Consistent with quantitative results, speakers tended to describe the figures more frequently in machine translation than in English.

It seems that participants can minimize mutual effort in collaboration by offering more and more information until their partner confirms understanding.

Since such an unwieldy conversational style would not be useful in general conversation, there is a need to support natural referential behavior in machine translation-mediated communication. For example, support that creates correspondences among references (or keywords) between the two languages may help. Also, support that creates correspondences among referring expressions before and after shortening may help.

by John Lee and Stephanie Seneff @ Spoken Language Systems, MIT CSAIL
Interspeech – ICSLP (Pittsburgh) 17-21 September

Taken from Interspeech website:

Session Wed3A3O: Technologies for Specific Populations: Learners and Challenged
it’s a poster
A computer conversational system can potentially help a foreign-language student improve his/her fluency through practice dialogues. One of its potential roles could be to correct ungrammatical sentences. This paper describes our research on a sentence-level, generation-based approach to grammar correction: first, a word lattice of candidate corrections is generated from an ill-formed input. A traditional n-gram language model is used to produce a small set of N-best candidates, which are then reranked by parsing using a stochastic context-free grammar. We evaluate this approach in a flight domain with simulated ill-formed sentences. We discuss its potential applications in a few related tasks.

Notes: They take a couple of error categories relevant to Japanese speakers conversing in English (articles and prepositions, noun number, verb aspect, mode and tense) and use them for their experiments/analysis. They do not use data from real second-language learners for this paper.

First they reduce the supposedly erroneous sentence (in my case it would be incorrect MT output) to its canonical form, where articles, preps, and auxiliaries are stripped off, and nouns and verbs are reduced to their citation form. All their alternative inflections are inserted into the lattice; insertions of articles, preps and aux. are allowed at every position. Second, an n-gram and a stochastic CFG are used as LMs to score all the paths in the lattice. In their experiments, they treat the transcript as a gold-standard and they find that their method can correctly reconstruct the transcript 88.7% of the time.
What’s nice about this approach is that it doesn’t need any human corrections. In a way, my thesis research can be seen as a great source of data to train systems similar to this one. A nice side-effect of my research is that we obtain MT output annotated with human corrections. so in this setting, one can use correction annotated data in order to build systems that can recover from ill-formed MT output and generate correct translations for such output automatically.

… when I took a look at Ed Bice’s slides for the AMTA Social Impact of MT Panel. Ed Bice is the founder of Meadan (ebice @, among many other things (his Pop web page).

hybrid distributed natural language translation (hdnlt) ‘web 2.0’ approach
• Language translation as a distributed service
• People/machines collaborate to provide service
• Volunteer translators as a social network
• Harness collective intelligence – value arises from small, shared
• Reputation driven – translator reputations adjusted by feedback
and performance
• Abstractions ease adding devices and services

By Erick Schonfeld, Om Malik, and Michael V. Copeland


Incumbent To Watch: Yahoo!
Hoping to dominate social media, it’s gobbling up promising startups (, Flickr, Webjay) and experimenting with social search (My Web 2.0) that ranks results based on shared bookmarks and tags.


Incumbent To Watch: Google
Already the ultimate Web filter through general search as well as blog, news, shopping, and now video search, it’s encouraging mashups of Google Maps and search results, and offers a free RSS reader.


For nearly a century, the phone, and voice as we know it, has existed largely in the confines of a thin copper wire. But now service providers can convert voice calls into tiny Internet packets and let them loose on fast connections, thus mimicking the traditional voice experience without spending hundreds of millions on infrastructure. All you need are powerful–but cheap–computers running specialized software. The Next Net will be the new phone, creating fertile ground for new businesses.

Incumbent To Watch: eBay (Skype)
The pioneer in the field and still the front-runner, Skype brings together free calling, IM, and video calling over the Web; eBay will use it to create deeper connections between buyers and sellers. [And I’d say Google Talk is following closely…]


It’s been a long time — all the way back to the dawn of desktop computing in the early 1980s — since software coders have had as much fun as they’re having right now. But today, browser-based applications are where the action is. A killer app no longer requires hundreds of drones slaving away on millions of lines of code. Three or four engineers and a steady supply of Red Bull is all it takes to rapidly turn a midnight brainstorm into a website so hot it melts the servers. What has changed is the way today’s Web-based apps can run almost as seamlessly as programs used on the desktop, with embedded audio, video, and drag-and-drop ease of use. Company: 37Signals (Chicago)
What it is: Online project management
Next Net bona fides: Its Basecamp app, elegant and inexpensive, enables the creation, sharing, and tracking of to-do lists, files, performance milestones, and other key project metrics; related app Backpack, recently released, is a powerful online organizer for individuals.
Company: Writely (Portola Valley, CA)
What it is: Online word processing
Next Net bona fides: It enables online creation of documents, opens them to collaboration by anyone anywhere, and simplifies publishing the end result on a website as a blog entry.


A growing number of companies are either offering themselves as Web-based platforms on which other software and businesses can be built or developing basic tools that make some of the defining hallmarks of the Next Net possible.

Incumbent To Watch: Amazon
It’s becoming a major Web platform by opening up its software protocols and encouraging anyone to use its catalog and other data; its Alexa Web crawler, which indexes the Net, can be used as the basis for other search engines, and its Mechanical Turk site solicits humans across cyberspace to do things that computers still can’t do well, such as identify images or transcribe podcasts.

Nicole Lazzaro, President (Abstract March 8, 2004). Player Experience Research and Design for Mass Market Interactive Entertainment.

Full Article



by Steve McClure, Mary Flanagan (contractor). Aug. 2003

Abstract: The difficulty of measuring the quality of automatic language translation systems (known as machine translation [MT]) has been an obstacle to widespread adoption. With systematic benchmark testing, categorization of errors, and effective dictionary customization, MT technology can yield significant cost and time savings, as well as improved consistency in translations.

“The adoption of any new technology by mainstream organizations is driven in part by how well the technology ‘works.’ The key metric for MT is the quality of the resulting translation. Not only is this a somewhat subjective measure, but its definition changes in the context of each application and user,” says Steve McClure, a research vice president in IDC’s Software Research Group. “Quality must be measured in the context of whether the user achieved its objective, not by what percentage of the translation was correct. By applying a proven process individually with each of its enterprise customers, SYSTRAN is ensuring acceptable levels of MT quality.”

Online Full Article

My Notes: Systran also allows user rule manipulation (Ford Motor). Nice example of giving the power to the users, by having interact and fix the translation rules themselves.

So now I can say something like this: Given that MT pos-editing is not an easy task, using non-expert users of MT might sound like an unwise idea at first, but GALE evaluation relied on non-expert (yet widely trained) users to post-edit MT output, and even Systran has open up their system so that end users can modify, add and refine their lexicons and grammars.

Excerpts from article

SYSTRAN has also developed the SYSTRAN Review Manager (SRM), which helps the customer to manage the MT quality process by allowing them to change vocabulary and linguistic rules. This tool represents an important advance in MT, both technologically and philosophically. Users have never before had the power to modify linguistic rules through an intuitive, interactive process.

By opening up rule modification, SYSTRAN takes a risk, but one that will
almost certainly pay off. Engaging users in the process of improving MT is
the surest path to increased acceptance and understanding of the technology.

Machine Translation Output Is Not Easily Predictable

MT systems work with natural language – a data set that is infinitely
varying, ambiguous, and structurally complex. To translate adequately, an
MT system must encode knowledge of hundreds of syntactic patterns,
variations, and exceptions, as well as relationships among these patterns.
It must include ever-changing vocabulary and specific semantic knowledge
about the usage patterns of tens of thousands of words. It must accurately
identify the parts of speech and grammatical characteristics of words
which may, in different contexts, be nouns, verbs, or adjectives, each
having many possible translations. Translation also requires a vast store
of knowledge about the world, the intent of the communication, and the
subject matter.
A human translator prioritizes and selectively applies linguistic rules
based on this knowledge. MT software, unless explicitly coded for each
possibility, cannot. Thus, MT will never attain the overall quality of
human translation. The primary advantages of MT over human translation are speed, cost, and consistency. An MT system gets a great deal more
translation done than is possible manually, and MT can deliver
translations instantly for time-sensitive content. When a term is entered
in an MT dictionary, it will translate it the same way every time, unlike
human translators who may choose different translations at different