Google Asks Cambodians to Help Improve Its Translation Tool

More than two years after Internet search giant Google launched its Khmer translation service, a representative of the technology giant acknowledged the program’s limitations during a speech in Phnom Penh on Friday, and called on Cambodians to play a proactive role in improving its accuracy.

In April 2013, Khmer became the 66th language supported by the service, which allows users to translate words, sentences or whole web pages. The program works via an algorithm that searches the Internet for documents and picks up on patterns that repeat across many examples. 

Speaking at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) on Friday, Amy Kunrojpanya, Google’s Asia-Pacific head of communications and public affairs, urged Cambodians to help improve inaccurate translations by submitting corrections online through the Goo­gle Translate Community, an online crowdsourcing tool.

“We have to wait for a period of time before we start to transition to something that we call ‘beta’—when the product goes from be­ing at the very beginning early stages …to a level of accuracy that we feel is going to be acceptable for people, even if it isn’t perfect,” Ms. Kun­rojpanya said.

“We’ve been able to make that transition with Khmer faster than we had planned and it’s also one of the reasons why Khmer is in the Translate Community,” she said.

Darathtey Din, a blogger and former translator, said she would be willing to offer the feedback that Google is calling for, but was skeptical that the edits would significantly improve the accuracy of the program.

“I would spend time correcting and sending feedback if I was made to believe that Google will actually make efforts to take the feedback into account. I heard rumors that the feedback doesn’t do anything, so it was quite discouraging,” she said.

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