computer sucks

Tom Scott and Gretchen McCulloch of All Things Linguistic produced a very entertaining video that does an excellent job at explaining some of the challenges of machine translation — and why human translators are so incredibly difficult to replace.

In just 5 minutes, Tom gives some vivid examples on how language can trip up computers, including context, concepts that don’t match between languages or don’t translate at all, and shared expectations — and you’ll also learn why there is no way to translate the meaning of “oppan Gangnam style” into a single English sentence.

“To accurately translate something,” Tom summarizes in the end, “you don’t just need to know how words map to concepts. You need to understand social structure, subtext, nuance, innuendo” — and it’s clear that those are difficult things to teach to a machine.