Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Naver is auto-translating netizen comments into your language


Naver's entertainment news section now features automatic, instant translations of netizen comments. Now can you read all the juicy gossip that real Koreans are saying, and since these are anonymous online comments, you know they are nothing but the highest quality.

Auto-translation of netizen comments


I only noticed this recently, so I'm not sure how long this has been available. Similar to how Facebook presents a small link to immediately translate foreign text into your language, comments left by netizens can be auto-translated with just a click. Here's an example:


Importance of context for good translations


Let's compare a bit. For all these examples I am using the article ['달의연인' 이준기X이지은, 반전은 없었다..죽음으로 새드엔딩[종합] :: 네이버 TV연예] because it was a #1 trending item today. Basically it was about the latest drama ("달의연인") that singer I.U. was in, which just finished, and how the ending was sad.

Here was the top comment on that article:


See that little underlined link there at the end? It reads 번역보기 ("View Translation") and when you click it, you get this:


Now obviously there's a problem here. That translation's not very clear. The netizen wrote 현대씬 나오길래 이어주나? 했더니 그냥 아이소이 광고용.

  • Naver's own translator translated this as "Would? was it comes hyeondaessin I just aisoi ㅋㅋㅋ for advertising" which matches the article's translation, so clearly these translations are coming from Naver's in-house translation tech. 
  • Google translates it as "Do you keep coming out of the modern scene? I do not know how to do it, but I do not know how to do it," which is actually a little bit better. 


Of course, there's something still missing. Really what the netizen was saying is "(I thought) the modern scene they showed was connected? It turns out it was just an advertisement for isoi."

The missing context is that a scene ran which appeared to show the characters in modern times [the setting for the drama was way back in the past; like most good K-dramas, there was plenty of the "romantic time travel" trope that Koreans love]. This led the commenting netizen (among many other fans of the show) to predict that the last episode would have the two leads traveling to the present together. But as it turned out, that scene was just a set-up for an advertisement for the ISOI brand of cosmetics, and didn't have bearing on the actual show's finale. Something like that.

Now granted, there's no way any computer translator could get that nuance. Heck I had to question multiple female coworkers just to understand it a bit myself. I don't know how people keep up with these things. I can barely remember to tie my shoes in the morning.

But going back to the comment I started with, the comment read 다른세계 다른시간에서 만났더라면 얼마나 좋았을까 ..ㅠㅠ.

  • Naver translated it as "How Would that other world I'd met in another time. ... ㅠㅠ"
  • Google translates it as "I wish I had met at another time in another world .. ㅠ". 
That's pretty good, but I think (though I could be wrong) that the Korean habit of not specifying subjects is tripping up the auto-translation. I think it's more correct to render it as "If only they met in another world, another time, how wonderful it would be :-("

Multiple language translations


You can try this in a variety of languages. Right before the netizen comments start, there's a drop-down box for selecting your desired language. Right now it does Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, German, and Hindi.


Full article translations coming soon!


One more neat thing is that in the top-right of each article is a three-language box for choosing Korean, Japanese, or English. Though, I only see this on mobile versions of articles, not the desktop versions.

Right now it looks like many articles have Japanese translations - although I can't be sure if these are human-done or machine-done, since I don't speak Japanese. I tried several but couldn't find any that had English translations done (which suggests these are not machine translations). Instead, clicking for English gives a message that the English translation service is coming soon.


If that's true, this could be a big boon to Naver news since there's such a hungry demographic out there for K-pop news in English. This would likely put Naver in direct competition with sites like AllKpop that basically make their living off translating K-pop news. Maybe Naver wants a slice of that pie. I say go for it, since I've never forgiven AllKpop for removing their RSS feeds. Yes, I'm petty.

One more important thing is that I'm only talking here about Naver's entertainment news section, i.e. articles from the http://entertain.naver.com portal. As far as I can tell, this auto-translation of comments is not being offered in other news categories like national, society, etc.

Finally, check out the great blog Netizen Buzz for actual human-curated translations of netizen comments. In fact I just went there to copy the link and discovered that they've already done a post for this exact same article I was doing.


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