Sunday, June 16, 2024

Computational Complexity: Translation in Context

Computer scienceComputational Complexity: Translation in Context


La Scala in Milan

Google translate generally impresses but consider this translation from a short Italian news article. I boldfaced a few items.

Not scheduled at the premiere of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) which debuted this evening at La Scala.

During the second act, in fact, someone dropped a mobile phone from the stage and hit a spectator in the front row on the cheek.

I’ll report you,’ the man who was hit shouted. And then at halftime he explained to the ushers that he would keep the smartphone until the owner arrived to report it. In the meantime, the performance, in the historic staging by Giorgio Strehler conducted by Thomas Guggeis, continued with applause from the audience for almost every aria.

The stage? Last I checked Mozart didn’t write any mobile phones into his opera, though you can never tell with those European directors. It certainly would have made the abduction easier. Even if a phone was dropped from the stage how did it jump over the orchestra pit into the audience.

So I asked ChatGPT to translate the story.

An unexpected event occurred during the premiere of Mozart’s “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” (The Abduction from the Seraglio) which debuted this evening at La Scala.

During the second act, indeed, a cellphone fell from a box and struck a spectator in the front row on the cheek.

I’ll sue you!” the struck gentleman shouted. And then, during the interval, he explained to the ushers that he would keep the smartphone until the owner arrived to sue him. In the meantime, the performance, in the historic staging by Giorgio Strehler with the direction of Thomas Guggeis, continued amidst the audience’s applause almost after every aria.

That makes more sense. So what’s going on? The word for box is “palco” and the word for stage is “palcoscenico” sometimes shortened to “palco” when the context is clear (Italian speakers can fact check me). LLMs capture the context and seem to yield better translations.

Also note the difference in what the man shouted. According to ChatGPT

The Italian verb “denunciare” means “to report” or “to denounce” in English. When conjugated in the first person present indicative, it becomes “denuncio,” translating to “I report” or “I denounce.” It’s used to express the action of making a formal accusation or report against someone, often in a legal or official context. So, in the context you provided earlier, “Ti denuncio” translates to “I’ll sue you” or more literally, “I report you” or “I denounce you,” indicating the speaker’s intent to take formal action against the person responsible for dropping the cellphone.

We love to talk about the failures of LLMs, but here it improves and explains the translations. 

I wonder if the owner ever did try to get his phone back. 

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