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Finally, an Irish translation app that knows the difference between ‘tú’ and ‘sibh’

It asks you how you want to translate ‘you’.

In case you didn't know, Irish is one of the many language that have two words for you, one when you're talking to one person () and another when you're talking to two or more people (sibh). In fact, most European languages are like that, it's English that's being the odd one out for having only one word for both.

Now let’s do a little experiment: go to your favourite machine translation website, such as Google Translate, and ask it to translate a sentence from English into Irish which has you in it, such as where are you. Will it be translated with the singular , or with the plural sibh?

Most translation apps tend to go for the singular version of you most of the time. But suppose you wanted to say the sentence to a group of people. Well, if you do actually speak Irish, then it will be easy for you to know which word or words in the translation you're supposed to change. But what if you don't speak the language, or don't speak it well enough to be sure? Wouldn't it be better if the app simply asked you which meaning of you you want?

Unfortunately, machine translators don't have the ability to ask questions. Whenever they find themselves in a situation of ambiguity – like now when they don't know whether you refers to one person or many – they simply pick whichever option seems more likely, based on whichever occured frequently in their training data. In other words, the machine will make an assumption. This assumption may well be correct for most people most of the time, but it may not be correct for you at this particular moment when you are about to speak to a group of people and not just one person.

Enter Fairslator. Fairslator is different a translation tool because it doesn't make any assumptions and because it does ask questions. If you ask Fairslator for the Irish translation of a sentence with you in it, and if it isn't clear from the rest of the sentence whether you mean one person or many, the app will give you a choice. Only then, depending on what you have answered, will it give you the appropriate translation. The translation you get will be based on what you mean, not on what the machine assumes you mean.

Fairslator is pretty much the first translation app in the world that has this ability: the ability to ask follow-up questions if it has encountered an ambiguity in the source text. OK, maybe not completely first, because Google has been experimenting with something similar for gender-specific translations in some language pairs, and DeepL sometimes gives you a choice between formal and informal forms of address in languages that have them. But Fairslator outperforms them both because it detects a wider range of ambiguities – and is certainly the only one that can do it for Irish.

To summarize, Fairslator is a new kind of translation service: one that doesn’t just spit out one single translation but asks you what you mean. Try it for yourself and tell all your Irish-speaking friends – but don’t forget to use the correct version of you!

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What next?

Read more about bias and ambiguity in machine translation.
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in machine translation
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Faislator blog

| Status update
What's new with Fairslator #2
Fairslator now speaks French, and other news.
| Gendergerechte Sprache
Kann man das Gendern automatisieren?
Überall Gendersternchen verstreuen und fertig? Von wegen. Geschlechtergerecht zu texten, das braucht vor allem Kreativität.
| Oh là là
Three reasons why you shouldn’t use machine translation for French
But if you must, at least run it through Fairslator.
| Ó Bhéarla go Gaeilge
Tusa, sibhse agus an meaisínaistriúchán ó Bhéarla
Tugaimis droim láimhe leis an mhíthuiscint nach bhfuil ach aon aistriúchán amháin ar gach rud.
| Status update
What's new with Fairslator #1
A new language pair, some new publications, plus what's in the pipeline.
| Forms of address
Why machine translation has a problem with ‘you’
This innocent-looking English pronoun is surprisingly difficult to translate into other languages.
| Male and female
10 things you should know about gender bias in machine translation
Machine translation is getting better all the time, but the problem of gender bias remains. Read these ten questions and answers if you want to understand all about it.
| Machine translation in Czech
Finally, a translation app that knows the difference between Czech ‘ty’ and ‘vy’!
Wouldn’t it be nice if machine translation asked how you want to translate ‘you’?
| German machine translation
Finally, a translation app that knows the difference between German ‘du’ and ‘Sie’!
Wouldn’t it be nice if machine translation asked how you want to translate ‘you’?
| Gender bias in machine translation
Gender versus Czech
In Czech we don’t say ‘I am happy’, we say ‘I as a man am happy’ or ‘I as a woman am happy’.
| Strojový překlad
Představ si, že jseš stroj, který překládá
Proč se překladače nikdy neptají, jak to myslíme?
| Maschinelle Übersetzung
Stell dir vor, du bist DeepL
Warum fragt der Übersetzer eigentlich nicht, was ich meine?

Fairslator timeline

icon September 2022 — Fairslator was presented and demoed at the Text, Speech and Dialogue (TSD) conference in Brno.
icon August 2022Translations in London are talking about Fairslator in their blog post Overcoming gender bias in MT. They think the technology behind Fairslator could be useful in the translation industry for faster post-editing of machine-translated texts.
August 2022 — A fourth language pair released: English → French.
icon July 2022 — Germany's Goethe-Institut interviewed us for the website of their project Artificially Correct. Read the interview in German: Wenn die Maschine den Menschen fragt or in English: When the machine asks the human, or see this short video on Twitter.
icon May 2022Slator.com, a website for the translation industry, asked us for a guest post and of course we didn't say no. Read What You Need to Know About Bias in Machine Translation »
April 2022 — A third language pair added: English → Irish.
February 2022 — Fairslator launched with two language pairs: English → German, English → Czech. Cries of excitement from everywhere!