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  • Writer's pictureYelena McCafferty

No, Alexa’s translations are still not good enough

Updated: Mar 5, 2022

Two years after I tested Alexa’s translation skills, I decided to check if any improvements were made to this automated translation tool.

First, I asked Alexa the same questions it got wrong last time: the Russian translation of “translator”, “good night” and “how are you?”. While it turns out it has now corrected the first two, “Как дѐла?” – the Russian for “how are you” still has the word stress in the wrong place.

This time I went one level up in the lexical complexity and gave Alexa a few names of specialised shops to translate. Despite the popularity of supermarkets, we still have butchers, fishmongers and other traditional shop-owners.

So off we go:

“Alexa, what is the Russian for ‘bakery’?”

Alexa’s answer: Пекарня (Yes, but I didn’t mean a baking facility, I was after «булочная»)

“Alexa, what is the Russian for ‘newsagent’?

Alexa’s answer: Новостной агент (Really? This expression reminds me more of a spy than of a shop selling newspapers. It should be «газетный киоск»); and

“Alexa, what is the Russian for ‘greengrocer’?

Alexa’s answer: Озеленник. (Sorry, but there is no such word. «Зеленщик» perhaps? Or «продавец овощей и фруктов».)

My conclusion? Still not even near good enough. But can it cope with sentences better than with words? I should up the bar again next time!

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