For my shorter blog essay, I wrote a post called Machine Translation and Gender Bias. In it, I discussed the evidence of gender bias on Google Translate. On December 6, 2018, an article that is highly relevant to this blog post was published on Google Blog. I wanted to write another blog post to discuss its content and implications.
The article, titled ‘Reducing gender bias in Google Translate’ was written by James Kuczmarski, Product Manager at Google Translate. It details a new development in the service that aims to “[address] gender bias by providing feminine and masculine translations for some gender-neutral words”. When translating a single word such as ‘surgeon’ from English into French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish, or when translating phrases from Turkish into English, the article claims that both the feminine and masculine translation will be displayed. While the German example in my original blog post is, thus, still not covered by this new feature, Kuczmarski states that Google Translate plan to cover more languages in the future. (Source: Reducing gender bias in Google Translate)
I decided to test the new feature out in another language that I study, Spanish. Firstly, I entered the term ‘secretary’:
Google Translate did indeed provide the masculine and feminine form of the noun in Spanish. However, when I added ‘the’ before the noun, it was clear that the service has not fully solved the gender bias issue:
When the definite article is placed before the noun, the translation still automatically becomes ‘la secretaria’, the feminine form.
It is great to see that efforts are being made to reduce the amount of gender bias on Google Translate. However, the limited number of languages covered by the new system and the fact that a quick test that I carried out showed an obvious flaw in it (that it does not function with the definite article), it is clear that there is still much progress to be made.
List of Sources:
- Kuczmarski, James, “Reducing gender bias in Google Translate.” Google Blog, 2018. <https://www.blog.google/products/translate/reducing-gender-bias-google-translate/amp/?fbclid=IwAR0YdWcj0NrZoK2IJJT94vpvwwHlUycaM-5xSCM3ddq7uO0Wh3tjlRYu-Dc>