Windows Live Translator


Microsoft launched a service for automatic translation called Windows Live Translator. The site lets you translate a text limited to 500 words or a web page from English to German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Russian.

Microsoft uses Systran to produce most of the translations, but also offers an option to translate computer-related texts using a machine translation system developed in-house. Microsoft’s translation technology has been used to translate technical materials, including MSDN Library.
Google Operating System

We’ve talked a bit about French-English translation here on Slaw, for obvious reasons, so I thought you’d be interested in seeing how this new translation machine does with a paragraph of typical legal prose.

As my test text I chose paragraph 27 from R. v. Johnson, 2003 SCC 46 (CanLII), which reads as follows:

Having determined that the phrase “The court may . . . find the offender to be a dangerous offender” denotes a discretion, the next issue that falls to be considered is the legal principles and factors that a sentencing judge must consider in the exercise of that discretion. For the reasons that follow, it is our conclusion that one factor that a sentencing judge must consider is the possibility that the sanctions available pursuant to the long-term offender provisions would be sufficient to achieve the objectives that the dangerous offender provisions seek to advance.

Windows Live Translator came up with this translation:

La détermination que l’expression « la cour peut… trouver le contrevenant pour être d’un contrevenant dangereux » dénote une discrétion, la prochaine issue que les chutes à considérer est les principes légaux et les facteurs qu’un juge de condamnation doit considérer dans l’exercice de cette discrétion. Pour les raisons qui suivent, il est notre conclusion qu’un facteur qu’un juge de condamnation doit considérer est la possibilité que les sanctions disponibles conformément aux dispositions à long terme de contrevenant seraient suffisantes pour atteindre les objectifs que les dispositions dangereuses de contrevenant cherchent à avancer.

The machine had trouble with what I think was called an ablative absolute in my Latin class in school (“Having determined…etc,” Back then it was “Caesar having crossed the Rubicon,”), with the idiom “falls to be considered,” and with the noun phrase “long-term offender provisions,” for all of which I don’t blame it, but which does limit it’s utility, of course.

(Because Google Translate uses the same system, Systran, it came up with a nearly identical rendering, differing only in a word here and there, suggesting that Microsoft has a later version.)

To put everyone out of “bad-French-misery,” I offer now the official SCC translation of that paragraph:

Maintenant qu’il est établi que l’énoncé « le tribunal peut déclarer qu’un délinquant est un délinquant dangereux » confère un pouvoir discrétionnaire, la question est de savoir quels principes juridiques et quels facteurs le tribunal doit prendre en considération dans l’exercice de ce pouvoir discrétionnaire. Pour les motifs qui suivent, nous arrivons à la conclusion que l’un des facteurs à considérer est la possibilité que les sanctions prévues par les dispositions applicables aux délinquants à contrôler permettent d’atteindre les objectifs des dispositions applicables aux délinquants dangereux.


  1. I tried a few sentences into Italian in both this service and Babelfish, and the Microsoft is (marginally) faster – substantively, Microsoft was slightly more formal, but 98% of the wording was identical.