From our friends at Danwei.org, we learned of yet another nifty website, search.adsotrans.com. What is it? In a post titled “Cheat sheet for foreign journalists and PR people,” this is how Danwei described it:
Foreign hacks who don’t read Chinese: your life just got a whole lot easier. The beta version of China Search Robot by Adsotrans has launched. It’s a bilingual search engine that allows you to search Chinese language sources with English keywords.
Want to see what those playful fellows at SARFT are up to? Just type in SARFT, and be rewarded with hundreds of Chinese language pages. You’ll still have to get someone to translate the source articles, but each search result comes with a little English summary.
Sounds great! We source quite a bit of our info/material from the likes of Sohu.com, Sina.com, Shanghai Daily and, yes, People’s Daily. If it performs as promised, Adsotrans would be a wonderful addition to our research arsenal, as it would be for many other foreign news media. So, how does the site measure up? Shanghaiist took it out for a test drive, and the result, unfortunately, is somewhat underwhelming: Adsotrans’s query results did well in relevance (by looking at its Chinese headlines), but poorly in translation accuracy, arguably the more important of the two metrics. The English summaries read way too Chinglish for any English speaker to understand.
For example, we keyed in SARFT (State Admnistration for Radio, Film and Television) in the query box. Sure enough, a bunch of articles popped up, each with a Chinese headline and an English translation underneath. Take for example the news that SARFT is investigating a few websites for allegedly running chat rooms with live streaming of nude models. Adsotrans had SARFT exterminates “pour out libation to chat”. Another article about SARFT to tighten content control over all affiliated service providers became No wonder SARFT also raises go against one’s party banner. Not particularly helpful to us “foreign hacks.”
That said, we still very much like the idea behind the Adsotrans search engine. Coming up with a quality translation algorithm is never easy, and one between Chinese and English is darn near impossible, even Google hasn’t gotten it right yet. So we can’t be too harsh on a Adsotrans. With the service still in beta, the search engine has some time left to right itself. While we don’t expect perfection at the launch, we do at least hope for English that we hacks can understand.