Google announces gender-specific translations on the Google Translate website

Joanna Estrada
December 9, 2018

For much of humanity, the two have been linked, but in recent years, some of our minds have evolved to think outside this box. With the update, Google Translate will present translations for both genders. This is problematic with translation services, as gender bias in machine learning can influence the end results. And Google says it's also aiming to tackle gender bias in other features, such as query auto-complete, as well as thinking about how to address non-binary gender in translations. The user can then select the appropriate one.

For example, it would skew masculine for words like "strong" or "doctor", and feminine for other words, like "nurse" or "beautiful".

So when the model produced one translation, it inadvertently replicated gender biases that already existed. Right now, if you translate the phrase "Where did the doctor go?' into Hindi, Google Translate throws up 'डॉक्टर कहाँ गए थे?'". For example, the gender-neutral English word "professor" would translate to "profesor" in Spanish - which is technically accurate, but only if the professor you're talking about is a man.

The Google Translate website - on desktop and mobile - now provides gender-specific translations for English words translated to Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese, and for phrases translated from Turkish to English.

Regardless of your feelings about gender and associated roles, it can not be denied that reducing bias is a positive.

For now, the gender-specific translations are only available on the web, and not mobile.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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