Google Translate

On the following lines, it will be analyzed one of the most succesful translators of this century-Google Translate. This translator is a free on-line statistical machine service owned by Google Inc that translates immediately a lot of different languages (57) such as Polish, German, Dutch, Spanish… However, it has to be said that some languages are better translated than others, in other words, some languages are supported by Google translate and others languages are called by the company “alpha languages”, this is to say that these languages have lower quality in their translations.

It is possible to translate long texts, but the system limits the number of paragraphs. Nevertheless, if the user wants to translate completely a website, Google Translate gives him or her the opportunity to use Google chrome which is a fast free browser that translates websites automatically in many languages. Not only  does Google translate give you the opportunity to use Google chrome, but also other tools such as to the Google translated search (the information that you are searching probably will not be in your own language; the system searches the best contribution and translates it to your own language) or the iphone version which allows voice input.

The aim of this enterprise is “to make information universally accessible, regardless of the language in which it is written” That is why it has been improving  since it started. Nowadays, it can be done many things that could not be done at the beginning. For example, in the first version, only English could be translated to some other languages, now it can be done the other way round. Moreover, it is also possible to have the romanization written for languages such as Chinese or Greek and, in the last version launched in January 2011, it is also possible to see different possible translations for a specific word. A good way that helps this translator to improve is that the user himself can increase the quality of  translations by suggesting improvements or uploading his translations memories into Google Translate’s Translator Toolkit. Furthermore, the service itself asks the user sometimes alternate translations for technical terms.

But, how does this translator work? As it has been said, Google Translate is a Statistical Machine Translator (SMT) which is a way of translating texts completely different from the traditional rule-based translations. The rule-based  machine translations were used some years ago and they applied the rules and grammars of the language that was being translated. However, Linguists knew that not all languages had the same rules (e.g the order of some languages is subject- verb-object but in others is verb- subject-object) that is why the translations were not very good.

 Then, it began statistical machine translations where the computer looks for patterns in millions of documents. This documents had already been translated by human beings and thanks to them the computer can know more or less how the translation should be. However, the translations are not always perfect and the quality of them depends mainly on the number of documents that the computer can analyze to see patterns. That is why Google Translate can translate better, for example, German than Basque, it has more German documents than Basque Documents. Franz Josef Och is the main head in Google and he is in favour of Statistical machine translators. The documents that are available for the machine are taken from United Nations documents.

Finally, this way to translate texts has advantages. For instance, the quality is better than in rule-based translations, also, the translations are more natural and we have better use of resources. But, there are some disadvantages and problems with: sentence alignment, different word orders, compound words, idioms, morphology

Do not hesitate to see the following video that explains how SMT works . If you are interested in knowing more about the problems Google Translate has, you can see the portfolio I did commenting the main problems here:


COCA-Corpus of Contemporary American English

Nowadays, students of foreign languages, teachers or linguists have many tools available for learning new languages or improving their knowledge of that specific language they are studying. However, many people do not know of the existence of these tools and they cannot take advantage of them. Students can use translators, dictionaries, grammars… One tool that can be very useful when studying a language at a high level and how this language is structured is corpus linguistics. On the following lines, it will be described what is corpus linguistics and one specific corpus that has become very popular. This corpus is called The Corpus Of Contemporary American English (COCA) made by the important professor of  Corpus Linguistics Mark Davies at Brighman Young University.

For instance, What do we understand by Corpus linguistics? The definition by Wikipedia is the following:

 Corpus Linguistics is the study of language  as expressed in samples (corpora) or “real world” text. This method represents a digestive approach to deriving a set of abstract rules by which a natural language is governed or else relates to another language. Originally done by hand, corpora are now largely derived by an automated process.

At first sight, it can seem that Corpus Linguistics is better to the study of  a language rather than grammars because in Corpus samples we have how the language is really used by native speakers. However, this system can also have some disadvantages. For example, as Noam Chomsky said, real language is also riddled with performance-related errors and that is why it is needed careful analysis of small speech samples , but this is not included in Corpus Linguistics because Linguists only include big examples. Nevertheless, this field has been improving and,nowadays, we have very good Corpus which include may samples and very well structured. One Corpus that has to be mentioned is the COCA one.

The Corpus Of  Contemporary American English is a free on-line corpus that has 425 million words and 160,000 different texts that come from a variety of sources and genres. It is the largest corpus of American English currently available.Moreover, it has been including 20 million words each year since 1990. More than 40,000 users visit this corpus each month. The different genres or sources are, firstly, spoken (85 million words) from 150 TV and radio programmes.Secondly, fiction (81 million words) from short stories and plays and, then, popular magazines (86 million words), newspapers (81 million words) and academic journals (81 million words). Furthermore, users can search the frequency of a word in each genre which help us to know, for example, if a word is used in academic writing or not. It is also possible to compare how the use of certain words has changed over time from 1990 to present time and to ignore one specific genre when we think that it is not going to be useful.

But, why is this Corpus so good? There are many reasons. For instance, researches of this corpus have been working many years to improve this corpus and their work is also connected to other important Corpus such as the British International Corpus, Time Corpus or the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA). There are also updates with new words from time to time; the last one has been in 2011. Users can search many things within the interface. For example, exact words (e.g: mysterious), part of speech, lemmas which are all the forms of a word (e.g: sing which is the base can have many forms such as singer, song, singing…), wildcard which is an option that gives you the system when you do not know exactly how a word is written( e.g: un*ly; the system’s answers would be unlikely, unusually…) It is also possible to search for collocates within a ten-word window (e.g. all nouns somewhere near faint, all adjectives near woman, or all verbs near feelings)

Other good points are: the possibility to compare the collocates of two related words (e.g  banana and apple or little and small; thanks to this we can know the difference in meaning of these words and how each word is used) , to find the frequency and distribution of synonyms for nearly 60,000 words and that we can create our own list of related words.

Take the following example that illustrates how this interface works. In this case, we will analyze the collocates that precede the nouns apple and banana.In the first chart, we can see the answers for apple. It can be seen that there are many times that apple is preceded by an article such as the or an.

WORD 1 (W1): APPLE (3.95)

    WORD W1 W2 W1/W2 SCORE
1   THE 1648 445 3.7 0.9
2   AN 1325 0 2,650.0 671.6

 However, banana has less cases. It could be said that apple takes normally determiners and banana not.

WORD 2 (W2): BANANA(0.25)

    WORD W2 W1 W2/W1 SCORE
1   A 602 8 75.3 296.9
2   THE 445 1648 0.3 1.1

Finally, it has to be said that if you use many times this interface, you will have to Log in. Do not hesitate to use this corpus and find attach here a video done by the Emerald Cultural Institute that shows very well how to use COCA .



On the following lines, it is going to be described one free on-line english dictionary called Yourdictionary. This dictionary can be visited on the website As it has already been said, it is an english dictionary that translate the words from english to english, in other words, monolingual. That is why this book is particularly useful for those persons who are english native speakers or that have already a high level of English. However, many people do not only need only english dictionaries and thanks to this web they can find dictionaries for a lot of different languages, Yourdictionary is also a language portal with more than 2,500 different dictionaries. Moreover, Users can also find grammars in over 300 languages. It has to be said that this incredible site is owned by LoveToKnow Corporation which is a company that also includes sites such as, and

But why is YourDictionary different from others dictionaries like Wordreference? There are several reasons. For instance, one aspect that makes it special is that it has many resources such as the Webster’s New World Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary or the Computer Desktop Encyclopedia. Furthermore, some of its resources are taken from wordbooks which are specialized in a certain domain or field. For example, there are some words from the field of law that do not appear in a regular lexicon, but with Yourdictionary the user can find these words thanks to the Webster’s New World Law Dictionary.

Another advantage is the possibility to use  Thesaurus which consists on a reference work that groups together different types of words that have similarity in meaning or that are connected. For example, imagine that you are looking for the word ball, you will find (apart from the definition) words like globe, balloon, baseball… This wordbook has more options than Thesaurus like sentence examples, acronyms, images, idioms, quote examples…You can see in the next image how Thesaurus works.

Moreover, the fact of being able to look up words that we do not know how they are spelled also makes a distinction between the other dictionaries.  Take as an example the word receive. Imagine that you do not know how it is spelled between the letter c to the letter v. The only thing you have to do is to write two question marks where you do not know how it is spelled. E.g : re c??ve( or an asterisk if yo do not really know the number of unknown letters)Finally, the dictionary also includes games for improving our language skills (crosswords, word definition games, anagram puzzles…) and forums to speak about languages or words.

In conclusion, it could be said that the dictionaries of this century are changing the concept of what we understand by dictionary.  We can look up words free, faster, have in the same portal grammars and dictionaries, games for improving our knowledge of the language,forums… Nowadays, there are not excuses for learning new languages. There are magnificent tools available for those ones willing to increase their knowledge of the world!



Governments do not always show all the actions they are doing. There are some things that they do not want to share with the citizens of their countries and the rest of the world. It could be said that there is not transparency in our politicians. Take as an example, Guantánamo, nobody knows what is done there and how detainees are treated. However, there is an organization since 2006 that wants to break all that and is fighting against corruption. This organization is called WikiLeaks. His creator was Julian Assange, who is an Australian publisher  and journalist. The aim of this journalist is to open governments as it is said in Wikileaks’s slogan: “We open governments”

For instance, WikiLeaks is a non-profit organization, in other words, the journalists who work in this organization do not want money. They want to stop how our governments rule our countries. WikiLeaks believes in the Universal Declaration of Human rights which says that everybody has the right to speak freely and without interference of any type. They claim that journalists should be able to write about any topic without being afraid of being sent to prison or something worse. Publishing improves transparency and that is the only way to form a better society.

Wikleaks is compared to Daniel Ellsberg's leaking of the Pentagon Papers in 1971

WikiLeaks has been a success and has won many prizes since it was launched such as  the 2008 Economist Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression award or the 2009 Amnesty International human rights reporting award (New Media). Furthermore, it has broken many stories such as war, killing, torture, finace, taxes… However, the problem has appeared when its creator Julian Assagne was sent to prison due to sexual offences. Some people claim and Julian himself  that governments are politically motivated and want him in prison. There have been many riots in favor of  releasing Assange and this event is being one of the most trending topics of this time.

Many questions have still to be answered. Is  Assange a good person in favor of human rights or is he using the fact of being the creator of WikiLeaks to avoid prision? Are governments against transparency? The truth is that Wikileaks has put governments in an awkward position.


Open Access

For instance, you have to know that scholars are not paid for the articles they publish in  scientific journals. The aim of those articles is to improve the field scholars are studying and show their new discoveries to the world. However, people sometimes do not read their articles because they are restricted to a particular section of society. How can this be changed in order to help improving the right for information of the society? The answer is Open Access.

Open access or (OA)  refers to unrestricted online access to articles published in scholarly journals. Open access breaks barriers and the limits of society. It has to be said that this system could not exist without the appearance of internet. Internet has given the key to society to being able to read a wide range of articles all over the world. Readers can do whatever they want with the articles copy, download, print… However, Open Access is different from open content where users can change the text they are reading.

Many people may think that Open Access is not good for authors. However, this is not true. Everybody will take advantage of Open Access. For instance, there have been many studies that show that articles who are published in open access journals are more cited and read than the rest of the books. Authors will be happy to know that their books are being read and that they are having more impact than if they have been published in a normal journal. Moreover, articles will be more effective because they will be more easy to find and use. Another part of the society that will take advantage of OA will be teachers that will feel safe that their students are using the convenient information to the research they will have to do.

What about quality?  There are some misunderstandings about Open Access. Some people claim that this are second-class papers and that they do not have enough quality. However, these articles are peer review, in other words, they are checked in order to know if they are good enough. Moreover, there will be more competition between scholars that will want their articles to be more cited and read than the ohters.

Finally, there are two ways to publish the articles through Internet. On the one hand, authors can publish their articles in Open Access Repositories which are digital collections of all the articles published by different authors. On the other hand, Open Access journals are also popular. They consist in  peer-reviewed journals whose articles may be accessed online without carge. Many institutions and universities are launching their own digital repositories to publish their articles to the whole public. There is a video in the references that shows very well the desire to improve OA by all the institutions. There also included in the references some interesting repositories where you can find good articles.


Diferencia entre bibliotecas electrónicas, digitales y virtuales.

Numerosas son las cosas que están cambiando debido al desarrollo tecnológico. Una de ellas son las bibliotecas. Antes solo se conocía por biblioteca a un determinado edificio que guardaba diversos textos en formato de papel para que los usuarios pudieran leerlos y utilizarlos. Sin embargo, este concepto ha ido cambiando con el paso del tiempo.  Las bibliotecas han ido evolucionando para satisfacer a los usuarios que quieren una pronta respuesta a sus necesidades. Ahora se conocen tres tipos de diferentes de bibliotecas que difieren en sus características y en el modo que ofrecen sus servicios a los usuarios. Éstos tres tipos son: las bibliotecas electrónicas, digitales y virtuales.

En primer lugar, decir que en multitud de ocasiones se producen ambigüedades entre los términos y se suelen confundir. Aquí les definiremos y los compararemos con exactitud. El primer tipo de biblioteca se llama biblioteca electrónica. Las principales características  de estas bibliotecas es que se encuentran situadas geográficamente en un lugar, es decir, existe un edificio como tal donde se encuentran los libros. Los catálogos, libros y revistas de esta biblioteca están principalmente  en formato papel y cuenta con una serie de soportes electrónicos que les ayudan a los trabajadores y usuarios del lugar a encontrar rápidamente los libros que  buscan y la información deseada. Un ejemplo de biblioteca electrónica es la biblioteca de la Universidad de Deusto. Lopez Guzmán da una clara definición de lo que se entiende por biblioteca electrónica:

“Es aquella que cuenta con sistemas de automatización que le permite una ágil y correcta administración de los materiales que resguarda, principalmente en papel. Asi mismo, cuenta con sistemas de telecomunicaciones que le permiten acceder a su información, en formato electrónico, de manera remota o local. Proporciona  principalmente catálogos y listas de las colecciones que se encuentran físicamente en un edificio.” (Lopez Guzmán)

Por otro lado, existen también las bibliotecas digitales. Se suelen equivocar muchas veces con las virtuales. Sin embargo, mientras que las digitales tienen un edificio como tal donde los usuarios pueden acudir, las virtuales no lo tienen. Las digitales son bibliotecas donde hay soportes electrónicos mediante los cuales las personas pueden cosultar los documentos electrónicos deseados. En cambio las virtuales también disponen de sus documentos en formato electrónico, pero su utilización se hace a través de internet lo que permite que muchas personas tengan acceso a libros que anteriormente les sería imposible. La biblioteca virtual Miguel de Cervantes es un buen ejemplo de como de funcionar este tipo de bibliotecas.


La escritura jeroglífica

 La escritura jeroglífica es el sistema de escritura más antigua que se conoce y que data del 3200 a. C. Fue utilizado por los antiguos egipcios para comunicarse desde la época predinástica hasta el siglo IV.

Su origen no está nada claro, aunque en el antiguo Egipto se creía que los jeroglíficos egipcios se debían al dios Toth, el señor de la escritura. Las inscripciones más antiguas de este sistema fueron encontradas en Hierápolis, al sur de Tebas en el 3000 a.C. Se trata de la conocida como Paleta de Narmer.

Jean Francois Champollion fue la primera persona capaz de desvelar los secretos de estos signos en 1822 gracias a los descifrados de los textos encontrados en la Piedra Rosetta, encontrada en 1795.

 La escritura jeroglífica era bastante compleja por lo que estaba limitado a una minoría. Los faraones, los sacerdotes, los oficiales del ejército, los funcionarios y los escribas podían leer y escribir mientras que  muy poca gente del pueblo tenía acceso al aprendizaje. Era algo más que  un método de comunicación ya que tenía un sentido mágico y religioso. El empleo de los jeroglíficos se limitaba a textos  religiosos, frescos funerarios; fórmulas de ofrendas, inscripciones oficiales, etc. (dominios  en que el valor estético y mágico adquirían relevancia).

Era sobre todo un signo de poder, un arte mágico reservado a la aristocracia. Realizar un jeroglífico, para un egipcio, significaba dar vida a algo. Escribir el nombre de una cosa en caracteres jeroglíficos en las paredes de una tumba  o escribir el nombre de un funcionario en una estatua, significaba dar a aquella cosa o persona una vida eterna. Por ejemplo, las creencias en su poder mágico llevaron a  muchos faraones a  querer borrar los rastros de sus antecesores mediante la destrucción de estos signos.

La escritura jeroglífica en un principio era exclusivamente figurativa y se enriqueció con el tiempo con signos que llevaban  hacia la escritura simbólica. En la época arcaica  egipcia había unos 700 jeroglíficos y más de 5000 en la etapa más tardía (período greco-romano). Los jeroglíficos  representan algo tangible. Representan elementos  reales o imaginarios  pero perfectamente reconocibles la mayor parte de las veces.

En un principio los símbolos se usaban  exclusivamente  para identificar  y celebrar  la figura del faraón. Después, a los funcionarios de la corte se les planteó el problema de utilizar la escritura para fines más prácticos y concretos; y fueron estas necesidades las que condujeron a los antiguos egipcios  a utilizar el papiro frente a la piedra o madera.


* Texto realizado por Garbiñe y Adrián Cadenas.


October 2016
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