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April 26, 2001

Filtering of Reason

While the title sounds like the treatise of a philosophical tract, it is in fact the result of machine translation of Développement d'applications avec Objective CAML from French to English. As you know, I've been studying OCaml, a functional language developed in France. This book is published by the French arm of O'Reilly and Associates, famed for their technical books. They placed the book online, but announced that they had no plans to translate it into English.

I however, wanted to read something other than the reference manual, and the book on CAML that I bought, The Functional Approach to Programming, covers a much earlier version of the language. So I had a brilliant idea, and decided to go to Google and find the book online. The reason is that Google is offering a beta version of their own machine translation service, similar to Babelfish, but with more output. Babelfish cuts off translation after 5Kb, while Google seems to give more than 20Kb.

So I tried it, and it works, and I'm reading the book. But there are of course majorly awkward translations of sentences, and sometimes charming ones. In many functional languages, there is support for selecting actions based on patterns of data. This facility is uniformly referred to as pattern matching. In the online book, they refer parenthetically to this term, but use their own French term (Filtrage de motif), which when translated, becomes the filtering of reason.

There is a volunteer effort underway to translate the online version of the book from French to English. Work is slow, since volunteers must be fluent in French and English and OCaml. I look forward to the final results, but I'm glad I didn't wait. If I had, I would never have encountered the filtering of reason.

Posted by dpwakefield at April 26, 2001 08:52 AM