HiT-IT: Invited speakers

Preslav Nakov, Qatar Computing Research Institute, HBKU, Qatar

Invited talk: Why are Computers (Still) Bad Translators?

Everybody who has used machine translation knows that it is still not at the level of human translations in terms of quality. This raises a number of interesting questions, which I will explore in this talk: Why are computers (still) bad translators? What makes automatic translation hard? How do computers perform translation nowadays? Should we expect a revolutionary breakthrough anytime soon; if so, where could it come from? Would the day come when computers will be able to replace human translators completely?


Dr. Preslav Nakov is a Senior Scientist at the Qatar Computing Research Institute, HBKU. His research interests include computational linguistics and natural language processing (for English, Arabic and other languages), machine translation, question answering, fact-checking, sentiment analysis, lexical semantics, Web as a corpus, and biomedical text processing.

Preslav Nakov co-authored a Morgan & Claypool book on Semantic Relations between Nominals, two books on computer algorithms, and many research papers in top-tier conferences and journals. He received the Young Researcher Award at RANLP’2011. He was also the first to receive the Bulgarian President’s John Atanasoff award, named after the inventor of the first automatic electronic digital computer.

Preslav Nakov is Secretary of ACL SIGLEX, the Special Interest Group on the Lexicon of the Association for Computational Linguistics. He is also a Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Natural Language Engineering, an Associate Editor of the AI Communications journal, and an Editorial Board member of the Language Science Press Book Series on Phraseology and Multiword Expressions. He served on the program committees of the major conferences and workshops in computational linguistics, including as a co-organizer and as an area/publication/tutorial/shared task chair, Senior PC member, student faculty advisor, etc.; he co-chaired SemEval 2014-2016 and was an area co-chair of ACL, EMNLP, NAACL-HLT, and *SEM, a Senior PC member of IJCAI, and a shared task co-chair of IJCNLP’2017.

Preslav Nakov received a PhD degree in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley (supported by a Fulbright grant and a UC Berkeley fellowship), and a MSc degree from the Sofia University. He was a Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore, a honorary lecturer in the Sofia University, and a research staff in the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Ruslan Mitkov, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Invited talk: The translation world and beyond… What’s next? Don’t get me wrong…

We witnessed the birth of the modern computer between 1943 and 1946; it was not long after that Warren Weaver wrote his famous memorandum in 1949 suggesting that translation by machine would be possible. Weaver’s dream did not quite come true: while automatic translation went on to work reasonably in some scenarios and to do well for gisting purposes, even today, against the background of the latest promising results delivered by statistical Machine Translation (MT) systems such as Google Translate and latest developments in Neural Machine Translation and in general Deep Learning for MT, automatic translation gets it often wrong and is not good enough for professional translation. Consequently, there has been a pressing need for a new generation of tools for professional translators to assist them reliably and speed up the translation process. First Krollman put forward the reuse of existing human translations in 1971. A few years later, in 1979 Arthern went further and proposed the retrieval and reuse not only of identical text fragments (exact matches) but also of similar source sentences and their translations (fuzzy matches). It took another decade before the ideas sketched by Krollman and Arthern were commercialised as a result of the development of various computer-aided translation (CAT) tools such as Translation Memory (TM) systems in the early 1990s. These translation tools revolutionised the work of translators and the last two decades saw dramatic changes in the translation workflow.

The TM memory systems indeed revolutionised the work of translators and now the translators not benefiting from these tools are a tiny minority. However, while these tools have proven to be very efficient for repetitive and voluminous texts, are they intelligent enough? Unfortunately, they operate on fuzzy (surface) matching mostly, cannot benefit from already translated texts which are synonymous to (or paraphrased versions of) the text to be translated and can be ‘fooled’ on numerous occasions.

What is next in the translation world? We cannot get it wrong as we cannot let the translation go wrong: it is obvious that the next generation of TM systems will have to be more intelligent. A way forward would be to equip the TM tools with Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities. NLP can come to help and propose solutions towards addressing this objective. The invited talk will present recent and latest work by the speaker and his colleagues from the Research Group in Computational Linguistics at the University of Wolverhampton in achieving this. More specifically, the speaker will explain how two NLP methods/tasks, namely paraphrasing and clause splitting, make it possible for TM systems to identify semantically equivalent sentences which are not necessarily identical or close syntactically and enhance performance. The first evaluation results of this new generation TM matching technology are already promising….

The speaker promises to go beyond the translation world: he is already thinking not only about the next-generation translation memory tools for translators but also about the future interpretation memory (as well as NLP-inspired) tools for interpreters.


Prof. Dr. Ruslan Mitkov has been working in Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computational Linguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Machine Translation, Translation Technology and related areas since the early 1980s. Whereas Prof. Mitkov is best known for his seminal contributions to the areas of anaphora resolution and automatic generation of multiple-choice tests, his extensively cited research (more than 240 publications including 14 books, 35 journal articles and 36 book chapters) also covers topics such as machine translation, translation memory and translation technology in general, bilingual term extraction, automatic identification of cognates and false friends, natural language generation, automatic summarisation, computer-aided language processing, centering, evaluation, corpus annotation, NLP-driven corpus-based study of translation universals, text simplification, NLP for people with language disabilities and computational phraseology. Mitkov is author of the monograph Anaphora resolution (Longman) and Editor of the most successful Oxford University Press Handbook – The Oxford Handbook of Computational Linguistics. Current prestigious projects include his role as Executive Editor of the Journal of Natural Language Engineering published by Cambridge University Press and Editor-in-Chief of the Natural Language Processing book series of John Benjamins publishers. Dr. Mitkov is also working on the forthcoming Oxford Dictionary of Computational Linguistics (Oxford University Press, co-authored with Patrick Hanks) and the forthcoming second, substantially revised edition of the Oxford Handbook of Computational Linguistics. Prof. Mitkov has been invited as a keynote speaker at a number of international conferences including conferences on translation and translation technology. He has acted as Programme Chair of various international conferences on Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Translation, Translation Technology, Translation Studies, Corpus Linguistics and Anaphora Resolution. He is asked on a regular basis to review for leading international funding bodies and organisations and to act as a referee for applications for Professorships both in North America and Europe. Ruslan Mitkov is regularly asked to review for leading journals, publishers and conferences and serve as a member of Programme Committees or Editorial Boards. Prof. Mitkov has been an external examiner of many doctoral theses and curricula in the UK and abroad, including Master’s programmes related to NLP, Translation and Translation Technology. Dr. Mitkov has considerable external funding to his credit (more than є 20,000,000) and is currently acting as Principal Investigator of several large projects, some of which are funded by UK research councils, by the EC as well as by companies and users from the UK and USA. Ruslan Mitkov received his MSc from the Humboldt University in Berlin, his PhD from the Technical University in Dresden and worked as a Research Professor at the Institute of Mathematics, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia. Mitkov is Professor of Computational Linguistics and Language Engineering at the University of Wolverhampton which he joined in 1995 and where he set up the Research Group in Computational Linguistics. His Research Group has emerged as an internationally leading unit in applied Natural Language Processing and members of the group have won awards in different NLP/shared-task competitions. In addition to being Head of the Research Group in Computational Linguistics, Prof. Mitkov is also Director of the Research Institute in Information and Language Processing. The Research Institute consists of the Research Group in Computational Linguistics and the Research Group in Statistical Cybermetrics, which is another top performer internationally. Ruslan Mitkov is Vice President of ASLING, an international Association for promoting Language Technology. Dr. Mitkov is a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany and was invited as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, France; he also serves as Vice-Chair for the prestigious EC funding programme ‘Future and Emerging Technologies’. In recognition of his outstanding professional/research achievements, Prof. Mitkov was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa at Plovdiv University in November 2011. At the end of October 2014 Dr. Mitkov was also conferred Professor Honoris Causa at Veliko Tarnovo University.