Challenges in Translation of Emotions in Multilingual User-Generated Content: Twitter as a Case Study

20 Jun 2021  ·  Hadeel Saadany, Constantin Orasan, Rocio Caro Quintana, Felix Do Carmo, Leonardo Zilio ·

Although emotions are universal concepts, transferring the different shades of emotion from one language to another may not always be straightforward for human translators, let alone for machine translation systems. Moreover, the cognitive states are established by verbal explanations of experience which is shaped by both the verbal and cultural contexts. There are a number of verbal contexts where expression of emotions constitutes the pivotal component of the message. This is particularly true for User-Generated Content (UGC) which can be in the form of a review of a product or a service, a tweet, or a social media post. Recently, it has become common practice for multilingual websites such as Twitter to provide an automatic translation of UGC to reach out to their linguistically diverse users. In such scenarios, the process of translating the user's emotion is entirely automatic with no human intervention, neither for post-editing nor for accuracy checking. In this research, we assess whether automatic translation tools can be a successful real-life utility in transferring emotion in user-generated multilingual data such as tweets. We show that there are linguistic phenomena specific of Twitter data that pose a challenge in translation of emotions in different languages. We summarise these challenges in a list of linguistic features and show how frequent these features are in different language pairs. We also assess the capacity of commonly used methods for evaluating the performance of an MT system with respect to the preservation of emotion in the source text.

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