It’s really quite good. Here is a chinese translation of an article by John D. Cook. I have no idea who did it but it certainly does not read like it was done by a machine. For example the chinese version did not try to translate the key phrase “just in case” and “just in time” – thus losing some points for artistic merit – but used the literal meaning. Now feed the article into google translate and do a line by line comparison with Cook’s original article and you’ll see it works very well.
What’s interesting is how errors often made by chinese-speaking people when they using english, surfaces. For example the second half of the first sentence:
literally in chinese is “You will learn what?” Of course we do it should be rendered as “What will you learn?”
was translated “This is because there are too many really do not need things.” A better translation might be replacing “really do not need” by the word redundant, or again by switching the order around “too many things that are not needed.”
So it seems that some work need to be done to come up with a good inanimate translator. The differences like noun followed by adjectives in French need to be taken care of when translating to English.