Tag Archives: translator services

Google Offends Azerbaijan with Translation Errors

There’s no doubt that automated and computerized translation services are convenient when you’re doing a simple translation of a lyric you heard or something someone said to you in passing. However, time and again we are reminded that these automated translations often contain errors, and their translations shouldn’t be considered final. Even Google translate can make serious errors in its translations, which is what has Azerbaijan citizens up in arms. Google translate makes grave errors when translating simple geographical names related to Azerbaijan.

Google is Incorrectly Naming Azerbaijan Cities in its Translation

When translated into Russian, the names of certain geographical locations in Azerbaijan are seriously incorrect. In many separate cases, the city of Baku was translated into “Istanbul” and Azerbaijan was translated into “Turkey.” These are separate areas entirely, and they should not be confused with Azerbaijan or its cities. The ambivalent translator service obviously didn’t mean to offend anyone in the translation, but Azerbaijan citizens are offended that their country would be so easily confused with another.

Some Worry that the Mistakes are Intentional

Raed Alekperli is the technical director of Azerbaijan’s Delta Telecom, which is essentially the backbone of the Internet there. He explained that he was worried the incorrect translations were actually a prank pulled by Azerbaijan’s ill-wishers. Since users can interactively help Google translate “learn” different translations, people might have purposely called correct translations incorrect, and changed them to offend the people of the country. While there’s no way of proving this, it certainly calls out one of the major flaws in Google’s crowdsourced translations. Instead of having a single professional translator create the database, Google allows its users to have a say in the translations. Crowdsourcing translations can usually lead to more accurate results and a larger database, but Alekperli is correct in worrying about people using the ability for evil instead of good. The anonymity of the Internet can make people do mean things for no reason.

The Google translate errors in regards to Azerbaijan won’t cause a world war or any serious scuffles, but it definitely draws attention to and reminds us of the flaws of automated translation. It goes to show that if you need to make a serious business or technical translation for your company or business, hiring a professional translation service would be wiser than entering your thoughts into Google translate. It’s easy to offend people with grossly incorrect translations.


Japanese App Translates Phone Conversations in Real Time

In the United States, a recent trial release by AT&T allows English-speaking customers to speak with Spanish-speaking customers in real-time with a text translation app. The technology is sure to bridge common language barriers in the United States. Because Japan has similar language issues in their country, they have developed a very similar app called the DoCoMo Translation App. Since the app was developed in Japan, one member of the conversation needs to be speaking Japanese to use the translation services. The other member of the conversation can be speaking one of thirteen other available languages available for translation with the app.

The App Works in Two Modes

Unlike the text translation app released by AT&T in the United States, the DoCoMo translation app has two modes of use. The first mode is the text translation, similar to the AT&T version. Users can see their texting conversations translated in real time, and they can check to make sure their text has been translated properly. This is much more convenient that reverting to translator services such as Google translate to have a conversation with someone that speaks another language. Additionally, users can actually have translated spoken conversations over the phone. There is a two-second lag time for each translated phrase, but this delay is nothing compared to other translation options. Users also won’t know if their phrase has been translated the way they intended, so there’s some room for error.

Still in Development to Correct Errors

While the translation in the conversation mode is decent, it wouldn’t be recommended for important calls or business meetings. Even though it will get some phrases correct, the uncertainty about whether or not your sentence was translated correctly is enough to prevent many people from using it. Until these errors are fixed and there is a better chance that each translation will be correct, the conversation translation is not ideal for important talks. For serious conversations, a professional translator would be a more sound choice.

Once the DoCoMo translation app has corrected some of its errors, it will be an excellent travel companion or even a perfect tool for people anywhere in the world hosting Japanese guests. However, if you’re working on a multi-million dollar business deal with people from Japan, you should still always look into professional translation services before using a Smartphone app, because the threshold for error will always be high.

Vancouver Schools Lack Translation Services

In most cities, there is one language that is considered the native one, and maybe a one or two others that many residents speak. However, these other languages are usually the minority languages. Some cities, such as Vancouver, Washington, have a lot more languages that are spoken on a regular basis, and there are too many minority languages to count. Since this is the case in Vancouver, parents of children in the Vancouver school system have been struggling to find a solution. Most of these families cannot communicate with school officials, and translation services are not provided. Although, with so many languages being spoken, it’s no wonder the school cannot translate each.

Lack of Translation Poses a Serious Problem

Especially for students in elementary schools, communication between their parents and teachers is an essential part of their learning experience. Many learning problems or learning strengths can be called out during these years, and it’s important for parents to know which to foster and which to help their child deal with. If parents cannot effectively communicate with their children’s’ teachers, they cannot help. At one elementary school in Vancouver, there are more than 32 languages spoken by families of students in the school. Ideally, the school would offer a professional translation service for these families, but there are simply too many to accommodate.

Current Solutions are Not Ideal

Currently in the Vancouver school system, there are a few ways that teachers communicate with ESL parents, but these methods of communication are less than ideal. First, parents who are part of larger groups that speak the same language can all visit teachers at the same time with a professional translator. However, this does not provide one-on-one time with teachers and parents, so the meetings are not as valuable. Teachers also have their students translate newsletters and notes to be sent home, but then there is no discretion when it comes to the information that the teacher is passing along. Some teachers ask parents to bring along family members to translate, but such coordination is difficult.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for the translation problem in Vancouver, but the school system is actively working on improving it. While they don’t offer translator services for parents on the spot, these parents can plan ahead and hire a professional translator for meetings with their child’s teachers at the school’s expense if they feel that it’s necessary.

New InterpreTravel App Has its Flaws

For the most part, everyone knows that human translation is far superior to automated or computerized translation services. Humans are able to find out what context the original words are in, and they can use that content to more accurately determine what information is being relayed. Many people and businesses around the world fall victim to the convenience of computerized translation services without realizing how inaccurate and possibly offensive the translations can turn out. However, there are drawbacks to some human translation services, and those drawbacks are clearly portrayed in the new translation app by InterpreTravel.

Translation App has Lag Time

InterpreTravel’s app is specifically designed with travelers in mind. Instead of fumbling with their phones and using Google translate to communicate with people speaking a foreign language, users can use the app to connect with a live translator over the phone. While the professional translator will certainly be able to help them over the phone, there is down time while the service connects to a live person. As with any phone call, the user must wait until the translator on the other end picks up the phone, and then they’ll have to wait again once they are making their translation. If you are a traveler quickly hopping into a cab or trying to figure out what someone is saying in an urgent situation, this lag time is unacceptable.

App Can’t Translate Text

In addition to taking a moment to connect, the InterpreTravel app also can only translate the spoken word. Since the translators are helping users over the phone, the users (or the angry cab drivers waiting for their fare) must speak the language into the phone. For people who have no experience with the foreign language, this can be extremely difficult. Though computerized translator services are not always accurate, at least you can copy and paste a body of text without having to say it out loud.

Human translators are most definitely superior to computer ones, and the InterpreTravel app is on the right track. However, there are flaws with any human professional translation service that don’t make it the ideal travel companion. If you need professional translation abroad, you should consider hiring a service that you can call upon at any time for a translation. That way, you don’t need to go through the third party app, and calling directly could save you time in urgent situations.

The Perils of Translating a Speech on Live TV

Usually, professional translators have a few days or at least a few hours to translate important information for the general masses. However, a recent speech by Aung San Suu Kyi was broadcasted in an arena in Indiana, and the entire speech was in Burmese. The speech was translated in real time so that captions were presented on the arena’s screen, which proved to be a serious feat of technology and translation. To translate the speech in real time on the arena screens, a team of camera operators, transcribers and a translator needed to work together from different locations. Overall, the translation of the speech went off without a hitch. But the entire event showed just how complex the task of translation could become.


The Translator had an Especially Challenging Task

The speech’s translator, linguist Aye-Nu Duerksen, was picked by the Burmese politician’s welcoming committee. She was chosen for her language abilities in both Burmese and English, which would prove necessary talents for the translation. Duerksen sat at the arena and translated the speech as it was happening over the phone to a transcription team in Boston. Though the speech would air in Indiana, Boston’s PBS station was tasked with creating quality subtitles, since they are known for their work in that area. Duerksen could not simply translate each sentence word for word. Instead, she had to wait until each sentence was complete, and then quickly state the phrase before the next began. One of her of colleagues described the translation as mental gymnastics. Real-time professional translation, especially when the language is vastly different, can be extremely complex.


The Only Mistake was a Technological Error

Amazingly, Duerksen’s translation was fast and accurate. The only problem arose when her phone was disconnected from the offices in Boston. This error goes to show that translation on its own is a complex task, and when technology is added to the mix, it becomes downright demanding. Her phone was disconnected, so she was unable to tell the team in Boston what was being said, and they were unable to broadcast the captions to the team at the arena, which was unable to display the captions on the live feed. The translation services provided that night were more like a 007 mission.

Sometimes, translator services must go above and beyond the call of duty to help people cross language barriers and understand each other on the same level.

New Service Combines Live Translators and Technology

While many people agree that having a live translator on hand is preferable over using a computerized translation service, it’s not easy or cheap to drag a professional translator along every time you go abroad. Services such as Google translate and pocket translators work when you need a single word translated, but they’re far from perfect when you’re trying to have a professional communication in a different language. With this in mind, a new company called Babelverse took the initiative to combine the value of live translation with the convenience of technology to create a mobile app for serious translation needs.

Translators are On Call 24/7

When you use the Babelverse app, you are tapping into a network of translators from around the world. In its development, the creators organized the app to separate these translators by their language abilities and their availability. So, if you need a Spanish translator at 11:00pm on a Sunday, the app will find one for you and connect you so that you can talk over the phone. In the promotional video for the app, a German man is depicted walking into a pharmacy. Since the pharmacist only speaks English, he uses Babelverse to communicate with the pharmacist flawlessly. Obviously, this situation could be a dangerous one without accurate translation.

Babelverse has Already Been Put to the Ultimate Test

Helping people in their daily lives is certainly a major goal of Babelverse, but it has already been used to help people in a national emergency. During the tsunami in Japan, Babelverse assembled a network of volunteer translators. These translators helped emergency crews, medical teams and even reporters understand what the victims and local news crews were saying. No other translator services could have assembled so quickly to help. Clearly, the ability for the service to be used in such dire times of need speaks to its accuracy and usability.

There are benefits and drawbacks to live translation and computerized translation. While live translation is certainly more accurate and emotional than computerized translation, computerized translation services are easier to access in a hurry. Babelverse has combined the best of both worlds with their new translation service. Since you don’t know which translator you’re being connected to, quality control might be an issue. If your business needs a translator, hiring a professional service might be better, but Babelverse is ideal for travelers in a pinch.

New Website Makes Education and Translation Simultaneous

Online Education written on LCD

When you need to translate an entire webpage, you’d usually use one of many quick online translation services that generate a computerized translation. While you might get the general gist of the site, you’ll miss out on any subtleties or innuendos in the language that could really add to the content. A new start-up website called Duolingo looks to solve that problem. The website’s creed is that, even if the translator is just learning the language, a human translation is superior to that of a machine.

Translating the Web with Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the process of outsourcing a task to a large number of individuals, usually on the Internet. With Duolingo, people who are trying to learn a language can practice their skills by translating websites to the language that they are learning. However, the site isn’t just for education. These translated sites are then made available to people searching for a website in their native language. The labor is free, and the process benefits both the translators and the users. So far, content on Duolingo is only available for English, French, Spanish and German translation.

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Users Already have Big Projects

Wikipedia has almost four million articles that are in English and only approximately one million in every other language. Wikipedia already uses crowdsourcing for its content, so it makes sense that Duolingo would take it on for its first major challenge. Even the New York Times has started experimenting with Duolingo as the means for translating its content into other languages. If the company were to hire translator services for every one of its articles, the cost would certainly begin to rack up.

While you might get a more accurate translation of a website by using a professional translation service, you’re certainly getting a better one than if you had used a simple robot translator. Humans, even at the most basic level, can understand contextual subtleties, which a computer cannot. The new website will make the translation process a learning experience for those just starting to study a new language, and it will make translation services more accessible to people around the world. Combining the processes of learning and translating creates a method that is beneficial to countless people, so even if Duolingo doesn’t provide the highest quality or most flawlessly accurate translation, it will still deliver value in a different way.

A Pair of Glasses that Shows You Subtitles

When traveling abroad or meeting people from foreign countries, modern technology has made it easier than ever to communicate without language barriers. Instead of learning the language before we visit a country, we can simply bring our smartphone along and translate the conversation as we are engaged in it with one of the many translator services provided on the web or as an app. In fact, real-time translation might be even easier now with the invention of a new form of revolutionary translation technology. Instead of looking down at our phones to see the translation, a set of subtitles will appear before our eyes.


New Invention Combines Existing Technology

The invention, called the Vuvix 1200 Star glasses, is not entirely novel. Essentially, the glasses combine the powers of two small computers, a Jawbone Bluetooth microphone, a TV, an iPhone, an iPad, a headset microphone and a transformer. Clearly, the design is not exactly portable yet. However, it certainly paves the way for similar technology in translation services that you can someday travel with. Right now, the device is only useful for one-on-one conversation. As technology improves and all of the devices get smaller and more efficient, the glasses could be worn even at a major event and they could still translate the spoken words in real time.


Real-Time Subtitles Might Hinder Language Education

While the subtitle glasses will certainly bridge the gaps caused by language barriers both domestically and abroad, they might also affect people’s drive to learn new languages. If you were taking a long trip to Germany, for example, you’d probably focus and spend a lot of time learning German before your journey. Then you’d be able to fully immerse yourself in the culture upon your arrival, even if you did need to whip out your pocket German translator every now and then. These glasses might prevent people from feeling the need to educate themselves, as they are essentially the easy way out.

While the future of translation technology such as the Vuvix glasses might have a negative affect on whether or not people learn new languages for vacations abroad, they will certainly provide benefits to companies or individuals who deal with international business partners. Instead of learning every language or hiring a traveling professional translator for every overseas business meeting, international businessmen can simply wear these glasses to understand every aspect of the new business deal in real-time. Until that day comes though, a professional translator is obviously a more appropriate strategy.

Language Debate Sparked by Voting Ballots in WI

The United States is a melting pot of many different cultures and peoples. While English is the official language of the United States, nearly one in every five Americans speak another language at home. Whether or not these citizens speak English does not change the fact that they are still citizens, and they have the right to vote. This concept has brought up a dilemma in Wisconsin, where most ballots do not provide a translation for non-English speaking citizens. Some officials feel that non-English speaking citizens should be provided with translation services or additional ballots to ensure that they are given an equal right. Others feel that doing so slows the assimilation process. Both sides of the argument are valid and can be applied to the United States at large.

Some Cities Translate Ballots

Milwaukee voting centers do provide translated ballots and even hire bilingual poll workers to help accommodate those who do not speak English as their first language. Other towns, such as Appleton, actually have community members who volunteer to help non-English speakers navigate the polls so that their voice can be heard. When there is no support or translations available, many people who do not speak English bring along their younger family members to vote for them. While hiring a professional translator to work at every poll would certainly be expensive, many people believe that smaller cities should at least provide translated paper ballots.

Translation Services at the Polls Don’t Solve the Problem

While offering a translated ballot at the polls would help non-English speaking citizens in the moment, it doesn’t solve the larger problem of language barriers in the United States. Many officials feel that, since English is the official language of the U.S., the government should instead focus on providing education resources to help assimilate people into the culture. If they can’t get any help at the ballot, they might be pushed to take action and learn the language of the country in which they reside as opposed to relying on translator services.

The problem is not one that can be solved without further debate, but is certainly one that pertains to the entire U.S. Spanish-speaking people who make up a huge part of our country, so at what point should they stop using a Spanish translator and learn the English language? The question will likely be up for debate for many years to come.

Translation Volunteers Make an Impact on Online Education

When Amara was founded in 2010, its intent was to provide free professional translation services in the form of subtitles to online videos in order to “break down political, social, and cultural barriers” around the world.  Since then, their translation volunteers have added subtitles to over 200,000 videos in 100 different languages.  Their success has allowed them to make more information available to more people.  They even donated their services to the famous KONY video, which hit the world by storm this year.  Now though, they are setting their sights on education, so that their subtitles can improve learning worldwide.

Amara Partners with Coursera and Khan Academy

In an effort to make online learning more accessible, organizations like Coursera and Khan Academy produce hundreds of thousands of educational videos and post them online for anyone to view.  Of course, with those videos being produced in English, they can’t reach a large part of global audiences.  Amara intends to solve this problem, by offering their free translation services and subtitling to those companies.  They have started the process of translating their videos, so you can already find some lectures in ten languages with more coming soon.

Amara Still Benefits by Offering Free Services

Although all of their translators are volunteers, Amara is by no means going broke.  With every video partner they make, they get shares in a booming industry.  In April alone, 181 million Americans viewed 37 billion videos online.  By adding their subtitles, they have a stake in the growth and profits of the companies creating those videos.  Their collaborations include PBS, TED, Netflix, and more, giants in the field of online video access and viewership.

Your YouTube Channel isn’t a Priority

Don’t get too excited about all those translator services though.  Amara won’t be hitting personal or commercial YouTube channels anytime soon, or likely ever for that matter.  They tend to stick with corporate video companies or globally-viewed educational programs meant to increase information access and awareness.  Luckily, with the interpretation industry hitting $33.5 billion dollars this year (an increase of $26 billion since 2009), there are plenty of translation companies out there willing to help you out.  Even though those services will most certainly not be free, for every language you add, your viewership and potential for money-making should increase tenfold.  Just make sure the message you’re conveying is one worth translating.