Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Want Low-Quality Translation? There's An App For That!

We've already looked at speech recognition technology but what about apps that translate? There are several available for various smartphones: iPhones, Android or even Windows... but are they any good? The short answer... no. The long answer... nooooooooo.


Well firstly, they aren't people. People make good translators... currently, machines do not. Why do people translate better than machines? It's because people understand. Machines can't understand. They can cross-reference words and certain patterns together, but have little understanding of context and connotation, and struggle with complicated sentence structures.

Apps are no match for a professional translator and these.

Secondly, the people who make these apps, as impressive as they are, exaggerate their capabilities. Perhaps it's more of a problem with marketing department rather than the linguists and developers who actually make the app. In adverts, you see seemingly genius translations of road signs into English. However, if you read the "original" sign, it turns out to be complete gibberish. A fake sign used to make the app look better.

Finally, the machines can't read and find it difficult to understand speech (read about our distrust of speech recognition here). If you've ever put your password in incorrectly and had to use a "captcha", that's to prove you are human, since machines struggle with obscure fonts and words. They are getting better, though. Half the time we can barely read those things... though that might be the booze.

"I may be cute, but I suck balls at translating."

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