It’s amazing how fast machine translators are being developed. The quality of automatically translated texts is improving rapidly, which makes the machine translations more useful for several cases and situations. Constantly improving quality of machine translation has inspired people to invent some totally new and amazing translation technologies.
One of the most interesting new technology in the field of machine translators is a translator based on video. Camera translators are basically real-time translators translating the pieces of text shot with a video camera. Sounds weird, right? Well, it’s a bit difficult to really describe what these kinds of camera translators are, so it’s better if you just check this video representing one of those camera translators (called Word Lens):
Unfortunately there are still very limited group of languages supported in this new technology. English and Spanish seems to be working quite good already, but more languages are desperately needed to make this technology popular worldwide. Probably this will be changing but the pace of the development is a matter of crystal ball.
Communication between two friends who don’t speak the same language can become quite a dilemma. While human friends can learn to speak each others languages, it is much harder to find solution to the communication problem between human and his best friend, dog.
Luckily there are plenty of Gadget Mans to invent amazing technologies to solve this kind of universal issue. There is already technology, which translates barking into human language, available somewhere on this Globe. To be fair, I am already looking forward to see next some translator from “human” to “dog”, because real communication requires two-way interactions.
What about you.. What kind of translator are you looking forward to see next?
Let’s play with the thought of you having a fancy new technical equipment. It can be a digital camera, a mobile phone, a PDA or some other machine with many features. You have probably bought that ‘thing’ because you want to do something with it. Like almost always with high-tech, you may end up in a situation where you don’t have a clue how to do something you want with that gadget.
So what would you do when you don’t know how to use the new machine? Trying your luck by pushing different buttons is a potential option. I admit that this is usually the first choice for me. Sometimes it is the easiest way but the outcome of random clicking is unsure. No one wants to mess up or break a totally new tool. Thus it might be the best to just open the heavy user manual. Luckily nowadays those manuals are almost always available in digital format, like in PDF files, and ‘find’-command can be used to scan the document.
What would you do if the user manual ”sólo habla español” or “puhuu vain suomea”? Not an easy situation specially if you are in a hurry to find a solution to your problem. If the manual is digitally available in PDF format which is widely established format for product information, it could be reasonable to translate the PDF document with an automatic translator to be able to understand something from the manual. PDF translators are developing constantly, and more and more attention is given to the quality of machine translation. Even today the quality is good enough for understanding the meaning of the text. Thanks to global online markets, foreign-language manuals are more and more common.
Unfortunately, no matter how good the translation is, it doesn’t fully guarantee that you would be able to understand the manual. There is still the common user manual issue of too complex expressions and difficult sentence structures. User manuals have truly earned their reputation of not being so reader-friendly documents. Too often one would desperately need a translator from technical “engineer language” to spoken language, right?
Proofreading is probably the most annoying task when one is writing any piece of text. One reason for this might be that proofreading is usually the last task before the job is done. Other aspect is the uncertain benefits of proofreading; it can be totally pointless job if there’s nothing to fix or if you are blind for your own mistakes.
The oppressive feeling that if you do check the text properly then there’s nothing to fix, and if you just skim the text superficially then it will be full of typos and misspellings, can be incapacitating. Luckily there’s Muphry’s law to make it sure that this feeling won’t be wasted.
Muphry’s law ensures that if you write with a critical voice anything about proofreading, there will be some faults in your text. Muphry’s law is as versatile as its ancestor Murphy’s law which states: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Muphry’s law (according to John Bangsund) indicates at least four ways: (a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written; (b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book; (c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault; (d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent (source).
In spite of the fact that Muphry’s law is unfair and irritating, it’s somehow comforting that Muphry’s law exists. I mean that it’s nice to know that the phenomenon is so well known that it has a name. It doesn’t concern just me or you; it’s a common fact. In-depth proofreading, which is made preferably by someone else than the writer, is the strongest shield against this ruthless law.
Machine translation refers to a piece of text which have been written again from one language into another language by a machine. Nowadays the term ‘machine’ is usually the same as computer in this context. Because, unlike Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM at that time, famously stated in 1943, computers have become the most important tools in many aspects of human life and because machine translation is relatively new term, it is useful to explain the concept a little more.
Practically speaking, machine translations are made with the help of an existing translation memory. This kind of memory can be a lot of things, but basically it is a file containing the same text written in more than one languages. For example any electronic dictionary can be used as a translation memory. Machine translator then uses the memory as a source for translations. This evidently leads to the situation where the more comprehensive the translation memory the better the translation quality.
Computers can perform machine translation with or without an Internet connection. Perhaps the most known online machine translation provider is Google with its free Google Translate -service. Online machine translation can utilize online translation memory while offline machine translators must have their own memory. Both of these methods have their pros and counts: online memory can be very huge and automatically updated, but at the same time they are public and no one can really control them. Offline memories on the other hand can be strictly controlled by the user but they have to be manually collected and updated.
This was a very short overview of machine translation. If you want to take a deeper look at the world of machine translation, you can read the article in Wikipedia for example.
How would you define the term ‘machine translation’?
Apparently it is possible to work as a translator without any knowledge of foreign languages. As absurd as it sounds there was a Chinese man who translated Western classics into Chinese without being able to understand the original texts. Although he spoke only Chinese, Lin Shu has managed to collect all the credits and honour of being a valued translator.
Lin Shu worked as a translator in China in early 20th century. Originally he was tricked to do translation work by his friends. Work was their way to distract his mind from grieving the death of his wife.
Lin Shu’s translation method was undeniable genius. He knew people who understood different languages and he let them interpret the foreign texts to him. Lin Shu just listened and wrote down what he had heard. This is really a great example of specialization and outsourcing. Lin Shu did what he knew best (Chinese) and others offered the key to understand the key messages of the original literature.
Lin Shu is said to be the one who introduced Western literature to the Chinese people. Not a bad title to a man who couldn’t read a word in any of the Western languages.
This case proves that an excellent translator needs more than just language and translator skills. Translator should be able to catch the core message into his or her text. A great translation is more than just a translation.