Much lost in translation with Translate It!

Aug 21, 2009
Education

Not all English speakers are adept at foreign languages, and the Translate It! app can provide some assistance in limited situations. The app’s bugs, however, could force you to scream profanities in any language. To use Translate It!, you choose the languages you are translating to and from via side-by-side scroll-down menus. Then switch screens to enter […]

Not all English speakers are adept at foreign languages, and the Translate It! app can provide some assistance in limited situations. The app’s bugs, however, could force you to scream profanities in any language.

To use Translate It!, you choose the languages you are translating to and from via side-by-side scroll-down menus. Then switch screens to enter the word or phrase you want translated on the keyboard and the translated text shows up in a colored bubble to the right of your original entry.

For short simple niceties, Translate It! works fine.  Just don’t ask it to do too much.

The engine that drives this app is Google Translate, which is a machine generated translation engine. These engines translate literally word-for-word, which is not the way humans naturally speak. The more words you Translate It! in a phrase, the less chance you have of an understandable phrase in the destination language.  Another shortcoming is dealing with non-English characters and words that are not spelled phonetically.

When translating into Asian kanji-character-based languages, you get local language output without any instruction on how to pronounce foreign characters. Unless you change your keyboard, there is no way to input foreign language characters to translate back into English if you’re looking at foreign signs, etc.  Although the creator of Translate It! claims to support 41 different languages, not all of them work. Even some of the simplest phrases aren’t translated.

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Translate It! is great for translating worlds like hi, bye, please and thank you in some languages, but you might not be able to count on it for much more.

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Mike Muth

Michael Muth is a writer, consultant, & speaker focused on international business.  Read what he has to say on global issues @MidwestBusiness.com, his international business bloge-booksnewsletters, & podcasts.

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