25 Apr /13

iSuck @ Transl8ing – translation apps

As much as ten years ago laptops began replacing desktops, tablets and smartphones are now starting to replace laptops as the go-to device for portable media solutions. Mobile devices have quickly gone from quirky novelties to essential hardware as we now use them to keep up with our business schedules, manage our finances, conduct research, access our favorite music, games, and shows, all the while connecting us to our friends and family. Beyond those essential functions, smartphones and tablets, of course, also offer users an incredible amount of practical and, let’s say, creative apps that cater to every imaginable pastime.

Translation apps presumably are part of the first group and mobile devices have, indeed, triggered great leaps in translation technology. A couple of years ago, users were typing foreign phrases into translation engines on their desktops and more likely than not received a convoluted mess of letters and number as a suggested translation. Now, users are able to take devices with them wherever they go and translate simply by speaking into their smartphones, recording sound bites, or even by taking pictures of foreign language texts. The big question however is, did the quality of translations that smartphones can provide also improve, or do these advanced apps leave the user equally puzzled as the good old desktop translation engines?

Here is a look at some of the more popular translation apps for mobile devices and their usability:

  •  iTranslate- Aptly named, this app has many features and provides translation assistance in numerous forms, including spoken word and voice recognition, even taking into consideration regional dialects.
  •  Google Translate– Google can translate written text into over 60 languages and currently offers translation of voice recordings into 15 languages, making it one of the most popular and multi-layered applications.
  • Word Lens– This app allows language translation of written and spoken texts. Uniquely, it also allows users to upload images to be analyzed and then translated; however, it currently only supports 24 languages.
  •  Translate Professional– Although the free version of this app is somewhat limited, add-ons ranging from voice recognition to offline phrasebooks can be purchased individually to give a full translation and learning experience.

Overall, there are numerous language translation apps for mobile devices, each offering a somewhat different approach to mobile translation solutions. Many of them provide useful introductory services that can help travelers get around in a foreign environment and ensure a basic level of language proficiency. Nonetheless, as with all computer-based translation softwares, there are limitations. One of the big issues with electronic translation programs is their inability to correctly interpret colloquialisms, pick up alternative, subtle, or double meanings, and utilize proper word placement for optimal understanding. Because of this, translation apps can be considered useful in situations where language is important, yet not essential, such as for personal travel and personal conversation scenarios.

They are ideal for helping users make reservations, ask for directions or ordering a meal in a local restaurant. However, for situations where selecting and using the specific, proper language is of the utmost importance, such as business negotiations and legal texts, a translation app is woefully inadequate. As a matter of fact, any specialized written text, from contracts to engineering manuals, should never even be attempted to be translated with a mobile application. In the strict language of business, electronic devices and the apps that they use will never be able to compete with a competent, analytical human translator who not only fully understands the nuances of the text but has also been professionally trained for many years. In conclusion, it is fair to say that translation apps are marvelous tools that serve as useful aid in short interpersonal conversations, but translations that matter should always be done by a professionally trained human translator.

EVS Translations provides exactly that: professional language and translation services when it matters.