Have you ever sat in a restaurant while you’re on holiday abroad and looked hopefully around for a copy of the menu in English? Slight panic sets in when you realize there isn’t one and you haven’t the faintest idea what any of the dishes are on the menu. Well panic no more, as some new technology is on its way to help!
The Japanese, known for their love of gadgets, have invented some spy-like translation glasses. Working in real time, the muddled letters of the foreign menu in front of you will suddenly be translated clearly into your own language.
Using an interactive ring that transmits hand movements back to the glasses, you can also manipulate virtual images projected on a flat surface by way of a simulated touchscreen and ‘touch’ tags that only you can see.
If that’s not enough to convince you to sign up at MI6, they even include a facial recognition feature. Yes, really. So if you want to know someone’s name, what they do for a living and a few other personal details, just don a pair of these spy-like specs to get your insider information.
Let’s get back to that menu though, before you get dizzy from hunger. These Intelligent Glasses will translate the text on the page right before your very eyes, as you read it. With the prototype being able to translate Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English languages, the researchers are looking to launch this translation technology in 2020. After completing their list of modifications, that should leave them with plenty of time to make the glasses look as cool as they sound!
Do you think this type of translation technology will take off and what other scenarios would these glasses be useful for other than being able to help you with ordering your next meal?
Alice and Damian had been in a relationship for a few years now and, like any couple, spent a fair amount of time with each other´s relatives for family meals, celebrations or casual visits. For Alice though, this wasn´t always an easy affair as Damian´s family was Spanish on his mum´s side. Having taken a year of basic Spanish in school, Alice had been able to make initial gestures towards conversations when she´d first met his family, but her vocabulary was somewhat limited to say the least. When their relationship had become more serious, Alice had travelled to Barcelona to take a brief but intensive Spanish course to try to build up her knowledge of the language and boost her confidence when speaking it. Now though, as time had passed and with little practice, Alice found that she had difficulty in recalling words and phrases, and was finding it harder to be included in conversations at family get-togethers.
So, she thought she´d better make an effort and take more of an active role with Damian´s family by looking for some refresher courses. Having made some enquires, Alice signed up for some recommended one-to-one Spanish classes in Bristol and looked forward to being taught by her native Spanish teacher. As she lived so close to the language centre, Alice was lucky enough to benefit from the teacher being able to visit her at home for the classes which was extremely convenient. The lessons were geared to be a continuation from Alice´s current level of Spanish and were more personal in their content, with much of the subject matter being focused on Damian´s family and on conversations that would be more likely to take place.
As her Spanish vocabulary broadened and she found it easier to get her tongue around certain phrases, Alice´s confidence increased again and she felt sure that she´d be able to hold her own during some of the family conversations. Now she could look forward to the next mealtime when she could sit and have a chat with Damian´s mum without having to use him as a translator!
Eddie Izzard, the quick-witted comedian known for his love of Europe and his alternative humour, is planning something a little daring and somewhat risky with his current tour.
Force Majeure, which commenced in March and will carry on into 2014, is a major comedy tour that will span 25 countries within all of the continents. The comedian has already shown his talents during this show in Germany, Latvia, Croatia, Turkey, Austria, Estonia, Scandinavia and Serbia. That´s formidable enough in itself as these countries haven´t hosted many British stand-up comedians, but that´s not nearly enough of a challenge to satisfy the demands of this intrepid comedian! Eddie Izzard is looking to perform his show in no less than five other languages. That´s right, five. He already speaks French and plans to have learned German and Spanish to a performance level by next year, with Russian and Arabic performances to follow suit. Luckily, his brother is a linguist who will be giving him a helping hand but, even so, this will be no mean feat to accomplish. As anyone who has tried learning new languages will know, what you are trying to say in your native language and how you think it should be worded in the new language is often not how it is actually spoken. Trying to convey comedy in other languages is tricky, not only because the true meaning of the sentence may become lost in translation, but because people´s sense of humour in different countries can also be very different to each other.
But Eddie Izzard firmly believes that speaking different languages brings people together and can only see the benefits of this grand idea. He feels it shows respect for others and dismisses any negativity that his humour will be lost on people from other nationalities. Let´s hope that his ‘universal humour’, as he calls it, really can be universally understood! If your funny bone is looking to be tickled, why not follow Eddie Izzard´s example and learn some amusing French sketches in Leeds to impress your friends!
A universal translator is like the holy grail for scientists and language learners alike. Imagine, the ability to be multilingual without having to lift a finger (other than to type in your pin number). Scientists claim to have finally grasped the holy grail by inventing U-Star a ‘universal speech translator’. The device is made up of a screen, a video camera, a microphone and translating software. It is currently able to translate ’10 languages, either one-on-one or a conversation involving several different languages. They include Thai, English, Japanese, Mandarin, Malay, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia, Hindi and Vietnamese.’
The new speech-to-speech translation project is a collaboration of eight agencies in Asian countries, including Nectec in Thailand.
Before you throw away your language textbooks keep in mind the intended audience for this product. The device is being marketed to ‘managers, government officials and business people worried about how to communicate with the vastly increased foreign community’. There is currently no price tag attached to the product and as U-Star is a sophisticated electrical product I imagine the price tag will be hefty. There is also the issue of accuracy.
Overall translation accuracy varies between 60 to 90 per cent, depending on the speaking environment and style.
I imagine the people willing to part with money for U-Star hold pretty important positions. 60% accuracy is a little worrying for governments holding peace talks and businessmen closing multimillion pound deals. The quick fix holy grail has a long way to go, so dust off your course notes and get learning.
I wear glasses all the time, but they serve no purpose other than to correct my extreme short-sightedness.
For the money they cost, surely glasses could do more? Well, a British inventor has created a pair of specs that can do a rough translation during a conversation. Will Powell was inspired by Google’s Project Glass, which aims to create augmented reality glasses, and is still in development. At one point Google’s glasses were predicted to be on sale by the end of the year, but this now looks unlikely.
Take a look at the video of Will Powell’s glasses to see how they work.
Any idea what “hand shredded ass meat” is? Does it sound like a delicious restaurant meal?
If the answer’s no, then a new dictionary may be your new best friend. “Enjoy Culinary Delights: The English Translation of Chinese Menus” was originally created in 2006 with the “Beijing Speaks English” campaign. The book was modified in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and proved to be so successful that work has continued on it.
The dictionary does exactly what it says: instead of providing the potentially inaccurate machine translation of a dish, it will tell you exactly what it is. So “hand shredded ass meat” becomes “hand shredded donkey meat”. Over 2,000 translations are provided (although this does mean you will miss out on gems such as “Tofu made by woman with freckles”).
Some of the dishes kept their original names, which people familiar with Chinese food may understand: jiaozi, baozi, mantou, tofu or wonton.
Some more complicated dishes come with both Chinese pronunciations and explanations: “fotiaoqiang” (steamed abalone with shark’s fin and fish maw in broth); “youtiao” (deep-fried dough sticks); “lvdagunr” (glutinous rice rolls stuffed with red bean paste), and “aiwowo” (steamed rice cakes with sweet stuffing).
Chen Lin, a 90-year-old retired English professor from Beijing Foreign Language University, was the chief consultant for the book.
He told NBC News that about 20 other experts – like English teachers and professors, translators, expats who have lived in China for a long time, culinary experts and people from the media – helped develop the final version. (Source: NBC News)
Do you use Gmail for your email? They’ve just updated their service to include automatic message translation, meaning that any emails you receive in a different language will automatically be translated to the language of your choice!
Google have included a number of different options for this – you can choose to have messages auto-translated, pick which messages are translated, and also turn off the translation option for certain languages. So if you want to test your Spanish language skills, turn off the translation option for the language and see how far you can get through the email!
More information on these options is available over at the Gmail blog.
Just last week I posted about a man who had made it his life’s work to produce a Yiddish-Japanese dictionary.
Now it’s revealed a Chinese man is compiling a Swahili-Chinese dictionary. Twenty-six year old Shen Yuning announced the plan on his blog last December, and has so far completed nearly 5,000 words.
Yuning is studying African languages at university in Germany, but is currently an exchange student in Kenya. He works up to 15 hours a day on the dictionary, and plans to include 25,000 words by August. The words included come from interaction with locals as well as Yuning’s study of books, newspapers and television.
Yuning’s friends say he is very interested in linguistics and can talk about word meanings for hours. He hopes that his dictionary will help international workers:
There is an increasing exchange of labor between Africa and China, but many Chinese workers here can speak only Chinese, while locals only speak Swahili and poor English,” said Shen, an exchange student at Kenya’s Kenyatta University.
“Of the several African languages I’ve learned, Swahili is my best,” Shen said, adding that Swahili is also the most important language in East African countries including Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, with more than 80 million speakers.
He hopes the dictionary will be helpful for Chinese workers in East Africa.
“There are free online translation tools, but they are rubbish when it comes to the translation of African language,” Shen said.
“Moreover, most Chinese workers in Africa don’t have easy access to the Internet, while a dictionary is portable and much more convenient to use.” (Source: China Daily)
Yiddish is most associated with Jewish people, particularly the Ashkenazi Jews. It has been translated into many languages, but until now not a non-European one.
One man has changed this through his life’s work. Kazuo Ueda is a Japanese linguist who originally specialised in German before teaching himself Yiddish. He is now Japan’s leading scholar in the language, and several years ago published a Japanese-Yiddish dictionary.
But why did Ueda become so devoted?
He stumbled upon the Jewish language while reading Franz Kafka, himself a fan of Yiddish theater.
Ueda was immediately smitten with the language that is written in Hebrew letters, but is a hybrid of German, Hebrew, Russian and other languages.
“Yiddish was full of puzzles for me,” Ueda says. “That’s what I love about it. Reading sentences in those strange letters — it’s like deciphering a code.” (Source: NPR)
Perhaps language learners can take something from this story – to learn a language well requires a little bit of love.
Twitter is now available in languages written right-to-left, including Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu.
Work began earlier this year via their Translation Center, which crowd-sources translations to make Twitter available to people around the world. Almost half a million people contribute to the Center, and have so far made 28 languages available.
Around 13,000 volunteers worked on the project to make right-to-left language available. Twitter had to create new tools to ensure Tweets, retweets and hashtags work properly for users who may send tweets with both right-to-left and left-to-right content.