Instant translation is on its way thanks to Ily

If there’s a single thing that can be said to stand in the way of humanity overcoming its differences and becoming truly globalised, it’s the language barrier. For that reason, instant translation technologies have long been a tool in the sci-fi writers’ toolbox – from the Tardis in ‘Doctor Who’ and the Babelfish in ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ to ‘Star Trek’s aptly-named Universal Translator.

It seems, though, that real-world technology is finally catching up. Google’s Translate tool has grown more powerful in recent years, with voice- and image-recognition technology and a new start-up, Waverly Labs, recently launched crowdfunding for its in-ear ‘Pilot’ tech; however, both technologies are considered to be too slow at present to offer a truly instant method of translation.

All that could be about to chance, though, thanks to Ili.

‘Ili’ could be the way forward for instant translation

Instant translation - hand holding up an Ily translation device
© 2016 Logbar Inc.

Ili from Japanese tech company Logbar is a mobile-device-sized piece of kit that holds a translation dictionary in its memory and use a speedy processor to translate in, Logbar says, almost real time. 0.2 seconds, in fact, which isn’t quite instant but no worse than the kind of lag you might expect on Skype, for example.

The device detects what you’re saying, processes the translation and delivers it back through a speaker. It’s not quite a universal translator – Ili only holds a certain amount of language in its memory and is designed more for travellers who need common phrases translated than for members of complex meetings.

Logbar promotes it as being useful for “dining, shopping, finding transportation, and much more.”

What are the downsides?

Perhaps the biggest downside of Ili, and it is a big one, is that the translation only works one way. At launch, it will support translating English to Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese, as well as Mandarin to English or Japanese.

However, it will only allow you to translate what you say into other languages – you won’t receive a translation when the waiter answers you, for instance. While one-way instant translation might be useful in certain situations, it does present a rather large barrier to helping you communicate.

That might put people off paying the price tag for the tech ($189 for pre-order, $249 after that).

Instant translation might not be the answer – yet

While Ili has its downsides, it’s far more reassuring to see this as a stepping stone to brighter things in the future – a truly instant, two-way device that offers instant translation.

For most of us though, the easiest way to communicate with people who speak different languages is still the old way – learn the language.

If you’d like to take up language learning for travel, work or study, contact All Languages today and talk to us about your needs. We can offer bespoke language learning packages delivered in a way that suits you.


Why translation is important – it could be a matter of law

Why translation is important - man signing legal documents

Translation is a skill that’s used in many industries across the world, for a variety of reasons, but it’s often taken for granted. Perhaps you’ve never had to use translation, or you’ve only used it for fairly trivial things. If that’s the case, you might not know why translation is important.

However, as Spanish rail company Renfe found out, it could mean the difference between winning or losing a legal case.

Why translation is important if you’re involved in a legal fight

Spanish rail company Renfe registered a logo with the acronym ‘AVE’ and a bird device with the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), but a German man called Stephen Hahne filed a suit to block the use of the logo on transportation vehicles. The EUIPO initially upheld this, but Renfe decided to pursue an appeal.

EUIPO advised Renfe that they had one month to refile the complaint in the original language, English, of the complaint, but Renfe failed to do so.

Renfe later took the case to the EU General Court, using a piece of copyright law called “restitutio ad intergrum”, which allows the original holder of a trademark to have their rights reinstated if they failed to meet the time limit of a case in spite of exercising due care.

However, the Court denied this, ruling that because Renfre had failed to submit the required paperwork in time, they had failed to exercise due care.

One simple document can make all the difference

If Renfre had simply had the complaint document translated in time, they could have avoided the ruling that denied them the use of their trademark. This is why translation is important – in business, it can make all the difference.

Translation of important contracts needs to be carried out accurately and diligently, for example, or the contract could become null and void, losing you business and clients in the long run.

If you need important documents translated, you need expert help and a translation service with a track record. For over 30 years, All Languages has worked with companies large and small, translating their important documents accurately and efficiently.

We’d be happy to do the same for you! For a quick quote, get in touch and let us know your requirements.

Origin of language – Genetics determines it may have begun in Africa

Origin of language - picture of Saharan Africa

The origin of language has eluded us for a long time, yet the search has driven scientists and linguists for millennia. Now, one linguist believes he has finally found the answer. Using a technique based on the study of animal genetics, he thinks that language was first invented in sub-Saharan Africa.

Has the origin of language been discovered?

Linguist Dr Quentin Atkinson has applied a principle of genetics to the study of phonemes, the building blocks that make up language, to work back towards an origin point in Africa.

The main principle in genetics that he used is that the further a population moves from its origin, the less diverse its genes will be. Applying this to phonemes, Dr Atkinson found that languages originating further from Africa had fewer phonemes.

While African languages that use clicks can have over 100 phonemes, English only has 45. Even farther still, Hawaii has only 13.

Dr Atkinson and his team believe that this shows us that language originated in Africa.

Not everyone agrees though

As is often the case with theories like this, there are differing views. Michael Cysouw and Dan Dediu published a journal in response to the theory saying that if you look at other aspects of language than phonemes, such as subordinate clauses like “when I looked at it,” a different outcome is the result.

However, Dr Atkinson believes that his cross-disciplinary approach to linguistics will continue to yield promising results.

Why is this important?

The origin of language is important to the study of linguistics because we know that language evolves. That’s why learning a language such as French can make it easier to learn similar languages, like Spanish or Italian. You can trace the roots of many languages back to the same origins.

If you’re interested in learning a new language for work, study, professional development and socialising, contact All Languages and ask about our language learning courses.

If you’re looking for a foreign language translator, you need these five essential qualities

Foreign language translation - photo of a sign incorrectly translated from Chinese to English
Whatever industry you’re in, if you plan to do business overseas, at some point you’re going to need the services of a foreign language translator. While there’s a wealth of freelancers and agencies out there, you need to know you’re getting the best possible quality.

So, do you just fire up Google and choose the first one you find? You wouldn’t do that if you were recruiting a new member of staff and it’s important you put the same care into finding a foreign language translator if you’re to get the quality you need.

Here we take a look at the five top qualities you should be looking for in a foreign language translator.

The five essential qualities for a foreign language translator

1 – Speed

If you’re looking for a foreign language translator, it’s likely you need them now. You don’t want to wait around for weeks while they muddle over your documents, take the time to respond to emails and generally give you the run-around.

You have clients waiting and business that needs to get done. That’s why you need a translator who is fast. That’s not just about the turnaround time for the document itself – it’s also about how quickly they respond to emails, quote requests and the like.

2 – Accuracy

Don’t skimp on accuracy for the sake of speed, though. If a translator tells you they can turn around your document in one hour, beware. Translation is a careful skill that requires your translator to gain a full understanding of both the intent and the detail of your message.

You need someone who can take the time to read the document through in full, communicate to you their understanding of your needs and take care to apply cultural translation too.

3 – Linguistic skills

Your foreign language translator needs a mastery of language like no one else. Someone who has spent six months speaking a language is no use – in fact, good translators will only translate into their native language. This ensures accuracy and enables them to use the full subtlety of language.

The best translators will be fluent in both the source and target language and will also have excellent written skills to boot.

4 – Quality of service

It’s all well and good a translator telling you they have the skills you need – but how you can prove this? You don’t want to shell out money for a translation only to find that it’s peppered with mistakes and confusing language.

Go with recommendations from people who have used them already or, failing that, looks for endorsements and testimonials from previous clients. Good translators won’t be shy in telling the world what their previous clients think of them – the best will have maintained those relationships over time.

5 – Core knowledge

While an excellent foreign language translator will be able to translate any kind of document, the safest bet is to look for someone who also has core knowledge that’s specific to your industry.

Need legal documents translated? Make sure the translator has a background in this. The same goes for medical texts, and in fact, any kind of technical industry.

How to make sure you get the best

All Languages has a team of global translators who fit all of these criteria and more. For over 30 years we’ve provided top-class, accurate and efficient translation to some of the biggest clients across a wide range of industries.

We’ll look after you, taking the time to ensure we understand your needs. Our track record speaks for itself.

If you need documents translated, get in touch with us and we’ll match you with the best translator for the required language and industry.

The crucial difference between interpreters and translators

Interpreters and translators - photo of an interpreter in front of an audience
Interpreters and translators have two very different jobs, but in the minds of the public, they are often confused. Many people think that they carry out the same jobs and that the only different in that between oral and written, although while both are involved with language, the skills required vary greatly.

So, what are the differences between the two?

The main differences between interpreters and translators

Translators are not just responsible for accurately rendering text from one language into another. They also have to completely understand the source language as well as the culture of both countries the languages originate from.

The text must be clearly and accurately translated into the target language, with both the meaning and the intent of the source text remaining in the final translated document. They must also keep in mind cultural differences, so to prevent miscommunication, confusion or offence.

They will usually take their time to understand a document completely before beginning a thorough translation.

In terms of skills, translators are required to understand a language completely, which is why even many bilingual translators will only translate into their native language. As they become more adept they may be able to carry out the reverse, but it takes many years of being fluent in a language to understand it to the degree required for accurate translation.

Skills required for interpreting

Unlike translators, interpreters are required to translate on the spot. This means they are unable to use dictionaries or reference materials and must have excellent listening skills.

Simultaneous interpreting is an incredibly skilled role, requiring that the interpreter not only understands and memorises what the speaker is saying now but also interpreting what was said moments ago.

Another difference is that interpreters are often more able to paraphrase what has been said in order to communicate the intent of the speech, but they also have to be able to recognise and translate colloquialisms and local idioms on the fly.

The key to choosing interpreters and translators

Both interpreters and translators need an incredible wealth of skills, an understand of linguistics and a thorough knowledge of both the subject matter at hand and the culture of the languages being translated.

These skills are not easily picked up, which is why the best interpreters and translators study and practice for many years before becoming fully qualified and skilled to carry out the work. It’s also important that you have a way to check this before using a freelancer or translation agency, which is why interpreters and translators should be registered with the appropriate body.

Here at All Languages, we pride ourselves on having a fantastic time of registered, fully qualified interpreters and translators who are based around the globe. For over 30 years, they’ve worked with us to meet the needs of all kinds of clients, providing an efficient, accurate service.

If you have need of an interpreter, or you need documents translated accurately, complete our quote form and we’ll get back to you straight away!

The ability to translate dolphin may be closer than you think

Translate dolphin - photo of a dolphin emerging from water
The ability to translate one language into another is undoubtedly one of the great feats of humanity. Translation allows cultures to trade, to converse, to form meaningful relationships with one another. But what if we could translate the languages of other mammals? What if we could translate dolphin?

Gavagai AB, a company at the cutting edge of language analysis, uses AI to master language and its mechanics. This AI has already learnt 40 human languages, but the team is confident that by 2021, it will have broken down an unfathomable barrier.

How do we translate dolphin?

Researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden are working with Gavagai AB’s state-of-the-art technology to compile and learn to translate dolphin.

Captive bottlenose dolphins at a wildlife park outside Stockholm will be studied in the hope that the AI will learn to understand their language. Talking to Bloomberg, Jussi Karlgen who is an adjunct professor of language technology at KTH and who co-founded Gavagai, said, “We hope to be able to understand dolphins with the help of artificial intelligence technology.”

Scientists already know that dolphins communicate by means of an as-yet-unknown but complex language system and by 2021, the team hope that they will soon be able to accurately translate dolphin.

AI and language

Many big tech companies are ploughing money into AI language research. Alphabet Inc., Google’s new umbrella body, has been using deep-learning AI to improve its Translate tool and the results so far have been impressive.

Machine learning is also being used to improve turnaround on the delivery of goods and interact with customers better and faster. AI effectively allows computers to act without specific programming, as it learns what it needs to from data that it has already analysed.

The ability to translate dolphin is unlikely to be a huge breakthrough for business, but in terms of understanding the world around us, its implications are breathtaking.

Language translation from the experts

While it’s unlikely you’ll need to translate dolphin anytime soon, and with the potential of AI still some way off, if you need translation services you need to turn to the experts.

We work with a fantastic team of (human) translators across the globe who have spent years studying and practising languages and immersing themselves in global culture. Whatever you need translating, we’ll turn it around quickly and accurately, with a keen eye for cultural context.

To find out more about our translation services or to get a quote, get in touch today.

Why cultural translation is an important as words

Translation isn’t always just about translating a body of text literally. In fact, cultural translation is perhaps even more important. Knowing how to translate the meaning and intent of a text in such a way as to ensure the message gets across is key. It’s also important to be aware of cultural beliefs and practices in order to avoid offence when translating literally.

What is cultural translation?

Cultural translation is the translation of a text with reference to the cultures of both languages. The differences in culture are taken as being crucial, with the translator remaining aware of these throughout translation.

This kind of translation goes hand in hand with cultural anthropology, which focuses on the differing cultures between humans. Culture context is as or more important than translating the text literally.

For example, a business that wishes to market itself overseas needs to translate its promotional literature, but in so doing, must remain aware of cultural differences between the new market and its home one.

Localisation is the process of cultural translation where translators draw upon knowledge, experience and awareness of a culture as the context for the translation of copy into the language of a place.

Why is it so important?

Cultural translation is of prime importance because when we are translating copy and texts, we want to convey both meaning and intent.

Meaning can be mistranslated if a document is translated literally – colloquialisms and dialects may mean that a literal translation means something different to the intended message. Intent is also important – if a document is translated literally, one runs the risk of causing confusion or offence.

Examples of poor cultural translation

Cultural translation - TIME magazine cover with Nikita Khrushchev

Public Enemy No. 1

In the mid-1950s, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech at the Polish Embassy in Moscow where he vented spleen at the Capitalist enemy. Bear in mind that this was at the height of the Cold War and the Soviets had just successfully tested the H-bomb.

When the speech was translated into English, it appeared to be capped off with the terrifying phrase, “We will bury you.”

This phrase has become legendary; the panic it caused spread far and wide. Here was a global enemy actually capable of delivering a nuclear strike at the US, ostensibly threatening to do just that. The thing is, he never said that.

The phrase was better translated literally as, “We will be present when you are buried.” Contextually speaking, this was a common phrase in Soviet Russia which meant the same as, “We will outlast you.” Khrushchev was not threatening to bomb America at all; he was in fact simply saying, “Communism will outlast Capitalism,” a not-outlandish phrase that was bandied about regularly during the Cold War.

Unfortunately, no doubt enjoying the panic that ensued, Khrushchev took three years to clarify his statement and in that time, the arms race intensified…

Cultural translation - portrait of former US President Jimmy Carter

President Carter’s… love for the Polish people

In 1973, US President Jimmy Carter gave the first-ever news conference in a communist country. Speaking in Poland was a considerable event for a US President as the Cold War was still being waged in earnest, so the eyes of the world were upon him. Time for a linguistic boo-boo, then…

A freelance translator, who barely spoke Polish let alone the nuances of cultural translation, was drafted in to convey the President’s words to the Polish audience and news networks. From the outset, the translation was peppered with mistakes, some insulting the Polish constitution.

The two most memorable, though, left Polish audiences scratching their heads. At the opening of his speech, “I left the United States this morning” was translated to “I left the United States never to return,” leaving folk thinking he had defected.

He later said, “I have come to learn your opinions and understand your desires for the future,” but this was mistranslated as “I desire the Poles carnally.” This latter gaffe had audiences wondering if the President was revealing a particular fetish for the Polish people, and led to the translator being fired and replaced the next day.

To make matters worse, that new translator prevented falling prey to poor cultural translation by… not translating at all. Apparently, he couldn’t understand a word of what Jimmy Carter said.

How to make sure you get cultural translation right

It’s crucial that you considered cultural translation when translating documents, copy or promotional material, so get experts to do the work for you instead of relying on dictionaries or Google translate.

All Languages works with an array of the brightest, most qualified talent in translation across the globe. For over 30 years we’ve provided translation for companies large and small and always ensure that cultural context is foremost.

Contact us now for more information on our translation services or to get a quote.

How simple translation mistakes can have a big impact

Translation mistakes - image of spectacles in front of book

It’s one thing to be able to master a spoken language, but another thing to be able to translate well. Translation takes years of learning and involves more than just word for word conversion into another language.

Simple translation mistakes can have a big impact, changing the tone, the meaning and the intent of a document. Professional translators Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche know all about this. They recently released a book, Found in Translation, which covers the weird and wonderful world of translation.

We took a look at five examples from the book that show how small translation mistakes can have a big impact.

Translation mistakes - pile of copies of "Found in Translation" book

Five small translation mistakes that made a big difference

1. A dangerous error

Back in 1980, a young man in Florida called Willie Ramirez was taken to hospital in a coma. Friends and family who accompanied him spoke only in Spanish and when asked by paramedics and doctors to describe the 18-year old’s condition, they described him as “intoxicado.”

A bilingual member of staff translated this as “intoxicated,” implying the man were suffering from a drug overdose, which would account for the symptoms the man displayed. However, the proper translation of “intoxicado” is nearer in meaning to “poisoned” – the family believed he was suffering from food poisoning. He had, in fact, suffered an intracerebral haemorrhage which doctors may have spotted sooner if they were able to quickly discount food poisoning.

Unfortunately, the delay in properly diagnosing Mr Ramirez resulted in him being left quadriplegic and was awarded a settlement of $71 million due to medical malpractice.

2. The radiant horns of Moses

This example goes to show how tiny translation mistakes can last for millennia – with dangerous results. When St. Jerome, patron saint of translators, embarked on the task of translating the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin, instead of the Greek version that was widely used at the time.

However, Hebrew is written without vowels and in translating the document, Jerome had to make some educated guesses as to the intended word, resulting in some translation mistakes. One glaring error was the translation of “krn” into “keren”, meaning ‘horned’, instead of “karan”, which means ‘radiance’.

The result had Moses descending Mount Sinai with horns instead of a halo and, unfortunately, the image stuck, leading to countless paintings and sculptures over the years showing a horned Moses. It is also the likely origin of the offensive stereotype of the horned Jew.

3. Where in the world in Sheng Long?

Video games is a surprisingly fertile field of apocrypha – tales abound of hidden levels, unlockable characters and other weird secrets. One such myth came about as a result of a mistake in translation from Japanese to English.

For years, Western gamers puzzled over the mysterious intonation in Street Fighter II that “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.” Rumours abounded of a secret, unlockable boss character, not unsurprising given the mechanics of the game already had unlockable bosses.

However, the reality was more prosaic. The original words of the character Ryu were “if you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!” The phrase “rising dragon” is ‘Shoryuken’ – which will be familiar to most players as one of Ryu’s fighting moves.

Nevertheless, in ’92 Electronic Gaming Monthly unveiled an April Fool’s joke on players offering an incredibly complicated series of button presses that would “unlock Sheng Long.” It took 8 months for the magazine to reveal it was a hoax – no doubt to the annoyance of many players with blistered thumbs.

4. Maori mistranslation

Translation mistakes in legal documents can cause no end of difficulties and one of the most complex and long-lasting disagreements resulting from translation was between the British government and Maori chiefs in New Zealand.

In 1840, the British were seeking colonial expansion. The Maori, on the other hand, sought protection from other renegade foreigners who were causing trouble. A perfect situation for an accord, you might think.

It wasn’t to be so, unfortunately. The Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up in both Maori and English, but they differed in intent. The Maori translation stated that they would only give up governance, not the sovereignty, while the British document decreed that the Maori would cede all sovereignty to the English Queen.

Generations have passed since this translation and the difficulties arising from it are being dealt with to this day.

5. Capitalism wins!

Capitalism is a never-ending source of bizarre translation mistakes as companies attempt to sell products to foreign markets. One example in which both consumers and producers won out took place in the 1950s in Japan.

Chocolate manufacturers attempted to capitalise on sales by exporting the idea of Valentine’s Day to the Japanese but a mistranslation in one company’s promotional literature suggested that this was a day where women bought chocolates for men, rather than the reverse.

To this day, Japanese women buy the men in their lives chocolates but, in an attempt to redress the balance, men do the same for women on the 14th of March. Cue many happy couples and even happier chocolatiers, who benefit from the sales of chocolates on two days instead of one.

How to avoid translation mistakes

If you want to avoid translation mistakes that could cause confusion or offence, your best bet is to use fully qualified and certified translators. They will have skill in not only translating language but also cultural meanings and conventions.

All Languages works with a team of top-class translators across the globe, so no matter what kind of document you need translating, we can help!

Camsoda offering topless language lessons – mere gimmick or interesting way of diversifying?

CamSoda topless language lessons

They say there's nothing new under the sun. Sometimes, though, that phrase is put to the test. Take for example CamSoda, an adult webcam platform, which has introduced topless language lessons.

Wait, what? Let's back up a minute. An adult webcam platform is offering topless language lessons?

CamSoda topless language lessons
Image ©

CamSoda offers topless language lessons

CamSoda now offers the opportunity to learn topless language lessons from beautiful cam models. The models will incentivise learners by removing items of clothing as a reward.

This is a rather crafty move to diversify a brand. The company has already launched successful moves to become the "iTunes of adult content". Moving into the language market is just one more way of bringing in new visitors. It also keeps them paying.

CamSoda encourages visitors to learn at their own pace. Vice President Darren Press says: “Everyone has had a crush on their teacher at some point or another… Unlike current translation offerings, which can be quite monotonous, ‘Language Lessons’ will motivate users to keep coming back for more.”

“There is no set curriculum or regimented structure. We encourage our users to explore at their own pace. I can assure you that all of our models are amenable to rewarding good linguists with the removal of clothing, or well, that’s for them to decide.”

Such a business model means that learners are encouraged to spend longer with models, so paying more in the long run. It remains to be seen whether this offers good value for money, but visitors aren't likely to be complaining.

You can find out more about the service they offer here, but please, enter at your own risk and most definitely NSFW!

Selection page for topless language lessons
Image ©

So is this a good idea?

We've discussed the idea of using gamification in language on the site. It can be a superb motivator, allowing learners to set goals and claim rewards. CamSoda might be aiming at a rather niche market with their new venture, but you have to admire their sense of innovation.

They currently offer four language choices - Spanish, French, Romanian and English - with more promised soon.

You don’t have to take your clothes off…

Here at All Languages, we prefer our instructors to remain clothed at all times! You'll no doubt breathe a sigh of relief at that news.

We don’t need to use gimmicks or follow the latest trends. We offer the best possible instruction on language. That instruction is tried and tested with thousands of happy customers. For over 30 years we’ve worked with countless individuals. We've also worked with some of the biggest brand names across a variety of industries.

If you're looking to learn a new language, just get in touch with us here at All Languages and we'll talk through our service, tailoring it to suit your needs. Whether you need training in the workplace or tuition at a place of your choice, we offer world-class language tuition. Find out more on our Tuition page or contact us now for more details.

This AI stuff is all talk! Bots invent their own language to natter away behind humans' backs – The Register

The Register

This AI stuff is all talk! Bots invent their own language to natter away behind humans’ backs
The Register
Artificial intelligence agents can invent their own language and talk among themselves to work out the best way to get a job done, a study has shown. Conversations come natural to humans, but they are a massive challenge for computers. Recent successes …

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