Translation Industry News | 23.10.2009

Will the new iPhone translation app give you the full picture?

Another day, another ingenious new iPhone application. The new PicTranslator app promises to take the pain out of travelling abroad by allowing people to translate signs and menus simply by capturing them on the iPhone camera.

A really clever and no doubt useful tool – but we would offer a word of warning.

However good the translation software behind the app, like all machine translation it will only be able to do a fairly rudimentary job – and it will be prone to unfortunate mistakes.

Some of the howlers we’ve come across in our time include a Chinese translation of ‘booking office’ that read ‘booing office’.

Even European languages can be easily mis-translated. For example, one of our retail clients discovered that machine translation had interpreted the English phrase ‘fitting room’ as ‘suitable room’ in Italian.

A literal translation maybe, but not what was intended.

So do have fun with your iPhone abroad – but when you need important business documentation translating, remember that there’s no substitute for a professional translation service delivered by real human beings.


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