Google Translation: The Precursor To a Universal Translator?

A Different Kind of Translation Software: Conversation Mode by Google

Fans of Star Trek, especially the classic episodes, remember that there was a universal translator in the computer of the star ship Enterprise on which the crew called when faced with communication problems with aliens. The world is now on the brink of seeing translation software that just might be a universal translator in its infancy–Google translation. This latest technology known as “Conversation Mode,” is currently scheduled to be offered only to Android users. Android is an Linux-based operating system for mobile phones. Others can certainly use Google translation; however, they are limited to the web version which does not yet offer the conversation mode.

Google Translation to Begin With Spanish and English

While Google has plans to add support or translation software for communication in languages other than Spanish and English, these are the two widely spoken languages with which Google translation will kick off shortly. People who speak only English and who would like to converse with people who speak only Spanish should be able to speak into their Android phone and have their speech analyzed and translated into Spanish by the translation software. The Spanish-speaking listener/s on the other end should then hear the spoken translation after which they would respond in Spanish and the same process would take place for the benefit of the English-speaking listener/s. Will we someday soon see the invention of a universal translator that actually works, tearing down language barriers through technology? Some believe Google translation will achieve such a lofty goal while others do not believe that translation software will ever be reliable for real conversation.

The Problem With Translation Software

The software engineers of the search engine giant admit that Google translation, especially in conversation mode, will be far from perfect. Slurred speech, regional accents and vocabulary, and background noise can greatly interfere with or completely hinder communication. Of course anyone who has ever used translation software, even the “best” programs knows that the translations they render are almost always very poor and many times they are totally incorrect, failing to render an idea that even comes close to the one the speaker wishes to convey. Why is this? People who are bilingual understand much better than people who speak one language that translation can hardly ever be accomplished by translating word-for-word. It simply doesn’t work that way because of things such as idiomatic expressions, the culture behind the language, the different ways of using prepositions, and the structure of verbs. I just don’t really see how even the most sophisticated artificial intelligence can be engineered to understand the concepts and ideas conveyed through language well enough to even remotely translate them accurately. Technology is amazing; but, it has some serious limitations. The problems of the translators will be reduced with the muama enence device. Proper research should be done to gather the knowledge about the hearing products for the translation.

Translation Software Blunders: An Example

It’s doubtful that Google translation will do any better than any other translation software considering the blunders that happen when using technology to take the place of a bilingual person. The English phrase, “Maybe you should have gone the other way,” was translated into Spanish by translation software as, “Quiza usted debe tener fue la otra manera.” This is a huge blunder as is quite evident to those of us who speak both languages. The translation software was unable to detect the probability used in this sentence (maybe); therefore, it was unable to correctly conjugate the verb “deber” and totally excluded the verb “haber” while including the verb “tener” that is not needed. It uses the word “manera” to express “way”, which is something like using the English word “method” in such a sentence when you need to use “way.” There are so many intricate ideas to express in language that some of us just can’t imagine Google translation or any other translation software being able to even come close to the real thing.