Category Archives: language translation

Human Translation Vs Machine Translation

At first machine translation can seem like a miraculous tool. Simply copy and paste the source text into the box and click translate, instantly the translation appears in the target box. This form of translation is great for a brief overview of the text, but how accurate is the translated text.
Usually there are inconsistencies.
Origins of machine translation
The concept of machine translation has been around for many years, in fact ever since the creation of programmable, general purpose computers during WWII.

It was in the 50’s and 60’s during the cold war when the US army collected a large number of Russian documents that the concept of machine translation really took off. Throughout this period the development of machine translation was funded by the government and various universities. By the late 60’s developers were losing interest as it became clear the technology of the day was not up to the challenge.
Funding for the development of machine translation eventually dried up, that is until the 1970’s when advances in computer technology made the idea of a computer creatively thinking a much bigger possibility.
Over the last 30 years computer technology has greatly advanced, artificial intelligence is now common place in homes across the western world and it’s spreading, getting more and more human with each development. As technology has advanced so has machine translation technology improving its memories and adding more and more language options. Despite these advances there are still issues, as yet computers are unable to comprehend context or keep up with the fast pace at which our languages change with hundreds, maybe thousands of new words added each year.
Accuracy of machine translation
A machine cannot put words and sentences into context, it simply replaces the words with what it considers to be the direct alternative in the language required.
The translations provided by online tools and computer packages are usually understandable but it is not normally of publishable quality. If you simply require an understanding of a piece of text, for example an email, then a machine translation tool such as Google Translate will do. If however you require a document to be accurate, for example if the text is going to print, then a human translator will provide a much more accurate translation. If the document is then proofread by a second human translator the overall accuracy of the document is twofold. Never publish text translated through a machine translation tool.

Machine translation is ideal if you want to get the gist of an email or short piece of text but nothing compares to a competent human translator. A human translator will take in the context and intended meaning of your text. They will take care when translating the words and they will focus on the style of the document.
No matter how far machine translation goes it will never compare to a real human translator. There are certain styles of translation such as medical, technical and legal, which translation tools cannot handle properly.
The speed and cost of machine translation is obviously better than human translation but if you want to create market ready translations accuracy is very important, accuracy that you will only get if you use a human translator.
Even developers of machine translation recognize its limitations; in fact Google admits that their translation tool is far from accurate. They state that the tool should provide the user with a general idea of their text, providing day to day translated information, making world wide business communication easier.
–From K International plc.
For more information about translation needs, please visit:


22 funny translation mistakes

When a non-native speaker of a language translates something there is always a danger of getting it nearly right but very wrong! Here is a list of funny translation errors compiled by airline staff from around the world.
Japanese hotel room – You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid
Paris hotel elevator – Please leave your values at the front desk
Tokyo hotel – It is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such a thing is please not read this notice
Bucharest hotel – The list is being fixed for the next day. During this time you will be unbearable
Leipzig elevator – Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up
Athens hotel – Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11am daily
Belgrade elevator – To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving then going alphabetically in national order.
Sarajevo hotel – The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid
Moscow hotel – You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday
Swiss menu – Our wines leave you nothing to hope for
Hong Kong tailors shop – Ladies may have a fit upstairs
Bangkok dry cleaners – Drop your trousers here for best results
Paris dress shop – Dresses for street walking
Rhodes tailor shop – Order your summer suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation
Hong Kong advert – Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists
Rome laundry – Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time
Swiss mountain inn – Special today… no ice cream
Copenhagen airline – We take your bags and send them in all directions
Moscow hotel – If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it
Norwegian lounge – Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar
Tokyo shop – Our nylons cost more than common but they are better for the long run
Acapulco hotel – The manager has personally passed all the water served here

–From World Time Zones

For more information about translation, please visit:

Why Translation?

The response to the call for sessions on the Presidential Forum theme, “The Tasks of Translation in the Twenty-First Century,” has been remarkable. In addition to the Presidential Forum and its two linked sessions, over fifty additional translation-related sessions are scheduled for the 2009 convention. Talks on topics from retranslation to self-translation, from translation in the medieval Persian context to translation in the early American context, and from inter-Asian translation to postcolonial translation will enrich the emerging field of translation studies and offer new insights to those of us in adjacent disciplines.

Lately, as a thought experiment, I’ve tried to imagine living in a world without translators. A preposterous notion, to be sure, although perhaps no more so than others we accept as premises for entertainment, for example, the notion that a certain Benjamin Button is born old and proceeds to grow younger. In any event, to anchor the exercise in a bit of science fiction, I’m positing that the human brain has evolved to permit the learning of just a single language; translation is thus out of the question. The resulting world, as I picture it, is radically and starkly diminished. Pursuing the experiment through the prism of my own tradition, which members of my generation typically encountered in curricular form as “ancient history” followed by “Western civilization,” I see that the Arabs, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Hebrews, and the Romans learned nothing from one another. There has been no New Testament, no Renaissance, no Reformation, no Enlightenment, no scientific or industrial revolution. There is no American Constitution, no United Nations Charter, no European Union. Works of literature, philosophy, scholarship, and science that may have been produced in other linguistic contexts are forever inaccessible to speakers of English—and of course the English language itself has not developed in anything like its present form.

Fortunately for us, the human brain in its plasticity took a more propitious evolutionary path. Human beings can and do learn multiple languages; translators and interpreters have always been with us, and we need them as much as ever. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, let me point to a handful of contemporary reasons.

Although increasingly competent machines are already taking over some routine translation tasks, human translators continue to be indispensable even in this context, to select input for the machines on the one hand and to evaluate and refine their output on the other. And it is far from given that machine translation will ever be able to handle the syntactic, stylistic, and cultural complexities of literary, philosophical, or scholarly texts. For these tasks we shall continue to require highly educated translators with strong backgrounds in the source and target languages and cultures.

Although English functions increasingly as an international lingua franca, monolingual English speakers are at a decided disadvantage in exchanges—whether diplomatic, commercial, or personal—with their multilingual counterparts. In addition, countless critical situations arise in which the use of English is not an option.

The combination of globalization and the knowledge explosion facilitated by digital media means that the sources of new knowledge will be increasingly diverse and translators will be in increasing demand. A whole new industry is growing up, for example, around the need for “localization” on the Internet: translation and contextualization of Web content for speakers of regional and local languages. Meanwhile, voices in our Anglophone culture are calling attention to the severe import-export imbalance: on average over the past several decades, only two percent to four percent of the books published in the United States have been translations.

The MLA itself, in its recent report “Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World,” notes that “there is a great unmet demand for educated translators and interpreters, and translation is an ideal context for developing translingual and transcultural abilities as an organizing principle of the language curriculum” (243).

But there is a problem. In his excellent book The Translator’s Invisibility, Lawrence Venuti documents the history of the Anglo-American tradition according to which good translations must be fluid and transparent and good translators must stay out of sight. The invisibility of the translator has become a cliché, but it is by no means a myth. Presses don’t want to advertise books as translations. Newspapers sometimes publish translated texts without acknowledging the fact. Academics have been known to remove translations from their curriculum vitae to avoid jeopardizing their chances for promotion or tenure. And until recently, few universities in the English-speaking world have acknowledged translation as a legitimate area of study.

It is one thing to recognize a need for competent translators in the world and quite another to take responsibility for their nurturing and development. Yet no one is better positioned to take on this task than we are, as postsecondary language and literature professionals. Some of us already help students reach advanced levels in foreign language study. Others help students refine their writing and editing skills in English. Many of us also teach courses that expand our students’ cultural knowledge. Almost all of us work at teaching our students to become more careful and critical readers. In short, our current disciplinary structures provide the basic frameworks that allow students to begin to acquire the skills and knowledge essential to translators. Attending to the development of future translators at the college and university level need not require significant structural changes or an infusion of new resources.

An increased presence of translation in the undergraduate curriculum ought to elicit an increased presence of translators as teachers and scholars. I have argued elsewhere that translation of literary and scholarly works should be acknowledged as evidence of scholarly activity and assessed as such in decisions about hiring, promotion, and tenure. Adopting this practice would be one way of implementing the recommendation of the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion, which argues that “the profession as a whole should develop a more capacious conception of scholarship by rethinking the dominance of the monograph, promoting the scholarly essay, establishing multiple pathways to tenure, and using scholarly portfolios” (11). Not every course related to translation has to be taught by a professional translator; still, faculty members who are experienced in the field should be recognized as such for the value of their work and for the special contributions they can make in the translation classroom.

The theme of this year’s Presidential Forum is intended to shine a spotlight on the vital contributions of translators and to increase awareness of translation as it relates to much of the teaching and scholarship we do. I see translation as a hitherto underutilized arena of collaborative work, a site of potential engagement and interchange with colleagues and students in our and adjacent disciplines. Come to the convention if you can, sit in on some translation sessions, and if all goes well you’ll come away with some ideas for enhancing the position of translation on your campus and in your work.

2009 MLA President Catherine Porter

Find more about translation, please visit

Making Yourself Understood in Beijing


For more information about your Asian translation needs, visit 1-Stop Translation’s website or e-mail us at


We Test Over-the-Phone Translation Services;
Getting a Dosa in New Delhi, Contempt in Paris

July 17, 2008; Page D3

If you find yourself lost in translation while traveling abroad there are the usual fixes — gesturing wildly as if playing the game charades, using a trusty phrase book, or hoping for the help of a bilingual bystander. But interpretation companies are hoping you use another tool: your cellphone. These services aim to give you access to a 24-hour bilingual interpreter; you call the service on your cellphone, explain your dilemma in English, then hand over the phone to whomever you need to speak with — cab driver, waiter, police officer, doctor, or the object of your affection in a bar.

Over-the-phone interpretation, mostly aimed at companies that conduct business in several languages, is expanding. The industry saw $700 million in sales in 2007, and is expected to grow to $1.2 billion by 2012, according to Common Sense Advisory, a research firm specializing in business globalization and the language-services industry.

We tested four companies in different countries to see if the over-the-phone interpretation services proved a good way to deal with two classic traveler scenarios — a complex restaurant order and a taxi ride. Our reporters placed restaurant orders with a twist like a vegetarian meal in France and factored in a peanut allergy in Jakarta, Indonesia. And our taxi drivers were asked to go to a destination, wait outside while we attended to our business, then head to another destination.

Our tests had some limitations — we couldn’t fake a medical emergency, a stolen passport or buying a home abroad — the types of stressful things for which interpretation companies say some customers find their service most useful.

Across the board we found the services fairly expensive. In Jakarta, we spent about $30 on dinner and the cab ride, but about $40 for 10 minutes or so of the interpretation service we used to order dinner and direct the taxi. The cheapest service we tested was chinaONEcall, at $1.48 per minute initially but cheaper as minutes are added.

And there was a lag between the moment a call is placed and the moment an interpreter comes on the phone — in one case more than five minutes. So we learned it is best to call slightly before you find yourself face-to-face with a confused cab driver waiting anxiously for your direction.

In Jakarta we tested Language Line Services, a U.S.-based translation and interpretation service and the largest telephone interpretation service in the world. Their Personal Interpretation Service was easy to sign up for and use. We never had to wait more than two minutes between the time we called and the moment an interpreter came on the line.

We called the service from a Chinese restaurant, giving the interpreter a long list of items we wanted to order, noting specifics about how we preferred each dish and informing the interpreter of our dinner guest’s peanut allergy. We found the interpreter impressive: She double-checked that the waiter at the Chinese restaurant spoke Indonesian, not only Chinese, showing local knowledge. She explained to the waiter who she was, adding “bon appetit,” to us before saying goodbye. The order came exactly as requested.

Our Jakarta cab ride also went off without a hitch and the interpreter appeared to have local knowledge, helping the cab driver get to the location we requested. But we felt the service was too expensive for casual use at $3.95 per minute. The company says the service is cheap compared with standard international calling charges, and the caller is billed only for the time actually spent with an interpreter. But the toll-free number provided by the company works only within North America.

In Paris, we tested CallUma, a new U.K.-based service that says it provides “help” abroad by offering other types of traveler services in its packages, such as special luggage tags that track baggage, concierge service, and a text-messaging feature for translations and requests.

Our efforts weren’t particularly welcome. When we handed over our cellphone to ask for a vegetarian meal at a Paris restaurant near Invalides, the waiter spoke to a thorough and polite interpreter for several minutes, then put down the phone and asked us in English “do you like trout?” with a look of almost contempt.

At a taxi stand, we had to wait more than five minutes to be connected to a French translator, causing confusion within the row of cab drivers as we passed up getting into several cars. The company says our reporter called a customer-service number, not the same number we used for our restaurant test, which delayed the connection to an interpreter.

It took some cajoling for a cab driver to let us into his car after we finally got an interpreter on the line. When the driver took the phone he didn’t know what to do with it, first looking for a text message on the screen. Eventually, an interpreter got our request across and we made the journey. The company later said it would have been easier if we had asked for written directions via text message.

The company translates from English into 18 other languages, and the cheapest package costs $38.86 per year, which includes 15 minutes of over-the-phone assistance, plus baggage tags, unlimited text translations, emergency assistance and a host of other benefits. Additional minutes are $1.89 per minute. Users can call a U.K. or U.S. number for service, but the company plans to add more local call-in lines.

In Beijing we tested chinaONEcall, a recently opened U.K./China-based company that translates only between English and Mandarin (and vice versa) and is geared toward independent users. The initial cost is $89 for 60 minutes, or about $1.48 per minute, but refills are cheaper. And users call a local Chinese number for service.

But our reporter found the quality of the interpretation lacking. We asked the interpreter to take us to the Moma Towers, but didn’t get an immediate translation, so we assumed the interpreter didn’t know the correct word in Mandarin. After a back and forth, we mentioned the Mandarin name and got on the road.

Later, the company went back and listened to a recording of our reporter’s calls. (Several companies had our calls on file when we checked in with them later to get their response to our tests.) They said the interpreter was online trying to figure out which of two Moma Towers in Beijing we wanted, causing a lag in communication. The interpreter should have been more “confident and explained to the customer exactly what they were doing but I feel they achieved the customer’s goals and managed the situation,” says Greg Sinclair, operations director for the company.

We ate at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Beijing, but when we asked the interpreter to order humus, kebab and mint tea, the interpreter didn’t recognize those foods even after we spelled out a few of the words. In the end, the interpreter asked us to tell him the numbers next to the food we wanted and he told the waiter. The company says interpreters want to complete the call as quickly as possible because customers are paying per minute, so decided that asking the customer the numbers was faster then researching a translation for the cuisine.

In New Delhi, India, we tested Language Translation Inc., a U.S.-based translation and interpretation services that started a 24-hour telephone interpretation services early this year. After sitting down in a restaurant in southern Delhi, we called the interpreter to explain that we wanted a wheat-free recommendation from the waiter. After being connected quickly, we passed the phone to the waiter, who immediately gave it to a superior who spoke to the interpreter for several minutes. After a series of questions and passing the phone back and forth we decided to order a dosa (a large south Indian style crepe), which the waiter promised via the interpreter is “always, always” made with rice. All parties seemed tolerant of the back and forth.

A cab ride also went smoothly, though when we attempted to use the service for an autorickshaw ride we found the loud street noise made it difficult for us to communicate with the interpreter, and a patchy cellphone connection meant we had to call back several times to complete our instructions to the driver and agree on a price. The company offers over 150 languages and costs $2.20 per minute.

In the end, we still prefer our old charades gestures or a good phrase book for communicating in most everyday situations, especially given the steep prices for the interpreter services. But we definitely think the services would come in handy in an out-of-country emergency or a situation where a precise translation is required.

Language Line Services, tested in Jakarta, Indonesia The most expensive service we tested at $3.95 per minute. A toll-free call-in number is available only from within North America. Translates from English to over 170 languages and vice versa. We found the quality of the interpretation excellent. The interpreter seemed to have local knowledge, asking if our waiter at a Chinese restaurant spoke Chinese or Indonesian.
CallUma, tested in Paris, France The cheapest package costs $38.86 per year, which includes 15 minutes of over-the-phone assistance as well as other traveler benefits like unlimited text-message translation. Currently has a U.S. or UK dial-in number. Translates from English into 18 other languages. Packages include other traveler services like bag-tracking tags, emergency assistance, and online document storage. While the interpretation was functional, the idea of passing over a cellphone for language help didn’t fly with our waiter in the French capital.
ChinaONEcall, tested in Beijing, China The cheapest service we tested. The initial cost is $89 for 60 minutes, or about $1.48 per minute, but refills are cheaper. Local Chinese dial-in number. Translates from English to Mandarin and vice versa. We found the interpreter didn’t communicate enough with us, leaving us hanging with a cab driver waiting for directions.
Language Translation Inc., tested in New Delhi, India $2.20 per minute. Toll-free call-in number only from within North America. Translates from English to about 150 languages. If you plan in advance it can arrange a vice versa interpreter. We found the interpreters skillful, but realized calling on a loud, busy street while organizing a ride from an autorickshaw made it difficult to communicate.

–Max Colchester, Jackie Range, Lam Thuy Vo and Tom Wright contributed to this article.

Write to Sarah Nassauer at

URL for this article:


For more information about your Asian translation needs, visit 1-Stop Translation’s website or e-mail us at


Asian Languages

A wide range of languages are spoken all over Asia, includes a number of families and some unrelated isolates. Most languages have an elongated custom of writing. Among which the most popular languages are Korean, Chinese and Japanese.

Korean is the representative language of North Korea and South Korea. It is one of the two representative languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture located in China. There are 80 million speakers of Korean, among which huge groups settled in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, the United States, CIS (post-Soviet states), and gradually moved on to the Philippines. The genealogical categorization of Korean language is a great topic to argue. Some linguists categories it in the family of Altaic language, whereas others believe it to be a isolated language. Similar to the Japanese and Vietnamese, Korean language also was prejudiced by the Chinese language as Sino-Korean words. Local Korean vocabulary account about 30% of the Korean terminology and about 60% of it consists of Sino-Korean terminology. The enduring 10% is derived from other languages, 90% of which are from English.

Japanese, a language with 140 million speakers in Japan and Japanese émigré communities around the globe, is associated to the Ryukyuan languages, but there are no broadly-established evidences of any association with other languages. The language is renowned by a composite arrangement of honorifics that reflects the hierarchical character of Japanese culture, meticulous terminology to specify the relative class of speaker and listener. The resonance account of Japanese language is comparatively diminutive, and has a distinct pitch-accent system. The Japanese language is written with a combination of three different types of scripts kanji, hiragana and katakana. Western style Arabic numerals are usually worn for numbers; however customary Sino-Japanese numerals are used.

Chinese language(s) originally the native language of Han Chinese in China, it brings in existence one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Almost 1/5th of the globe’s inhabitants, or more than 1 billion public, uses a small amount of Chinese in their native language. As in news reports of March 2007, 85 % of public in the People’s Republic of China speak a deviation of spoken Chinese. As in the language family, the total Chinese speaking public is around 1.136 billion. A similar news report indicates 53% of the populace, or 700 million public, can well converse in Putonghua otherwise called Mandarin. The language outnumbers all other languages in world.

Many other languages are spoken throughout Asia. The number of languages is huge because of the intense land spread and the vast difference in community and culture. Though there is difference between them most languages are related to each other a very good example would be the relation between Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In Asian there are countries where in people speaking more than one language.

For instance countries like India, where there is use of more than 200 languages.

From the time of globalization there is huge necessity of Translation of these languages in plenty.

For more information and service, visit us at