Asia Is at War…a Translation War

Translation tools have improved considerably since they first debuted.  They have a knack for European languages and others that use the Roman alphabet, but they suck when it comes to Asian languages.  Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and other Asiatic languages are some of the most difficult ones on the planet.  Translation apps have struggled with these languages, not only because of the lack of data, but a word’s meaning can change based on tone, and then there are the different alphabets.  Forbes shares that one of the problems Google faces with translation in the article, “Google Translates Vs. Papago: In Asia’s Battle Of The Apps, Everyone’s A Loser.”

Google Translation relies on information from its search engines to fuel this service, but Asian people prefer to use localized search engines instead of Google.  Naver wants to beat Google to Asian search and translation dominance and is already popular with Papag, its new translation app.  Papago will also be embedded in its new Web browser Whale.  Someone else is doing well in translation:

On top of Google Translate and Papago, another Korean software company Hancom, which makes a word processor, recently launched its NMT app “Genie Talk” that translates between popular Asian languages, plus English, French, Spanish, German, Russian and Arabic. Flitto, a Korean-made translation network app popular in Southeast Asia, launched a free real-time text translation service, which suggests related phrases based on its data from five years of translation requests.”

In the end, humans are still the better translators over apps.  The new smart speakers, Amazon Alexa and Google Home, are decent translators, but they still only speak proper languages rather than the common slang.

Whitney Grace, April 17, 2017

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