Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Handhelds Hardware

PDA Speech Translator 161

Posted by michael
from the someday-it'll-cost-$9.99 dept.
jlowery writes "Not quite as good as a babelfish, but a PDA that does translation is probably better than resorting to hand gestures alone. I could see this as a boon to the tourist who travels to places where English speakers are uncommon."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

PDA Speech Translator

Comments Filter:
  • by the man with the pla (710711) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:23PM (#7839830)
    The problem with every software that I have used that tries to decipher human language (like Zork or the game included with emacs for X) is that you have to know what words the software understands and in what context.

    I have seen the same problems with automated phone systems that are supposed to recognize a generic voice and I can see the same thing happening here.

    The main difference here though, is that when entering text, you know exactly what you input before pressing enter. With voice recognition software, how do you know that the software "hears" exactly what you say? If you say somethign like "What are my appointments for the thirteenth?" and it hears, "What are my appointments for the thirtieth?" you would be receiving the wrong information.

    I hope this is a success but I don't have my hopes up.

    --
    7329756
    • My father has a 2004 Acura TL with Bluetooth cellphone stuff... He was trying to get it to dial a number. What a pain in the ass. It was seriously almost as distracting as hand entering the number. I believe he had to ask it to dial XXX-XXXX 5 or 6 times before it stopped adding in two random zeros.

      Until the machines can be 100% accurate without frustration they are next to useless.
      • The prototype falls short of Star Trek's fictional universal translator in several ways. What? How? ... no way!

        How do you enter umlauts and other characters in Graffiti?

        Hola! I would like some fried fathers!

      • There are 3 main reason why this happens. Processing power and enunciation and possibly the quality of the microphone. The algorithm used to determin what numbers are being said is most likely based on common pronunciations of numbers. Dial is a pretty easy word to figure out because it starts with a 'da' sound and ends in a 'll' or 'el' sound. What happens in the middle doesn't matter too much. some numbers may be harder to figure out such as five which could be pronounced as fif fiva fiev ect. Also once a
      • It all boils down to confidence. I have to be confident that what I'm doing will work.
        I use a wireless keyboard but Im having to switch back because I find I have to check what I am typing because it doesn't always pick up every keypress
        Voice to text are only of limited use while you have to re-read and correct any mistakes.
        While this is only 80% accurate it can never be trusted. When this works at 95% it won't be trusted. I won't trust that this won't mistake Renal for Venal.

        While this is a great
      • by fastidious edward (728351) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:07PM (#7840265)
        It was seriously almost as distracting as hand entering the number.

        Are you being sarcastic? I can type a number on a numeric keypad much faster than I can say it. The 5-6 times much more than compensates for the time of getting the phone out of my pocket.

        Voice recognition is great, but tactile recognition is also great, as is body movement.

        Until the machines can be 100% accurate without frustration they are next to useless.

        I know I have trouble understanding someone with a heavy Southern-USA accent, like someone else may have trouble with a heavy Scottish accent (as firends have) or heavy London accent (as I can revert to), people are not perfect at understanding people, let alone machines understanding people.

        Voice regognition is not a great saviour and IMHO is years away, in the meantime I'm happy with a numeric keypad.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ***I have seen the same problems with automated phone systems that are supposed to recognize a generic voice and I can see the same thing happening here.***

      Yeah I see it all the time, we who have a SLIGHT southern twang in out accents give those voice command systems fits.

    • I believe the solution may be:

      "...device for translation of spoken languages in real-time communication. It operates by scanning brain-wave frequencies and using the results to create a basis for translation". A la the portable universal translator." More here [aol.com].

      Personally I'd prefer my own Ensign Hoshi [startrek.com].
  • huh? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by xie (722634)
    The prototype falls short of Star Trek's fictional universal translator in several ways.
    What? How? ... no way!
    • The prototype falls short of Star Trek's fictional universal translator in several ways.

      What? How? ... no way!

      Uhura: We get signal!

      Kirk: What!?

      I see what you mean.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:24PM (#7839839)
    "All your base are belong to us!"
    • by valkraider (611225)
      Moderators, of which I have been one from time to time, need to do their research before modding. Or at least pay attention...

      I was about to say "All your Base are belong to us!" when I saw this post. You see, moderators, the "All your base are belong to us!" comes from a poor translation of a video game - and poor translation is not OFF TOPIC. We are talking about a translating device - which would give us potential real world "All your base are belong to us!".

      Mod parent up +1 funny, and +1 insightful
  • Good Grief... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:24PM (#7839842) Homepage Journal
    I could see this as a boon to the tourist who travels to places where English speakers are uncommon."

    Spoken like someone who has never taken a foreign language class. Suppose that thing is going to get the accent right? Emphasis on the right syllable? Not likely, mostly good for translating some text message into the PDA holder's tongue (and doing an Engrish [engrish.com] job of it anyway.)

    • Reminds me of the joke:

      What do you call someone who speaks three languages? A polyglot.
      What do you call someone who speaks two languages? A bilingual.
      What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American.
      • Re:Good Grief... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NanoGator (522640)
        "What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American."

        I know it's a joke, but it's a common complaint aboout Americans. Unfortunately, nobody seems to think about the United States' geography and why most of us are uni-lingual. To the North, we have Canada, which is mostly english speaking. To the south, we have Mexico, which is Spanish speaking, but there's not all that much travelling back and forth like there is with Canada. Worse, they're very accomodating down there, so there isn't a bi
        • Re:Good Grief... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kfg (145172)
          . . .it's assumed we're just stupid.

          No, not stupid, insular and parochial, an opinion which your own post supports.

          Bear in mind though, that it is the behaviour of Americans in other countries that has engendered this reputation, most of whom don't even bother to take the trouble to learn how to say "please" and "thank you" in the language of the nation they're in at the moment.

          My stepfather is in Mexico right now. He spends a minimum of three contiguous months a year there, a practice he has maintained
          • most of whom don't even bother to take the trouble to learn how to say "please" and "thank you" in the language of the nation they're in at the moment.

            And other nations would never do that. Oh no, all the English in India when it was a colony all spoke Hindi and whatever languages were appropriate for the area they lived in. And all the French in Vietnam spoke fluent Vietnamese.

            Europeans often are insular and parochial. Look how much of fight that goes on for the Basque to just use their own language. Lo
          • A very good point, but I will play devil's advocate. You see, English is simply the best language from the international traveller's point of view. I am Russian, I speak fluent English and I consider that to be enough in most countries. I studies French for two years, but to know avail, it just didn't excite me too much and I abandoned it. Can understand many words and say a few sentences, but wouldn't really try that in Paris. I spent two months learning Finnish, but didn't have much luck either. Polkupyor
        • This keeps coming up all the time, and I keep pointing this out:- to say America speaks one single language is a myth. There are more than 200 languages spoken within US borders, most of which are spoken nowhere else. Different matter that you don't need to speak Cherokee, for instance, to survive, but all the same, it is important to recognise that there languages other than English that are spoken in the US.

          The barbs on (English-speaking) Americans and their insularity mostly stems from this apparent ina

      • People learn foreign languages when we must, rarely for curiosity, and almost never out of "respect". Americans can get what we want by asking in English. When we sometimes can't, we learn the language, like I finally did after years of lifeless school Spanish was finally revived in my adventures in San Francisco's largely unilingual Meximerican Mission district. Or my bare competence in "French" after a month in West Africa. Or my drinking survival skills in "Y'at" after living in New Orleans for years.

        No
    • yeh and I'd suppose that you alrady have been able to do that(rough text translation) for couple of years through online connectivity(no need for huge local dictionary)..

      getting the right word for the context the word is in can be a real art in some languages as well(and no fucking way you'd be getting a spoken to spoken translation anytime soon on a full blown pc much less on a pda..)!

      • yeh and I'd suppose that you alrady have been able to do that(rough text translation) for couple of years through online connectivity(no need for huge local dictionary)..

        For the languages I already know I prefer to read without translation (German, Spanish, French) as it's good practice. The gaffes in translating are the limitation of the software, not the hardware.

        getting the right word for the context the word is in can be a real art in some languages as well(and no fucking way you'd be getting a sp

    • Suppose that thing is going to get the accent right? Emphasis on the right syllable?

      Admittedly this thing isn't going to get you a job as the Tom Brokaw of Malawi or Laos. But when all you want is for someone to point the way to the beach or the presidential palace, this should certainly be adequate. It's not obvious how it's an improvement over a dictionary or phrasebook, though, except maybe that it gives you sentences.

      • And you haven't used a phrasebook as yet? :-)

        Personally, I've never really figured out how to use a phrasebook (and trust me, I've tried); I mean, for sure, you can get your questions right, but how do you understand the answers? Phrase-idioms describing directions are very very community-specific and are long; it'll take a LOT of work to write all those directions down in the host language, whip your dictionary out, translate all of them, and then get to your destination.

        Instead, I find using a bit of ge

    • Spoken like somebody who has never taken a foreign language class. Which is more likely to pronounce any given word or phrase correctly every single time without forgetting how it's done, a computer or a human?
  • And here (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:24PM (#7839844)
    I thought that you only had to speak English slowly and loudly enough for anyone to understand. Silly me!
  • Hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:24PM (#7839846) Homepage Journal
    According to the article, it only works for medical terms so far, and is only 80% accurate. I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't think I'd want to trust any of my medical treatment to such a translation!

    Doctor: "Well, we thought he said pennicillin, not omoxycillin! I'm afraid the infection has run amok!"
    • Or the inverse: We are 80% sure that his PDA thing said that he broke his left hand, however, because of the 20% inaccuracy, we hedged our bets and plasterd his right hand...

      NeoThermic
    • by xie (722634)
      I like the thought that since its only 80% accurate they could be spending valuable time making sure the translation is right instead of maybe just diagnosising/treating me.
      • for diagnosis this could actually be pretty useful, as it would only have to understand certain phrases such as "where does it hurt" it is disappointing that voice recognition isn't great yet, but be optimistic people. It will be hot when it's ready.
    • If you had ever dealt with the clueless doctors in some European countries, you would know that every detail you can give them will help. Some of those people, even if the speak English by some chance, seem like they have degrees from community colleges. Medicine is barely more than a hobby for them.
    • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Funny)

      by Spam.B.gone (682244)
      oh no.. he said 'I want a full bottle in front of me'...
  • by avgjoe62 (558860) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:24PM (#7839850)
    > I could see this as a boon to the tourist who travels to places where English speakers are uncommon.

    Yeah, I could really use one of these when I go from Fort Lauderdale to Miami...

  • by dejinshathe (736132) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:25PM (#7839853) Journal
    "It also works only when the speakers are talking about medical information, and it's only about 80 percent accurate in the lab."

    Forgive my immediate misgivings, and you can call me chicken if you want, but I'm really not that keen on walking into a hospital and asking to have a medical procedure done with a 1 in 5 chance that instead of removing my appendix, they might remove my "appendage"...
    • If your willing to not have your speech translated in realtime. Say your willing to wait 5 minutes or so a 95% or better return can be expected. The main reason why these translators aren't accurate a lot of the time is because the algorithm used can only make a limited ammount of passes on each word so that each word is translated in near realtime.
  • Excellent! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now i can travel to other parts of the USA and be able to understand the locals!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...Stephen Hawking in Arabic.
  • For when text-books are too cumbersome in the field. I thought these were being used to some degree by the military already.
    Like the books they are not intrinsically intelligent.
  • by shuz (706678) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:27PM (#7839886) Homepage Journal
    Technology is at a point where all the software has been written to create a translator where a person speaks into a microphone which then is translated into text which is then translated into a different language which is then played back verbally in the same persons voice in a different language. The problem is that this cannot be done in realtime. 4 years ago I worked on a project for At&t to create an application that would train a users voice, break down thier voice patterns and be able to rearange those patterns to create other sounds which sound like they are coming from that real person. The problem is that with current processors the time to train and process is about 10 hours. So we can do voice recognition in realtime, we can translate text words in realtime, and in 10 hours we can reproduce a persons voice nearly flawlessly. Think of the possiblities!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      So we can do voice recognition in realtime, we can translate text words in realtime, and in 10 hours we can reproduce a persons voice nearly flawlessly. Think of the possiblities!

      Yeah, I bet John Ashcroft is creaming his jeans... just think, if your wiretaps don't pick up anything incriminating, you can still use them to *make* someone say something incriminating.
    • so should we look for this in the 3.0 linux kernel? I mean seriously, want to out innovate Microsoft?(i do!) Then lets start work on it. GNU/Speech Recognition, GNU/Translator, GNU/Synthesizer or something like that.

      in the 4 years since your work, we have gone through nearly 2 1/2 "Moore Generations" so processors are far beefier than they have ever been. another generation, they will be in the 5+ Ghz range, which should be able to cut that 10 hours of processing down a lot.

      Even better, why process it at
  • by iantri (687643) <iantri@gmx.LAPLACEnet minus math_god> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:28PM (#7839899) Homepage
    There is a program that already exists for the Palm (unfortunately I do not remember the name) that allows you rudimentary communication with one who speaks a foreign language by translating common phrases, selected by tapping on the screen.

    I realize that this software is supposed to be somewhat more powerful, but what I am saying is that even limited translation programs are useful for tourists.

  • text (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward


    As speech recognition technology gets better, and as handheld computers get more powerful, audio translators are becoming a more practical proposition.

    Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Cepstral, LLC, Multimodal Technologies Inc. and Mobile Technologies Inc. have put together a two-way speech-to-speech system that translates medical information from Arabic to English and English to Arabic and runs on an iPaq handheld computer.

    The prototype falls short of Star Trek's fictional universal translat
  • by stienman (51024) <adavis@ubasi c s .com> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:29PM (#7839911) Homepage Journal
    "Are you speaking the english?"

    "I speak to the English, it's the Americans I won't talk to..."

    -Adam
  • by fastdecade (179638) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:30PM (#7839914)
    First can we have a PDA that does decent text-to-speech or speech-to-text, preferably both.

    A hardware babelfish will revolutionise human communication later this century, but right now you need both of the above before you can begin to contemplate speech-to-speech. I can't imagine any serious algorithm at this time would attempt direct translation, without an intermediate text translation phase.

    Bit OT: Considering the interest in E-Books, I don't know why music players and PDAs force users to download wave forms when we could just download text and convert using a cheap text-to-speech synth.
    • Forget PDA, I would like any software that can do a decent Speech-to-text. Every year of so I try all the latest stuff. Every year I keep typing. It is more likly that the rest of the world will learn english than we will have an effective translator in real time.
    • Are you serious? an e-book read by stephen hawking? I download the mp3s because people reading books do accents and sometimes do fun voices, *sigh* it reminds me of kindergarten all over again. I could not listen to a synth for 80,000 words.
    • ever use a mac? Honestly, i have been looking to get one, and their builtin speech recognition is fairly decent... much better(without any training, this was just a show model i walked up to and played with) than i would have expected, even after used popular speech programs and training them.

      It is command based.... "Minimize all windows" "Close this application" and whatnot, but it is quite accurate(not perfect).

      Maybe Jobs will have OS XI allow for plain-english input, rather than command based only :)
  • by aredubya74 (266988) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:31PM (#7839921)
    Outstanding. This thing will finally make the common Ugly American practice of yelling actually useful:

    *hold PDA to face* Ahem! "WHERE IS THE BATHROOM?!" *hold PDA to foreigner's ear*
    • Unfortunately, you might be shown a room that actually has a bath in it but no sign of a toilet ;)

      Obviously, you have never been to the dorm or apartment of an American college student. Toilet? Sink? Tub? Hey, whatever you can hit.

      Anyway I always thought that you Americans travelled with pistols and used those to communicate with non-english speakers.

      That's only NRA members and star athletes, and even then, they yell first, shoot later.
  • ...but since that's way too obvious, I'll leave it to the casual slashdotter to fill in the joke.

    Let's face it, language butchery is funny. To do so automatically is so much more amusing! I mean I installed festival on my machine just so I could hear the synth voice say stuff like "beeeeyotch" and "retaaard" -- imagine how well you could offend in different dialects!

    I suppose it does have legitimate uses...but what fun is that? Then again with the quality of translation software nowadays, it should be
  • If it talks in and out, and uses an ear bud, it would be like being able to speak the language, albeit with a terrible accent, and occasionally offending the prime minister! That would be cool.
  • The fun thing about travel is trying to undertstand people and them trying to understand you. Most people want to learn a little English and many Americans want to learn anything else (other than Spanish of course, which Mexicans have made them think is a peasant language). Anyway, with a machine I think it would be awkward, and it may make the local person feel a little inadequate (I got a PDA, you don't).
    • and it may make the local person feel a little inadequate (I got a PDA, you don't).

      As a potential "local", I can reassure you: I certainly wouldn't "feel inadequate", while ROFL.

  • by NZheretic (23872) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:39PM (#7840010) Homepage Journal
    With apologies to the python crew...

    Text on screen: In 2004, the World Trade Center lay in ruins, and foreign nationalists frequented the streets - many of them Arabs (not the streets - the foreign nationals). Anyway, many of these Arabs went into tobacconist's shops to buy cigarettes....

    A Arab tourist approaches the shopclerk. The tourist is talking haltingly into a PDA.

    Arab: I will not buy this record, it is scratched.
    Clerk: Sorry?
    Arab: I will not buy this record, it is scratched.
    Clerk: Uh, no, no, no. This is a tobacconist's.
    Arab: Ah! I will not buy this *tobacconist's*, it is scratched.
    Clerk: No, no, no, no. Tobacco...um...cigarettes (holds up a pack).
    Arab: Ya! See-gar-ets! Ya! Uh...My hovercraft is full of eels.
    Clerk: Sorry?
    Arab: My hovercraft (pantomimes puffing a cigarette)...is full of eels (pretends to strike a match).
    Clerk: Ahh, matches!
    Arab: Ya! Ya! Ya! Ya! Do you waaaaant...do you waaaaaant...to come back to my place, bouncy bouncy?
    Clerk: Here, I don't think you're using that thing right.
    Arab: You great poof.
    Clerk: That'll be six and six, please.
    Arab: If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me? I...I am no longer infected.
    Clerk: Uh, may I, uh...(takes PDA, talks to it)...Costs six and six...ah, here we are. (speaks weird Arabic-sounding words)
    Arab punches the clerk.

    Meanwhile, a cop on a quiet street cups his ear as if hearing a cry of distress. He sprints for many blocks and finally enters the tobacconist's.

    Cop: What's up
    Arab: Ah. You have beautiful thighs.
    Cop: (looks down at himself) WHAT?!?
    Clerk: He hit me!
    Arab: Drop your panties, Sir William; I cannot wait 'til lunchtime. (points at clerk)
    Cop: RIGHT!!! (drags Arab away by the arm)
    Arab: (indignantly) My nipples explode with delight!

  • Just wait ten years (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mschuyler (197441) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:42PM (#7840041) Homepage Journal
    I believe PDAs are going to be tremendously transformed over the next few years.

    1. Convergence is going to happen with a vengance. The Treo 600 is just the start. More and more apps will make it to the PDA. Speech recognition is one, and that sets up for another dybamic...

    PDAs don't really need screens and keyboards if you can talk to them and they can talk to you. If they don't need those components, they can get a whole lot smaller. The next generation PDAs will be like a hearing aid, and the ones after that will be built into your glasses or an implant. That means less power, so less battery. Besides, it will be able to run on your body heat if not tap into your own body's electrical system, so it won't need a battery. Every improvemnt along these lines dwindles the size even more. A heads-up display, made transparent or opaque, ought to handle those times when you need to really observe rather than consult.

    A combination of AI and connectivity will mean your PDA is your first line of defense in many of life's situations. Get pulled over by a cop and it will tell you what to do, what NOT to do, and contact your lawyer. Need a cop and it will call them and know just how long it's going to take to get there.

    Medicine: It will have a complete medical history of you, remind you to take your meds, and monitor your blood pressure and other vita signs. If you have a heart attack it will call 911 with your location and be the first thing the medics consult when they get to you.

    Personality: You'll be able to choose its level of humor and sarcasm. Although clearly a machine, people will develop meaningful relationships with them, at least they'll think so.

    Connectivity: Everything you can think of, including your own house, which you'll call up to turn the heat up since you're coming home early. All teh Wi-Fi/cell connectivity you want will be built in.

    Finances: It will know everything you do and provide access to your dough. If you get overdrawn it will be intentional because it will have real time access. It will have all the ATM/debit/credit stuff all on-hand. It will also be able to shop for you and tell you where the best deal is.

    It will know all your friends and business associates and help remind you, "This is Joe. He's a Cougar. He knows you're a Husky, but don't rub it in. His kid just joined the Navy. He thinks LOTR sucks, and Rush is Right, so be careful. He drinks Guiness. His budget is 250K and he's looking to upgrade the Ciscos."

    You'd never think of leaving home without this. Indeed, since it very well may be built-in, you won't have to worry about it. Just keep up the subscription.
    '

    • Are you the same person that said to wait ten yearsf for all this stuff, ten years ago?

    • Convergence is going to happen with a vengance.

      The ultimate in convergance will be when the PDA becomes part of the users body. Connecting with their nervous system and even their brain.

    • I like your first point, that a computer needs input, output, and a processor. input and output don't have to be keyboard and screen, or a combo touchscreen as found in pdas.... voice recognition and sythesis(not necesarily anything CLOSE to true AI, just a well tuned bot) are just as good potentially for input/output...

      The second part you mentioned, about medical history brings up a more interesting point... I don't see there being the all-mighty Palm Pilot to hold my life's history and be my google proxy
    • Just keep up the subscription.

      Forget subscription. If it's mass market acceptance you're after, it won't take off until you can buy it outright, with access to all necessary services included in the price (for some period close to the expected period of ownership the device , before upgrading).

      This has been a pretty clear lesson of the past few years for all kinds of tech startups. Those who didn't learn it either died in the dotcom crash or soon will.

  • my experience with voice recognition (yes even your beloved Via-Voice) is that it blows and will for some time. We probably need better speech recognition before we get speech to speech.
  • Travelling (Score:2, Informative)

    by elf-fire (715733)
    Well. I have been to quite a few places where English was not exactly lingua franca. In most of these places semi-right pronounciation of foreign words would not have had a big impact. Hand gestures and my favourite dictionary (which contains pictures of just about anything one would ever need 'on the road') have always been sufficient to find a hotel, a train or bus ticket out and some food. For the latter: Just walking into a restaurant's kitchen and pointing at the visible ingredients (dead or alive ;
  • Not being content with translating humanoid speech, the Japanese have aimed their sights higher; dogs [takaratoys.co.jp] and cats [takaratoys.co.jp]. Cheaper than a PDA too, but they still need to work on the size and texture so it slithers nicely into the ear.
  • I could see this as a boon to the tourist who travels to places where English speakers are uncommon. You mean like those horribly backward places that consider "aluminium" to be a 3-syllable word, and think "getting pissed" has something to do with being angry?
  • keep in mind that pdas are even more uncommon in those places, so i wouln't want to spend too much on such a device.
    also keep in mind, that it actually is possible to learn a language, which does not happen to be the most widespread on this earth (or at least in those parts of this world you happen to travel to)...
  • Babelfish is terrible at even translating Germanic and Latin languages and this thing is supposed to be worse than that?

    I know that people want to solve everything with technology, but is it so much more difficult to learn another language or perhaps even a few phrases of the country where you are going to. Why does one even go to another country if one doesn't want to understand even the smallest part of that place?
  • Bah! (Score:3, Funny)

    by MoeMoe (659154) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:07PM (#7840263)
    Silly foreigner, don't you know everyone speaks English?
    • they might all speak english, but try and have a west coaster talk to someone from the deep south who has a strong accent... you might honestly need a translator just for that given the accents change the way words and sentences sound and feel.
  • "Oh look honey! A local! I wonder what he wants. Use your iPaq to find out what he's saying!"

    "Umm... He says 'Give me your iPaq or I will be forced to kill you and take your wife back to my yurt.'"
  • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:28PM (#7840465)
    So all you need is a mobile phone. You phone up the number for the language you need translated to, tell the translator what you want to say and hand the phone over to the person you want to talk to. Quite expensive per minute, but cheaper than a PDA and very very handy in an emergency.

    Course, you could learn another language, it isn't remotely as difficult as school makes it out to be. English is one of the more difficult languages to learn. If you learn, one of Italian, French, Spanish, Portugese you should be able to pick the others up fairly quickly. English is based on a Germanic language with a lot of the French and Roman influences chucked in on top, it's a real mishmash.

    • Learning to dabble in a language is one thing; learning a language with the level of detail and intimacy required to talk about medical affairs, or to interrogate a prisoner of war or quickly find out critical information from a panicked civilian -- these are, I'm afraid, a bit harder than asking your way to a good restaurant.

      Get your DoD sponsorship and security clearance in order, enroll in the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language School, and you'll be speaking the language of your sponsor's choic
      • "Learning to dabble in a language is one thing; learning a language with the level of detail and intimacy required to talk about medical affairs, or to interrogate a prisoner of war or quickly find out critical information from a panicked civilian -- these are, I'm afraid, a bit harder than asking your way to a good restaurant."

        I'm sorry, but where on earth did you get the impression that you could do the above with something which is almost certainly less reliable than babelfish on a PDA? You do have a pa
        • To say that this PDA translation software "isn't as good as Babelfish" is to miss the point.

          First of all, Babelfish is pretty darned good. It's true that Babelfish won't render the Rubaiyat into English; won't translate Shakespeare into Arabic. But if you use it to translate a general web page that uses newspaper vocabulary and avoids domain-specific jargon, Babelfish will help get the point across. If you count grammatical inaccuracies, Babelfish is less than 80% efficient. That's all we're looking for in
      • "the ability to learn languages is a trait that can not easily be tuaght"

        I do agree with this 100% though not because people can't learn languages, but because the teachers and methodology simply aren't very good. 3 years at school taught me less about Italian than 6 months in the country talking to people on a daily basis.

        The other thing is I think you missed the title of my post. You can phone a translator. You know, on a mobile phone.

        • Oh, I agree that phoning into a human translator is still going to provide the most accurate translation available. If you use a dedicated full-duplex telephone, the translator can even translate speech in real time, ending up with better accuracy and lower latency than the machine translator. But human translators aren't always available or cost-effective. The idea is to give people a rudimentary translating tool.

          When I'm in western Europe, I normally carry a small electronic pocket translator around with
      • Aptitude testing is useful, but two other major factors in the success of the US government language schools (there are actually four: The Defense Language Institute in Monterey, the Foreign Service Institute, the CIA Language School, and the NSA Language School) are time and focus. In most other situations, such as high-school or college, people studying a language study it a small fraction of the time. It's one of four or more courses. Class time is 3-5 hours per week. On a typical university schedule, that's a maximum of 130 hours a year in class. In contrast, in the government language schools, language study is the whole show. Students spend 8 hours a day or more on the language (not all in class). That comes to much more time devoted to the language, and there are fewer distractions.

      • I met a guy who went to Monterey once. One of the aptitude tests went something like this:

        You are put in a classroom with instructor(s) who "only" speak an entirely synthetic language (designed just for this purpose). You have 1 hour to communicate and obtain the following info: location of nearby towns, names of them, where am I, where's a nearby hospital, how are the roads, how long will it take to go somewhere and how far is it.

        Pretty challenging, but if you have the knack for languages, you can do
  • Not quite as good as a babelfish

    They should start a new reality show where Americans try to survive in various countries with only this device to translate for them. "How is your wife this evening" turns into "Where may I find a lady of the evening".

  • These things aren't going to get any better until handhelds get the cache sizes necessary to run a HMM search in reasonable time.
  • With mobile translation devices, and even better translation servers for ubiquitous mobile phones, Europe's great disadvantage will now recede. The United States of America is possible due to shared language. With translation, the free travel and commerce in Europe will be bolstered by free speech across borders. Incidentally making the mobile phone as central to 21st Century European culture as the TV was to 20th Century American culture. I'd rather have the phones as my totem.
  • How about the opposite sex? Parents? Now those would be Nobel-prize-worthy accomplishments.
    • geek/technobabble - to - laymans English would be a much more worthy accomplishment.

      Runners up, Conversion from
      MarketingSpeak,
      WomenSpeak,
      InsuranceSpeak ,
      LawyerSpeak

      On a related note:

      You can always tell when politicians lie ? ... Their lips move

      boom tish ! Thanks, I'll be here for the rest of the year...
  • ~Me love you long time.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn

Working...