Teacher of professional and technical English, writer and teacher trainer.

May 032015

I wouldn’t like to live without Google translate but relying on it is a VERY dangerous thing – as illustrated by the great graphic below from Verbalink. So it is with very great pleasure that I introduce a their guest post….

With people all over the world connecting and communicating with each other, the demand for easy-to-use translation services has been steadily growing. Technology has been attempting to reduce the need for human intervention in various tasks for hundreds of years. A very successful example of this is travel agencies. Before websites like Expedia, you had to contact an actual person who would then manually coordinate your vacation. In today’s world, planning a lavish trip to Vegas is as simple as logging into these websites, typing in some information and clicking a button.

On the other hand, some tasks seem impossible to accomplish without humans. For example, how could a robot or computer program write a movie script or make artistic decisions while creating a film? In roles like these, the human mind is a vital and perhaps required element. This has certainly seemed true of translation, a skill which earns many people a decent living. In an attempt to break this barrier, Microsoft unveiled the Skype Translator. The idea behind the Skype Translator is that rather than translating written text, it supplies an almost-instantaneous translation of human words. Following the release of the Skype Translator, Google took its own version of the voice translation app public.

At Verbal Ink, we provide human translators which allows for both improved accuracy and a more natural sounding translation. Skype Translate wasn’t available at the time of the test so we decided to compare the proficiency of Google Translate with our human translators. For this test, we used Adriana as a translator and Gaby as a judge of both Adriana and Google’s translations. The first round of translations was done using a Spanish marketing document while the second round was done using Spanish audio spoken into an iPhone using the Google Translate app.

But the question remains: Are these services a viable replacement for having a human translator? The answer is no. While Google Translate will provide a partially correct translation, our tests showed it to be overly formal and produce a product that overall didn’t sound like a natural speaker of the language would. In addition to this, some words were missed entirely and placed into the translated text in their original form.

That’s not to say there aren’t uses for Google Translate. In our tests, Google Translate did a sufficient job of providing the gist of the translated text. The main issue with Google Translate is that it translates each word individually rather than translating an entire sentence or phrase and providing the proper context in which the word was used. If you’re trying to translate a single word or figure out the gist of a paragraph, Google Translate will do a sufficient job. Our human translators were most useful when translating documents with more complex language, such as legal and financial documents.

So if you’re wondering what a word means or how to say “I love you” in another language, Google Translate and its competitors will fit your needs perfectly. However, it would be wise to avoid using them to write your next Spanish paper or fake fluency in another language!


 Posted by at 2:00 pm
Nov 052014

Do you have any intermediate or advanced level students who would like to know more about British and American English? If so, I have just the class for them!

On November 19, 2014 (or 19th November, if you’d prefer) I’m teaming up with Jennifer Lebedev to run a live webinar on WizIQ. I’m British and she’s American – so together we’ve got the two varieties covered.


It costs $10 and includes pre and post class discussions and quizzes, along with access to the recording of the live webinar (in case you can’t make it on the day).


 Posted by at 4:15 pm
Oct 152014

Marc Leavitt just sent me this delightful poem he’s written. Brilliant! This Victoria is extremely amused. Thanks so much, Marc!

To read more from Marc – there’s lots more great stuff where this came from – check out his blog here, which is aptly titled, Marc Leavitt’s Blog!

The Queen’s English
The language of Her Majesty,
Well-said, a verbal tapestry,
Is right for her in every way,
Although unpopular today.

Her dialect is very posh,
So upper-class, and oh, my gosh,
One people sometimes emulate,
In place of other types that grate.

Her Oxbridge accent leaves no place
For other accents we’d embrace;
You can assume it, but take heed,
It’s quite unlike the average breed.

Let’s hear a speaker on his rounds,
To find out how the accent sounds:
He makes a visit to your “hice”;
(That’s “house” to you; please say it twice).

And most important, this by far,
You must always drop your “R.”
It’s never far, but always “fah,”
When you take a trip by “cah.”

If you chance to utter “very,”
You must know it rhymes with “Teddy,”
One more point; the upper “clahsses”
Sound their A’s like “O’s in “flosses”;

These three tips are just a “staht,”
You must learn all rules by “hot.”
If you slip up, and say, my “house,”
You might as well go catch a mouse.

 Posted by at 3:32 am