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
Aug 292013

My ‘merican husband’s a fan of British TV crime dramas, but sometimes he turns to me with a puzzled look. So I plan to show him this to see his reactions.

I should explain that there’s a lot that the guys with the London accents say that I don’t understand, and I understand even less of the country Dorset accent. But here are a few of the words and phrases that went flying by. Ellipsis,  cockney rhyming slang and some delightful metaphors all feature.

  • bounced gregory – bounced cheque/check (Gregory Peck)
  • minding me own – minding my own business
  • What a West Ham! – What a nerve! (West Ham Reserves)
  • my boat – my face (boat race)
  • skag – contraband
  • sky rocket (or just sky) – pocket
  • open up my north – open up my mouth (north and south)
  • collar feeling – being collared = being arrested by the police
  • bracelets – hand cuffs
  • my manor – my home turf – where I was born.
  • a snowman – a drug dealer
  • a jam jar – a car
  • a bell – a phone call
  • earwig – hear
  • a conflab – a discussion
  • done a concrete trampoline – no idea what it means but I love the metaphor
  • done a flier – ran away
  • benghazi – toilet/bathroom (it used to be karzi)
  • parking his breakfast – emptying his bowels. There were lots more for this – ‘squeezing a malteser’ was probably the funniest. Maltesers are sweets/candies – honeycomb balls covered in chocolate. Perhaps they are similar to Whoppers here?
  • elephant – drunk (elephant trunk)
  • the bill – the police
  • on the River Ooze – drinking (on the booze)
  • tooled up – armed
  • clocked with my own mincers – seen with my own eyes (mince pies)

Perhaps I got some wrong or you spotted others? If so, do share!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like this one on Law and Order UK.

 Posted by at 8:47 am
Jul 302013

Our latest video for English learners:

Of course what we didn’t have time to do was explore some of the peculiar BrE and AmE differences. There’s ‘mind’ as in  ‘Mind the gap’ and Lynnequist has made an excellent post about that here. And then there’s the funny one that causes endless amusement in our house where Brits say ‘I don’t mind’ where ‘mericans would say ‘I don’t care’. I’ve written about that before  and it still drives my husband nuts. But we’ll have to save that for another video one day.

So lots to do – trust you won’t mind if I press on now…

 Posted by at 6:50 am
Nov 032010

Oh my, are you in for a treat! I’ve got a guest post for you from none other than everyone’s favourite ELT blogger – the thoroughly TEFLtastic, Alex Case. Without ado, over to Alex.

As I’m British, I have to admit that my biggest problem with American English is a knee-jerk negative reaction to Americanisms, especially when they are used by people back home. I would love to believe that I could one day fully accept more logical American forms like ax, or at least find out if words really are Americanisms before showing my disgust. Unfortunately, that instant snobbish sneer seems to be a cultural norm that I just can’t lose.

Ironically, my second largest problem is that a prime example of an Englishman who can’t keep the American English tide back is me. After ten years abroad, I can’t remember the last time I said corner shop, cashpoint, or first floor for the one that isn’t on the ground. I must say that the extreme reaction I get for saying convenience store and ATM back home is a bit over the top. What is it with these Brits? Do they think they are superior to the 99% of the world that uses those expressions? Apparently we do…

My next problem with American English is those bits that I have yet to come across, let alone pick up myself. The number of times I have corrected students only to later find out that what they said was perfectly acceptable American English are too numerous to mention, but they include “puzzle” for jigsaw, “robe” for dressing gown, “dish” for a plate, and “toaster oven”. That has caused me even more angst over the years as I’ve realised that becoming the teacher I would like to be doesn’t just involve thinking up more game ideas, but also entails the deeply tedious process of learning about my own language when I’d much rather be learning Moldovan or Bengali.

I’m hardly alone in the problem above. One clear sign of that is the number of online lists of typical mistakes for particular language speakers (Franglais etc) that include perfectly acceptable American English. To make me feel better, the number of lists by North Americans correcting their students for using British English is even greater.

Becoming too aware of the danger of correcting a student for something that turns out to be correct somewhere can lead to problem number 4 – blaming all student errors on American English. For example, most British teachers in Japan and Korea blame the Japlish and Konglish word “muffler” (a winter scarf) on Americans. Strange that, because most Americans assume it is British English. Of course, if I properly knew my own language as it is spoken beyond the limits of Lewis District Council, I’d probably be able to correct my students with complete confidence. Will read Webster’s through soon, I promise, just as soon as I’ve learnt 3000 kanji and have a fun activity for today’s class of mixed conditionals…

Alex Case is an English teacher, teacher trainer, EFL writer and editor who has worked in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, Italy, the UK, Japan and Korea. He is a star of the ELT blogging world, keeping us all laughing, stimulated and really well equipped with great lesson ideas at TEFLtastic

 Posted by at 1:29 pm
Jul 232010

Just a quick note to say Macmillan invited me to describe my key struggles with ‘merican over on their English dictionary blog where they have been having a ‘merican English month. They’ve had some terrific posts on the subject from different writers. To read mine, click here.

 Posted by at 7:42 am