Magazine article Information Today

It's All in the Translation

Magazine article Information Today

It's All in the Translation

Article excerpt

The 2012 Summer Olympics in London last month reminded us that we live in a world filled with many cultures. With each Olympic victory, national anthems celebrated the triumphs in different languages. For some, it was also a reminder that English is not the only language in the world.

In school, students learn how to read, write, and speak foreign languages. Travelers often learn a new language before boarding a plane to another country. From Berlitz Languages, Inc. to Rosetta Stone Ltd. to Manga, resources abound for learning languages.

Enter Google Translation

Technology has made instant translation easier as well. Google Translate, a leader in basic language translation, lets users enter text in one language and watch it translate the information into another. It can even translate entire webpages on-the-fly, making it easy for web designers to make their websites available in nearly any language. Using the Google Translate power of machines that support the Google infrastructure, Google Translate translates language to the best of its ability based on its programming. Google Translate is now available as an app for mobile devices, where it can even speak translations aloud in some languages. With tools such as these, it's never been easier to live and work in a global society.

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Although many reviews report that Google Translate is highly accurate, it is still using machines and computer programming for translation. So the question remains: Can computers really handle something as complex as language, or are humans better equipped for this work?

Human Help for Duolingo

Luis von Ahn, who recently launched a company called Duolingo, believes that humans have the edge when it comes to decoding language. He knows that language is natural to humans, not to computers, and that computer algorithms can't distinguish many of the complexities of language. So Duolingo relies on humans for learning and translating language.

In its unique approach using crowdsourcing, Duolingo offers free language lessons to anyone who wants to help the company with language translation. The concept appeals to those who want to learn a language; at the same time, they can help translate the web. It is a win-win situation that von Ahn believes will provide more complete and accurate translations that are based on human interpretation.

Duolingo's collaborative process gets many people involved and helps resolve conflicts to find the best solutions. …

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