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The Illusion of Being Bilingual
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:29
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 30, 2006

I read an article in New Scientist magazine about a "new" Tower of Babel interpretation device and found this blurb on-line.

I cannot see how this device would ever be practical. How would this work with languages such as German where the verb is sometimes at the end of the clause or sentence and you would have to "wait for the translation (sic) to be read out" anyway?

Why do linguists continue with this folly of the "Universal Translator" without any assistance from trained interpreters/translators?

Here is a link to the review of the article:

"...A "Tower of Babel" device that gives the illusion of being bilingual is being developed by US scientists.
Users simply have to silently mouth a word in their own language for it to be translated and read out in another...."

[Edited at 2006-10-30 05:14]

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:29
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
These devices would apply thoughtreading Oct 30, 2006

of course, so they would know already at the beginning of the sentence, what the verb will be (before the speaker has decided about it).

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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
English to German
+ ...
indeed Oct 30, 2006

"If the prototypes used a small vocabulary of about 100-200 words they worked with about 80% accuracy, researcher Tanja Schultz said."

'nough said.

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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:29
French to English
+ ...
Turkeys voting for Christmas Oct 30, 2006

TampaTranslator wrote:

Why do linguists continue with this folly of the "Universal Translator" without any assistance from trained interpreters/translators?

Possibly because these same trained interpreters/translators don't want to put themselves out of a job by helping them?! Let 'em struggle on, I say...

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Timothy Barton
Local time: 08:29
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Even more amusing... Oct 30, 2006

The universal translator for Skype! Just check out the English/French translation in the example! We're all going to be out of business soon! (I'd like to know how many people are going to understand "frais" as the translation of "cool". If they know English, they might work it out through back translation, but then, they wouldn't need the wonderful universal translator.)

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langnet  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:29
Member (2002)
Italian to German
+ ...
further more... Oct 31, 2006

Voice recognition is envolved...

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Trevor Butcher
Local time: 08:29
What's the problem? Oct 31, 2006

This is what research is all about, just as things like the internet and mobile phones are the result of years of someone else's research. Laugh you may at what they are doing, but I remember people laughing at me and others when we started using computers in about 1981.

Personally, I believe that the present day CAT tools are fatally flawed because they so often lead people down the road of phrase-for-phrase, and sometimes word-for-word, translations. However, just because they are not perfect doesn't seem to stop so many people using them - and making excellent use of them at that.

Research in its early days is like all the small children of the world - who can tell now which of them will become great athletes? But we can be sure that some will.


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Dr. Jason Faulkner  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:29
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
It's just a matter of time. . . . a LONG time. Nov 7, 2006

Ever watch a baby, really watch a baby, when they realize that words have meaning? The cognitive processes involved in understanding speech would easily melt your laptop.

Not just hearing it and writing it down (still a difficult task, but my Dragon is learning), but actually UNDERSTANDING it. Now just bolt on another Pentium 10 with a watercooled heat dump to translate it. We all know what that entails. A long night of broadband surfing can't compare with a sail across the cerebral cortex trying to describe "latido, congojo, y pujo" to a gringo doctor. The images that run through your head while you're accessing your Mark I brain, looking for that word. . . . Heck, that stupid dog/paperclip thingy is still searching for a Word document I just made last week!

It really is an enormous task that we undertake on a daily basis (and mostly powered by glucose and coffee). The fact that there are so many of us here on is only a reminder that there are 6,000,000,000 people on this planet, and growing. . . and most of them can't do it either.

I suppose some day machines will be able to do this, just as they will some day drive our cars, clean our homes, massage our backs, and pick our strawberries, they've been telling us that since the 1950s! Some day all human labor will be obsolete and we will be have to figure out a different way to distribute our resources. . . . . or Bush will declare himself king and it's every man for himself (Mad Max, anyone? I can fly a plane!).

In the mean time, chamba es chamba, y la maldita máquina se descompuso ótra vez! I'll keep plugging away until carpal tunnel gets me or I get a flying car, whichever comes first. I don't think anyone here who expects to live a normal lifespan will be looking for a new career before 60.

SaludoZ Tríbu!

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The Illusion of Being Bilingual

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