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Why you Shouldn’t Expect your Smartphone to be a Serious Translation Tool

Last Updated On: June 15, 2021 by The Migration Translators

Why you Shouldn’t Expect your Smartphone to be a Serious Translation Tool
Last updated:August 18th, 2015 by The Migration Translators

In this age of universally available and technologically sophisticated communication, it may be tempting to fall for the hype that some translation app promoters appear to promise. Just imagine, you may think, how you could cut down on translation costs by doing everything yourself. Just arm yourself with one or another translation app which has come on to the market and you can dispense with that expensive professional translation service you were first considering.

Unfortunately, no translation app can yet match the quality of a professional human translation service if the sort of text you want to be translated is crucial to your business.

The reality is that translation apps generally translate a text word for word and are incapable of considering the context of a phrase or paragraph. There are some apps that have been designed and promoted by people who have never bothered to learn any other language except their own and have absolutely no idea of the intricacies of translation.

The worst thing that can happen if these sorts of translation apps are used too widely is that words are translated too literally and become meaningless or even cause offense in the target language.

Admittedly, there are occasions for which a professional translation service in Sydney or other Australian cities is not necessary. Translation apps are quite useful for the sort of communication you are likely to use while on holiday, especially if you are traveling somewhere on a one-off basis and there is no benefit in the long term in learning the local language. A lot of these new smartphone apps will allow you to communicate on a rudimentary basis and get by even if from time to time you may be confronted with incomprehension when the app spits out phrases that have been mistranslated.

If you are traveling on business, then relying on a translation app is trickier as the fate of your business trip may be dependent on effective communication. It is best to take with you copies of any important documents that you need translated by a professional translation service and make use of a local interpreter if you have a lot of verbal communication to do.

So do translation apps have any value at all and are they getting better?

The answer is yes to both questions: take Google Translate, for instance. You would be very unwise to use it, despite it being a free service, to translate your important legal documents, but for casual travel, it at least tries to use contextual translation rather than rely totally on word-for-word translation. Some of the new apps do have large vocabularies and have the advantage of being able to be used away from an internet signal, which can cut down on phone and roaming charges, so the conclusion is that smartphone apps have, at least at present, limited use whenever the translation needed is not critical or too important.