Lost in Translation: The Emergence of Translation Apps


More and more tech companies are launching their own translation apps. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and other smaller companies are all over the place advertising the effectiveness of their apps in terms of eliminating the traditional, chronic challenge of the language barrier. Most of them claim that they can translate tens of languages within microseconds and with over 95 percent accuracy. But the main issue here isn’t how many translation apps are there or how many will be launched in the near future. The elephant in the room is: Do these apps really work or are tech giants exaggerating just too much?

Business and Translation

From a business perspective, translation is among the most critical aspects of international trade. Any business owner or manager will tell you how easily a loophole in translation can ruin a business’ reputation and dilute its brand. On the other hand, a good translation can give a business an edge over its competitors. That said, therefore, business entities need translation apps that capture not only the right words but also the culture of international trade partners. They need apps that will be able to capture both the letter and the spirit of a conversation if they are to make it overseas.

When speaking with government officers in Asia, for example, you need an app that will translate your content such that it comes out on the other end being as official as the officers would like. When designing campaign ads, on the other hand, you need an app that translates your content in a fashion that appeals best to your target customers. That is the bottom line.

Are there apps that can meet these standards?

From the face of it, Google Translate, Amazon Translate, Microsoft Translate and Day Translations are doing just fine. The quality of their translations is good enough for most companies particularly because they are free and instant. But they have their unique set of limitations which make it necessary to hire the services of a translation company even as you continue enjoying the free online translators. Some of these challenges include:

  • Translation apps aren’t able to accurately capture the accent, dialects, and disciplines of a given language. Languages are for humans and they necessitate a human touch that apps lack. If you are translating a menu, for example, apps may get the names within that menu right but they may not precisely bring out the word connection and appeal that the original menu has.
  • Most of these apps only translate the priority languages- English, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, etc. As an international company, there are hundreds of thousands of linguistics that you need to reach out to, but the translation apps available are yet to translate as many languages. As a matter of fact, it may take them several decades to bring all cultures and languages of the world on board.

Bottom line

Serious business owners cannot afford to entirely depend on translation apps to communicate with business associates, customers, employees, and government officials in foreign markets. Engaging a translation company remains to be the most reliable way of getting business done.

Travelers and Translation Apps

Just like in business, travelers need translation apps that are accurate and real-time if they are to enjoy their vacations. But this isn’t always the case as many travelers will attest to. The apps do not exactly capture deep, complex accents and dialects and they often give gibberish translations. In most tourist destinations in Africa and Asia, there lack proper translation apps that can help a traveler get along without engaging the services of a tour guide. Sometimes the apps get too unreliable to even find your directions or even communicate simple instructions to your cab driver. 

Translation Apps and International Romantic Relationships

It is said that if anyone wants to capture someone emotionally, then speak to him or her in his/her native language. That is why translation apps would be the greatest thing that happened to couples who come from different lingual backgrounds. This is the area that these apps have registered the greatest success, perhaps because it doesn’t demand 100 percent accuracy like in the traveling and other business industries. With love in the air- it doesn’t matter if a couple met online- a translation app is nothing more than a facilitator. All it needs to do is convey messages of love even in the vaguest of ways and then body language will do the rest. So, yes! Translation apps work when it comes to romance and friendships.