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Japan Getting Real-Time Phone Call Translator App

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the philology-becomes-an-engineering-specialization dept.

Cellphones 113

another random user writes with news that NTT Docomo, Japan's largest wireless carrier, will be rolling out a real-time translation app for phone calls on November 1. At launch, the app will translate Japanese into English, Mandarin, and Korean, and later that month it will add French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai. No word on Klingon. From the article: "The products have the potential to let companies avoid having to use specially trained multilingual staff, helping them cut costs. They could also aid tourism. However, the software involved cannot offer perfect translations, limiting its use in some situations. ... It provides users with voice translations of the other speaker's conversation after a slight pause, as well as providing a text readout. ... NTT Docomo will soon face competition from France's Alcatel-Lucent which is developing a rival product, WeTalk. It can handle Japanese and about a dozen other languages including English, French and Arabic. The service is designed to work over any landline telephone, meaning the company has had to find a way to do speech recognition using audio data sampled at a rate of 8kHz or 16kHz. Other products — which rely on data connections — have used higher 44kHz samples which are easier to process."

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realy importent (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727559)

http://www.reise-erholung24.de

Star Trek (3, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#41727579)

One step closer to Star Trek. Seriously, though, someone needs to set up a "BadPhoneCallTranslation.com" domain and set it to replay some of the funniest or awkward phone call translations.

And on an unrelated note, I am now seeing stories with red bars at the top. Am I now seeing articles to be posted in the future? Or is this just another Slashdot weird redesign?

Re:Star Trek (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727613)

The red bars show it's a new story without comments yet. For such a low UID I'm surprised you'd never seen it before

Re:Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727735)

Really? I've gotten first post seveal times in the past and have never seen a red bar before.

Re:Star Trek (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 2 years ago | (#41728553)

It's not that it is without comments, but that it is really brand-new. I don't know what the cut-off is for a story to turn green, but a red bar means it was JUST posted.

Re:Star Trek (5, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#41727643)

One step closer to Star Trek.

Still far away, though. This project is making use of giant pre-existing databases of English and Japanese in order to translate speech from one language to the other. The Star Trek universal translator, on the other hand, was capable of translating between English and previously unknown alien languages. Because of the principle of l'arbitraire du signe and the frequent use of idioms in human speech, in order for a computer to be able to learn and translate from a previously undocumented language (as opposed to useful but flawed Google Translate-like methods), we would essentially need true AI, and that doesn't seem likely in the coming years.

Re:Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727789)

The universal translator in Star Trek is probably mathematically impossible. You can't translate to an unknown language without first knowing a lot of information about that language. There just isn't enough information to do it in a first meeting, unless every other race has an identical technology in place.

Re:Star Trek (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 2 years ago | (#41730595)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies when you are having fun ;-)

Re:Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728857)

The Star Trek universal translator, on the other hand, was capable of translating between English and previously unknown alien languages

It did have trouble with Klingon though, for some reason. Other languages it managed flawlessly but quite a number of Klingon words would slip through untranslated.

Re:Star Trek (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 2 years ago | (#41729441)

Related technologies used for translating German in to English, particularly in movies and comics, yield similar oddities. It seems at least partly due to the speaker's level of agitation. i.e. Hans von Wurstatem speaks English all of the time, except for the occasional "schnell", "achtung", "mein gott" or "teufel" on noticing that Charley Bourne* has tossed a grenade right in the filthy hun's bunker.

* Americans can substitue Sergeant Rock or Wonder Woman. Whatever floats your boat.

Re:Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41729211)

I have good news. It was a TV show and not an expected reality.

Re:Star Trek (0)

Chowderbags (847952) | about 2 years ago | (#41729277)

The Star Trek universal translator, on the other hand, was capable of translating between English and previously unknown alien languages. Because of the principle of l'arbitraire du signe and the frequent use of idioms in human speech

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.

Re:Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41729427)

Timba with arms wide

Gene Roddenberry does it again! (5, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | about 2 years ago | (#41727903)

Can you imagine how rich this dude would have been had he actually patented every concept he came up with for Star Trek? Fortunately, back then you couldn't patent a concept, because our government wasn't as corrupt.

And therein lies the ultimate irony of Star Trek; for everything Gene got right about the tech, he failed miserably predicting human nature and greed.

Re:Gene Roddenberry does it again! (2)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | about 2 years ago | (#41728183)

You forget that we need a collapse in society first... Perhaps he could still be right?

Re:Gene Roddenberry does it again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728325)

Um, you don't have an enforceable patent simply by imagining something could happen. The real work is makng the translator actually translate something.

Re:Gene Roddenberry does it again! (1)

nebosuke (1012041) | about 2 years ago | (#41728681)

Software and design patents do not actually require that you did, intend to, or even know how to implement the described invention. In practice, they do not require that you describe the invention in sufficient detail that it can be implemented based on the description. You can easily file these kinds of patents based on your imagination.

Patents based on imagination might not be cost-effective and/or easily enforcible, however, but that can be worked around by targeting 'adjacent' applications that are a logical consequence of the idea in question. For example, a direct patent on imaginary hard AI will be difficult to enforce, because it is unlikely that your imagination-based patent describes key details of any real implementation. What you can do, however, is patent all sorts of applications of hard AI, which essentially amounts to trolling through the patent database and rehashing everything into 'doing foo ... but with AI!' much in the way that we saw 'doing foo ... but on a computer/the internetz/a smartphone!', which can be highly effective and lucrative.

Re:Gene Roddenberry does it again! (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 2 years ago | (#41728733)

No, you only have to describe how it happens, in the most general of terms, and then fill a couple hundred pages with fluff and boilerplate.

Re:Gene Roddenberry does it again! (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#41728515)

He wouldn't have made anything. The patents would have expired decades prior to the technology being possible.

Re:Gene Roddenberry does it again! (1)

Thomasje (709120) | about 2 years ago | (#41729479)

Fortunately, back then you couldn't patent a concept

Not true. In Richard Feynman's memoirs (either Surely You're Joking or The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, I forget which one), he tells that after the Manhattan project, he and his colleagues were asked by managers to come up with ideas that they could patent. Feynman, half in jest, tossed up a few including "nuclear-powered aircraft" ("nuclear-powered ship" was already taken). The patents were applied for, and were awarded, and a few years later, Feynman was approached by an aircraft manufacturer, who assumed, given Feynman's name on a nuclear-aircraft patent, that Feynman was an aviation and nuclear energy expert.

Now this story is merely amusing, since even today, nuclear-powered airplanes are completely impractical, but still, I'm reminded of this anecdote whenever I hear people claiming that the phenomenon of stupid or obvious patents started only recently.

So (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727595)

how do you blindfold a japanese? dental floss!

how do japs name their children? throw silverware down the stairs.

"Cut Costs" (4, Interesting)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#41727603)

Ever notice that none of these stories are ever written from the jobs perspective? "I lost my translation job because ___ company is rolling out a software program that will do my job for them."

Repeat until there are no jobs left.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

Lumpio- (986581) | about 2 years ago | (#41727647)

Maybe it's because jobs and labor unions and whatnot are very uninteresting from a tech perspective.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41727665)

Just use the magic word "H1B" and all that changes... The disappearance of other people's jobs is just the inevitable march of progress, and will probably make them better off in the long run anyway. My job, though, now that's a different story...

Re:"Cut Costs" (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41728671)

Just use the magic word "H1B" and all that changes

Technological advances that take jobs have been normal since the industrial revolution. Hiring cheap foreign workers has not. E.g., the railroads didn't import Irishmen and Chinamen on H1Bs, they hired immigrants.

Re:"Cut Costs" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728977)

the railroads didn't import Irishmen and Chinamen on H1Bs, they hired immigrants.

Splitting hairs.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727691)

The predictions of Luddites that jobs are going away due to X technology being developed have never been correct. New technologies create new opportunities. If advances in technology always cost jobs, then the vast majority of people would be unemployed.

Re:jobs are going away (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#41727717)

Nope AC. Of course there's the gap.

The job goes away as fast as the slip in the Manager's office. Rent's due next week and you needed that paycheck. The "Opportunity" doesn't show up for years.

Re:jobs are going away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727793)

Or maybe the translator gets fired and two unemployed salesmen get hired because with this new technology a company can start rapidly expanding its international markets. Don't pretend you can predict the future.

Re:jobs are going away (1)

Lumpio- (986581) | about 2 years ago | (#41728321)

Tough luck. Nobody has an obligation to guarantee a job for you. You need to make sure that people will want to employ you - even as things change and technology advances.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41727849)

New technologies create new opportunities.

Why? Other than its usually worked out so far on a big enough scale.

I'd argue something like more systemic complexity requires more management which requires skilled people... so far.... and until you run out of skilled people.

then the vast majority of people would be unemployed.

Maybe not "vast" but we're basically already there right around only about half the population produces. And it sucks.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727787)

There will always be jobs.

1) Robotics
2) Software engineering
3) Game development

Whether there will ever be seven billion jobs is another story.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

a0me (1422855) | about 2 years ago | (#41727847)

Although to be honest the day when machine translation can be considered a viable tool is not even close, particularly when you deal with non-latin languages like Japanese. If you add to this fact that speech recognition software is still far from perfect, human translation is not going to be replaced by software for at least a few more decades.

Re:"Cut Costs" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727879)

Yeah well, and candle makers and horse carriage makers also lost their jobs. And so did coal shovelers and pretzel salters.

The goal here is, to free humanity from primitive low-level jobs, so that they can concentrate on cool and interesting challenges.
In fact we're already so far with this, that we (at least in Germany) could offer unconditional base income (generated from those automated low-level jobs), so people can do exactly that: Work on making dreams come true.
And: No, contrary to what the industrialists want to tell you, humans won't become lazy slobs when they aren't forced into slave labor. It has been shown, time and time again, that people need that freedom to create something really great, and historically, artists and inventors thrived when there was such a space.

You're assuming people are dumbasses that can't strive for higher things if they have the freedom and resources. They aren't. Most people just grew up to assume being stupid is cool and that they could feel entitled to get everything pre-chewed and wrapped in 10 miles of idiot padding. They can do much more, if they have to or want to.

Also, if you ever tried those translations systems, you'll know that it's not a low-level job at all, and it will still take a long time, before we don't need human translators anymore. If somebody has a business deal of any importance, you can bet your ass, that he won't risk losing it because he was too cheap to get a real human translator.

Conclusion: Don't be so passive! You're not a machine that gets used and thrown away by companies at will. You have your own will. (Or at least you should.) Do something great with it! Be an individual! Otherwise, are you even really alive?

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about 2 years ago | (#41729869)

>> The goal here is, to free humanity from primitive low-level jobs, so that they can concentrate on cool and interesting challenges.

The world needs ditch diggers too, Danny.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | about 2 years ago | (#41730781)

The goal here is, to free humanity from primitive low-level jobs, so that they can concentrate on cool and interesting challenges.

Like diving through dumpsters for your next meal....

Newsflash:

a) the opportunities for truly "cool and interesting challenges" - as opposed to desperate rat-races with ever exponentially increasing demands for "education" and "retraining" and ever exponentially diminishing returns disguised as "challenges" - are orders of magnitude less than the population size. Only those who wish to establish a slavery system based on stratification of the society into "thinkers" and "the rabble" where the gap between the two is unbridgeable (say 40 years of "education" and minimum 12 PhD titles to get your first paying job) are trying to pretend otherwise .

b) most people are unable to deal with, unwilling to and uninterested in "interesting challenges" because these "interesting challenges" usually disrupt their lives beyond repaior and destroy their families,

c) many of those who can deal with these "challenges" when forced to do so find them far less "interesting" and find their lives becoming miserable, unhappy and begin to question the point of this whole societal exercise that trades simple, boring but secure and predictable lives for chaotic, psychotic, insecure, stressful, hand-to-mouth existence in a sadistic competition to meet "interesting challenges" or perish.

And so on.

Your position is that of a corporate shill who tries to pretend that the so-called "progress" (as long as accompanied by vast wealth increases for very few "right people") is self-justifying and that any social cost is acceptable, especially when the cost is placed on the backs of everyone but those select few.

Technocrats and corporatists have stood the whole thing on its head! It is "happiness" that is the goal of the whole exercise and "progress" and "technological advancement" are to be only used in service to attaining happiness. Forcing everyone to meet "interesting" (in the opinion of the few privileged individuals) challenges so that "progress" (for these same individual's bank accounts) can be achieved is only going to in the long run result in "interesting challenges" for the likes of you that involve guns and lining up against walls....

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

Rakishi (759894) | about 2 years ago | (#41731107)

Like diving through dumpsters for your next meal....

Did you even read his post? Did the "offer unconditional base income (generated from those automated low-level jobs)" part somehow go over your head or did all the foam coming from your mouth block your vision?

People like you complain about how many jobs are soul sucking jobs, about repetitive tasks that cause life long injuries, about dangerous jobs, about unskilled jobs that are easily replaced and so on and so on. Then when someone finds a way to get rid of the need for those, as you'd say inhumane, jobs you complain about where those people will work.

If you want to spend 10 hours a day shoveling coal and then dying of lung cancer at 40 be my guest. I'll take the machines over the need to subject peopel to that any day of the week.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 2 years ago | (#41731349)

The goal here is, to free humanity from primitive low-level jobs, so that they can concentrate on cool and interesting challenges.

So, what will people on the left half of the bell curve do? People who only mix with university graduates don't think about it much, but there a whole lot of their fellow citizens have sub-100 IQs. For them, things like money management and showing up to work on time are interesting challenges. If we actually do manage to "free humanity from primitive low-level jobs" about half of humanity will simply have nothing to do.

Devaluation of language skills? (2)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 2 years ago | (#41727887)

It seems that the devaluation of language skills would be a corollary of costs being cut.

After all, if companies won't pay extra for language skills, why acquire them (while you're in high school)?

Ironically, these sorts of apps may lead to lower levels of foreign language ability within a given society. Instead of having millions of French, Chinese, and German speakers in, say, the US, you would end up concentrating language skills in a few computer systems (Google's, Apples, maybe Wolfram's).

Re:Devaluation of language skills? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41728757)

Ironically, these sorts of apps may lead to lower levels of foreign language ability within a given society.

Or it could do the opposite. Say I have a phone that translates Spanish/English because my Spanish is rusty and I go to Mexico. I'm going to hear the Mexican say "Qué es lo que quieres?" and the phone say "What do you want?" He'll hear me say "A beer, please" and then he'll hear the phone say "Un cervesa, por favor." After using it for a while, the rustiness would wear off.

OT, but why did the ¿ not work? There should be an upside down question mark before the question, and it won't render.

Re:Devaluation of language skills? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 2 years ago | (#41730509)

*Una cerveza.

OT, but why did the not work? There should be an upside down question mark before the question, and it won't render.

Ha, are you expecting Slashdot to handle weird stuff like the full set of HTML entities? We're lucky to get accents and not be restricted to pure ASCII.

It was reasonable when it started; nowadays when everyone supports unicode, it's pitiful.

Re:"Cut Costs" (4, Funny)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41728021)

Repeat until there are no jobs left.

Too late. The Neolithic agricultural revolution already eliminated 90% of all hunter-gatherer jobs, and then the Industrial Revolution and mechanization of agriculture destroyed the few jobs that were left. Today, most people have nothing to do but sit around posting economic fallacies [wikipedia.org] on Slashdot.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41728335)

Ever notice that none of these stories are ever written from the jobs perspective?

"I lost my job because of technology!" -- John henry

Others: I lost my job at the candle factory! I lost my job at the buggy whip factory! I lost my ferrier job! I lost my job at the auto plant to a robot!

Every machine in existance does a job that a human once did. Before 1945, a computer was a human being whose job was to do math for ballistic firing tables, logarythmic tables, etc.

You don't need as many carpenters to build a house today as you did a hundred years ago when there were no power tools.

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

jovius (974690) | about 2 years ago | (#41728381)

The outcome will be beautiful, but I don't know, there needs to be sacrifices, and they are also great opportunities to learn something new. I expect that as the market expands there would be interest to actually hire translators to work with the technology, because of their practical knowledge and aptitude in language.

Re:"Cut Costs" (4, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | about 2 years ago | (#41728455)

But that never seems to happen though.

I was watching a TV programme called "The Mighty Micro" (it's available on YouTube), a 6-part documentary on the coming microprocessor made in the late 1970s by the BBC. It was interesting to see what predictions came true and which ones were wide of the mark. In the final programme, the pundits were predicting what would happen. Everything from the cashless society by the mid-1990s (didn't happen), to the prediction of massive easily accessible data (did happen), to huge reforms in education (partially happened).

One prediction that was made that by the mid 1990s we would probably only be working 20 hours weeks, and society would have to shift to a model where we don't work much. However, the opposite has happened. Not only is the workforce larger than ever (Britain's workforce is probably double what it was in the late 1970s), unemployment is lower (in Britain, despite the workforce being twice the size of the late 70s workforce, the absolute number of unemployed is 1 million people fewer despite the worst recession in nearly a century), and many sections of the work force work longer hours than they used to. (Ironically, it's in the computer industry where the longer hours are more extreme, for example in the United States you're seen as a slacker unless you routinely work 60-80 hour weeks).

Re:"Cut Costs" (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 2 years ago | (#41728593)

If you lost your job due to translation software, you were a shitty translator. No, really. Any serious translating (i.e., that goes beyond checking a box "we can do this!") requires highly skilled translators. And no, merely being fluent in the two languages is not enough. Translating also requires that you can map one expression to another quickly and smoothly, and that you can recreate subtle hints in the grammar structure, the setup of the sentences and other indirect modes of communication.

That is hard. Very hard. What software is doing is removing the easy stuff. So if you want a job - get ready to upgrade your skills and education. Or you're looking at manual labor for a rate that is too cheap to hire a robot for.

Accents (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41727611)

I'm still waiting for an english-only voice processing software package that can translate boston and texan accents, and god help you if you have a southern drawl, or english-as-a-second-language. Poor bastards who speak Russian can't 'V' to save their soul.

Re:Accents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727653)

Do you speak something-as-a-second-language?

Re:Accents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727657)

Speaking as a poor bastard who speaks Russian, I think you mean 'W' :)

Captcha: Abysmal

Re:Accents (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727661)

I'm still waiting for an english-only voice processing software package that can translate boston and texan accents, and god help you if you have a southern drawl, or english-as-a-second-language. Poor bastards who speak Russian can't 'V' to save their soul.

How about translating that ebonics gutter nigger pidgin slang into respectable english?

Re:Accents (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41727671)

How is an English-only voice processor going to help you comprehend the strange utterances of southerners?

Re:Accents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727831)

Like Louisiana Creole [wikipedia.org] ?.

Re:Accents (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41727883)

How is an English-only voice processor going to help you comprehend the strange utterances of southerners?

Having lived in Alabama for awhile in the 90s, luckily they speak so blasted slow that you can devote twice, maybe three times as much processing power. Assuming the translator is processing limited.

Re:Accents (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41729717)

Southerners? They sound funny but I have no problem understanding them. People from the northeast, especially Bwastun and Neuw Ywok, are completely unintelligible to me. I remember one (in hindsight) funny encounter with one of these incomprehensible folks, pointing to the bottom of the motorcycle and saying "Look at da ta!"

"Look at the what?"

"Da ta! Look at the ta!"

"The tire?"

"No, da ta!"

I had no fucking clue that this guy meant "tar," he was referring to the kickstand sinking into the tar that had been softened by the summer heat. Fuckers can't pronounce the letter R and people make fun of immigrant Asians?

Of course, you have a bit of a point, a southerner would say "Yer tar is gittin' flat, Billie Joe!"

Re:Accents (2)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#41727709)

Having to use a second language to work translation software may not be the end goal. When it can do Glaswegian you know it is working well.
Dyer wanei wee piece weya'ships?

Re:Accents (2)

Loki_666 (824073) | about 2 years ago | (#41730461)

Russians don't have a problem with V per se. V or Russian (veh) are not a problem at all... especially when they are trying to say W. When they want to say V though they say W.

Its most baffling.

The funniest bit is how they use H instead of G, when they have the perfectly serviceable (yes, it looks like eXs, its closer to cHa), so you get names like Garry Potter and Prince Garry..... can't say i've heard of either of those dudes, but Russians seem to think they are famous.

Re:Accents (1)

Loki_666 (824073) | about 2 years ago | (#41730491)

Ah, and it looks like slashdot just removed my Cyrillic characters meaning my post is twice as confusing.

Slashdot guys... its 2012... maybe you have heard of unicode?

Great. (0, Troll)

Lumpio- (986581) | about 2 years ago | (#41727641)

Yet another reason for the Japanese not to learn English properly. As if we didn't have enough Engrish already!

Re:Great. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728091)

How about you learn Japanese then, for a chance, you egocentric arrogant cunt?

Re:Great. (1)

Lumpio- (986581) | about 2 years ago | (#41728295)

I speak (or well, at least type) reasonably fluent Japanese. But what does that have to do with anything?

Re:Great. (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41728121)

Yet another reason for the Japanese not to learn English properly. As if we didn't have enough Engrish already!

A few years ago I was eating dinner with some gaijin friends in Tokyo, and a Japanese guy came over to our table, introduced himself, and sat down and started talking in a weird, unintelligible language. We couldn't understand a word he was staying. Then the waitress explained that he was trying to tell us that he was an English teacher at the local high school, and the language he was speaking was English.

Re:Great. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728535)

I rikey flied lice!

Re:Great. (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 2 years ago | (#41731455)

I can't find it, but there's a hilarious video on youtube where a guy is on a college campus in japan interviewing one of the students. He asks her (in English) what her major is. She looks blank, turns to a friend off camera and says something in Japanese. The friend replies. Then the interview subject turns back to the camera, gives a little nervous giggle, and says "English".

Re:Great. (2)

Shaiku (1045292) | about 2 years ago | (#41731965)

They actually teach Engrish instead of English in Japanese public schools, which perpetuates the problem. Your anecdote is sadly one of so many... I forget her name, but there was a well-known native English foreign exchange student in Japan who had English class with them and the teacher would "correct" her English until she spoke Engrish....

Re:Great. (2)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 2 years ago | (#41733827)

You might be thinking of this [youtube.com] .

Welsh (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 2 years ago | (#41727645)

Hope there will be a Welsh translation service it will make working for the UK Gov. much easier as everything including help lines has to be translated into Welsh as well as English :(

Just one thing to say... (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about 2 years ago | (#41727761)

Sore de ganbattekudasai!

Don't worry humans (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41727811)

limiting its use in some situations.

Don't worry humans, most of you are not going to lose your translation job.

We already limit human translators to "important" stuff only.

The people most likely to lose their jobs are Indian call centers. Soon, you'll be "talking" to Bob at Dell who walks you thru power cycling your windows box, but he's actually in Afghanistan and doesn't speak a word of English. Also instead of telemarketing scum leaving messages on my answering machine, they'll be having Turing test conversations about how I should vote for any politician but Johnson (whom I am voting for).

I'm sure there will be a contractual limitation not to do anything important with the service "So I'm not telling ya all, that ya all can't not shut off the backup reactor cooling pump disabling relay..." WTF does that mean in English much less Japanese? So... no critical infrastructure support, no medical, no legal, no engineering, no management, no HR, no accounting... whats left other than telemarketing and call centers?

Re:Don't worry humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728495)

If the call center workers are speaking their language grammatically correct enough, it could be some of the Americans that sound the worst over the support call.

Re:Don't worry humans (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41730367)

If the call center workers are speaking their language grammatically correct enough, it could be some of the Americans that sound the worst over the support call.

When you stay on the rails, like a bad FPS, they may as well be replaced with a tape recorder or soundboard. When you get off the (literal) script that the situation devolved into bonkers conversations if the employee can't communicate. Grammatically correct Usually reflects the script author's abilities rather than the employees abilities.

Maybe the translator could be used in reverse, with soundboards. So the Dell owner gets translated into Arabic or whatever and the call center drone pieces together the story and clicks the mouse button where "Bob" in a perfectly cultured UK voice explains how to verify the power cord is plugged in. Any telephone call requiring actual interaction could be a click button to "transfer to my supervisor" who is merely a slightly higher paid drone.

Its interesting that a "human language AI app" will probably be used primarily to dehumanize employees and customers. AI people always seemed to expect better, like it would lead to a virtual UN for all humanity or some other pie in the sky stuff rather than a new digital sweatshop.

Call from Hungary (1)

unix_core (943019) | about 2 years ago | (#41727823)

*call from hungary*
- Hello?
- This record is scratched.
....
- My hovercraft... is full of eels!

Re:Call from Hungary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728061)

No kidding. I was expecting this story to come from the will-you-please-fondle-my-buttocks dept.

Disappointed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41727839)

I was hoping it was powered by brainwaves, and involved cramming a fish into your ear.

Meme time (3, Funny)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#41727913)

I wonder what you'll have to say into the phone in japanese to get "all your base belong to us" out of it.

Re:Meme time (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#41727923)

And of course, I forget how the actual phrase went. "All your base are belong to us".

Sigh.

Re:Meme time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41729349)

I was thinking more along the lines of "my hovercraft is full of eels".

This one should be a special case for all translating software :-)

It would be amazing but it won't work (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 2 years ago | (#41727975)

IF you translate between Japanese and English it would be FAR FAR FAR easier to do it with text first. Have you seen some of the translations google comes up with? Often it ain't even good enough to get the gist of the original message, let alone be good enough to carry a conversation.

With speech to speech translation, you got to first have proper voice regonization, a far from perfect technology, then have good translation, which doesn't yet exist especially for such totally different languages as japanese/english. And then you got have good text to speech. Which ALSO still isn't anything to write home about or computer game would use it to be able to forgo voice acting and have far more flexible scripts including usage of player chosen names.

Combine all three and engrish.com better get some extra hosting to store all the hilarious screwups.

The reason Japanese/English is so hard to translate is that the languages are completely different in which the way you say something and what information is included/excluded is totally different. And then people make it worse by leaving things out they expect someone from their own circle to know but that someone from another culture needs to make things clear. How would you translate 'dude'. And yes I know that is a lousy example of hip and happening street talk but I am a nerd, what do I know of being hip. But the translating engine better knows or you are going to get a tower of babel.

If this new solution magically improve all three fields needed to an as yet unheard of standard, it would be amazing. I doubt it, but it would be amazing.

Now just convince the japanese to stop putting all the text on their webpages in images and we might actually be able to make the world a bit smaller. Oh and get companies to make deal with global payment services so anyone can use their local payment system to pay anywhere in the world.

Re:It would be amazing but it won't work (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41729831)

How would you translate 'dude'.

Omae?

Re:It would be amazing but it won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730027)

Going from written word to voice translation is going to be worse if the translation algorithms doesn't care about context. Words that sound almost the same could be different words and can only be determined based on context. It is going to be a lot worse than the misuse words like then/than, its/it's, brake/break.

There are also idioms that lost its meaning when translating literally. Thankfully, it is a matter of manually making rules/table to handle that.

Re:It would be amazing but it won't work (1)

LeeMeador (924391) | about 2 years ago | (#41734003)

If you think about it, there are some interesting differences in understanding audio speech and written text. Think about English. In audio the problem is telling "synthetic" from "sin the tick" or some such phrase and there are no punctuation marks to delineate the sentences. In text the problem is telling "read" from "read" (the 2nd is past tense). Of course, there are a zillion (or so) such problems in just understanding things. You can use context to disambiguate. But the problems are different for text and audio. Its not as simple as converting audio to text and then text to the other language and then text to speech. (Oh and BTW, the problems are different for different languages.)

My prediction: crap. (4, Informative)

OldSport (2677879) | about 2 years ago | (#41728035)

I currently use the best commercial voice recognition software, and have experience with a variety of machine translation suites that do Japanese-English, so I have somewhat of a frame of reference.

With respect to the former, the quality is quite good. I can speak at a relatively natural pace and get upwards of 95% accuracy. That said, I still have to adjust my speech in a sometimes unnatural manner to be sure the program "hears" me correctly, and I have heard horror stories from people with different accents/dialects having a terrible time. (Someone made a joke about Welsh, but I know a Welsh fellow and he had some colorful things to say about the commercially-available VR programs.) An additional complicating factor in the J-E scenario is that Japanese has many words that sound nearly identical, and are distinguished only by slight inflections: (hashi; chopsticks) and (hashi; bridge) is a typical example. There are thousands of examples of such words, and from what I understand, Japanese voice recognition software is quite far behind because of this particular trait. Without a UI for speakers to choose which word they are actually trying to say, I can imagine that the VR side of this program has a slew of problems.

Now, onto machine translation. As it stands, MT works great for some language pairs, but Japanese-English is notoriously problematic. AFAIK part of the reason is the highly contextual nature of the Japanese language. Subjects and objects are often omitted entirely, for example. I don't really have to go into this in detail -- just run any Japanese Wikipedia article through Google translate and see what happens. Other commercially-available and proprietary software I've used has been basically the same (Google actually seems to be a bit better, usually.) English-Japanese is a bit easier because the context (subjects, objects, verbs) are typically "all there" -- so even if the result is Japanese that is horribly unnatural, you may still be able to get the info you need.

But now, they're going to take the VR-generated input of varying degrees of accuracy, and run THAT through MT software that butchers even the most simple and perfect sentences? I could be wrong, but I'm having trouble seeing how the result will be anything less than a disaster. "The software involved cannot offer perfect translations, limiting its use in some situations" sounds like the understatement of the year. Get ready for synthesized-voice gobbeldygook and an mp3 website called "spoken Engrish."

(Full disclosure: I am a translator, but in a lot of ways a yearn for the day when MT will be good enough to put me out of a job; I think the idea of people being able to instantly communicate with speakers of other languages is exciting and would lead to a much more open world. However, I've been hearing that tech like this is 3-5 years away for decades now. If this product showcased a revolutionary engine for MT, then I would be singing a different tune, but for now it seems like a mere combination of two imperfect technologies.)

Re:My prediction: crap. (1)

gajop (1285284) | about 2 years ago | (#41728711)

It's not just the lack of subjects/objects in Japanese that causes a problem with (machine) translations, it's also the different sentence format.
English, as well as many other European languages use the Subject-Verb-Object form, while Japanese uses the Subject-Object-Verb form.
I've also seen translators having trouble with negative sentences or modal forms (can/must/must not/can not), f.e: http://translationparty.com/#10538744 [translationparty.com] Japanese, as I've heard those share a similar grammar.

Re:My prediction: crap. (1)

gajop (1285284) | about 2 years ago | (#41728725)

Odd... a part of my text disappeared:
However, humans don't have such a hard time with grammar, it can usually be picked up quite fast (in comparison to learning a whole new vocab and a "hard" character set). As far as these languages are concerned, it's all about vocab, and if it can pick it up and infer proper meaning from context, it could be useful. It may even work better for Korean Japanese, as I've heard those share a similar grammar.

Re:My prediction: crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41731721)

The Japanese forms for "must do" are very idiomatic and basically translate literally to "if you don't do this it's no good = you have to"

kore wo tabenakereba narimasen desu.
kore wo tabenakereba ikenai desu.

(Literally "if you don't eat that it's unacceptable = You must eat it.)

"Can do" is usually done through a verb conjugation with "e"

Nihongo wo hanashimasu I speak Japanese
Nihongo wo hanasemasu I am able to speak Japanese
Nihongo wo hanasu koto ga dekimasu I am able to speak Japanese (a bit more formal, literally "Speaking Japanese is possible")

Anyway, Japanese grammer is basically NOTHING like English.

Re:My prediction: crap. (1)

gajop (1285284) | about 2 years ago | (#41732509)

*Here's hoping this post doesn't get butchered in two*
By "can" I didn't mean being capable of doing something, but rather being allowed to do something, which I think is what's assumed by the modal forms.
So it would really be:
(You can/are allowed to speak Japanese)
nihongo wo hanashite mo ii
as well as other -te forms (for mustn't),
hanashite wa ikenai
(Musn't speak..)
and so on.

Also, this is wrong:
kore wo tabenakereba narimasen desu.
kore wo tabenakereba ikenai desu.
Should be:
kore wo tabenakereba narimasen.
kore wo tabenakereba (ikenain desu) or (ikemasen).

PS: Why doesn't slashdot.org still have unicode when slashdot.jp (clearly) does?

Re:My prediction: crap. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41733529)

The sentence format shouldn't be a problem as long as both languages are internally consistent. Missing information is a much bigger deal. And Japanese is a worse than average language about leaving things to be implied by context.

Re:My prediction: crap. (1)

vovick (1397387) | about 2 years ago | (#41730441)

I want to say that your post was very enlightening to me (I'm a self-learner). Until now I did not know about the pitch accent in Japanese and thought that it was impossible to distinguish words written the same way in Kana if they were taken out of context. Getting the right word from the context doesn't seem to be this hard from the first glance, actually, since most words with the same writing have very different meanings and can be distinguished by analysing n-gram frequencies or using other similar techniques.

Re:My prediction: crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41731593)

Pitch accents in Japanese won't usually tell you which homonym is the one that you want. Nor is it always easy to tell from an isolated sentence. Example:

Watashi no hana wa akai desu.

Either "My flower is red." OR "My nose is red."

Konojo ni hanawa wo agemashita.

Either "I gave my girlfriend a floral wreath (flower ring)" OR "I gave my girlfriend a nose ring".

The pronunciation of these is EXACTLY the same. Good luck figuring out which is correct without written kanji to help.
 

Re:My prediction: crap. (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 2 years ago | (#41731743)

An additional complicating factor in the J-E scenario is that Japanese has many words that sound nearly identical, and are distinguished only by slight inflections: (hashi; chopsticks) and (hashi; bridge) is a typical example

Hah. Ask a Mandarin speaker how to say "Does the mother scold the horse?"

Every language has homonyms and near-homonyms. A Japanese friend who is a relatively fluent English speaker is continually tripped up by there/their/they're, especially when more than one form appears in the same sentence. Eventually machine translators will have to do a better job of what people do, which is decoding the the ambiguities based on context. Not just because different words can sound so similar, but also because most real, live, people don't enunciate clearly except in formal settings. You don't eat with a bridge or drive over chopsticks, and if you actually said something like that you'd most likely confuse native speakers. I'll consider machine translation "here" when it can properly translate a sentence slurred by a drunk person from Osaka without any configuration other than "Japanese".

Re:My prediction: crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41732457)

So clearly, the solution is to first have it translate the Japanese to Korean, then from there to Dutch, then German, and we can probably make it to English from there. Problem solved!

Effectiveness? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728187)

Voice recognition/transcription is again growing in popularity recently, what with Google and Siri. But it is still very lacking. My Google voice voicemail transcriptions are positively laughable and I don;t use Siri because I'm sick of arguing with that bitch!

Are we really expected to believe that systems that cannot reliably transcribe voice are now going to transcribe and translate on the fly? Forgive me if I doubt the effectiveness of this endeavor. But, think of the savings for the company. Instead of paying employees to actually respond to customer needs, they can now keep the customers busy arguing with an automated system, billing monthly and doing no work. I wish my business could abuse customers this way and still make me billions.

FTFA to Japanese and back to English (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728305)

Tokyo, Japan, NTT DoCoMo, Inc. --- October 1, 2012 it is the world's first commercial mobile service for the translation of the conversation between people who speak other languages and Japanese on November 1 today announced that it will start, I express Hanashite Hon'yaku (called automatic) translation services. Also DoCoMo, today, by placing the camera on your smartphone in front of the text simply, he announced (translator of AR camera and word recognition) launched on October 11 of Utsushite Hon'yaku convert the signs and menus foreign.

Yeah, I won't hold my breath for this kind of technology until 10 years from now.

Don't run! We come in peace... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41728587)

All green of skin... 800 centuries ago, their bodily fluids include the birth of half-breeds. For the fundamental truth self-determination of the cosmos, for dark is the suede that mows like a harvest.

Also no Kanji (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41729575)

One of the reasons why written J to E translation (sometimes, sort of) works is because the Kanji (chinese characters) can unambiguously dstinguish between homonyms. For example hana (flower) and hana (nose) sound exactly the same, so in spoken conversation you have to rely on context. But in written Japanese, they use different chinese characters, so a translation to English can be more accurate. There are a LOT of homonyms in Japanese, so many that it's one reason people have resisted abandoning Kanji altogether.

Given how bad written translations usually are--even with the Kanji to help, I can't see this as having a lot of accuracy.

Re:Also no Kanji (1)

Shaiku (1045292) | about 2 years ago | (#41731821)

Except that there is a very slight pitch accent that can help distinguish ambiguous words like hashi and hana... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_pitch_accent [wikipedia.org]

But yes, it's infinitely more reliable if you rely on kanji instead.

Cardinals were 2nd Choice for the study. (1)

transcender (888893) | about 2 years ago | (#41729649)

The author originally wanted to use the New York Yankees as the focus... However, he was unable to capture enough examples of the Yankees making contact with a baseball during the ALCS to complete the study. ha

Snow Crash (1)

Ehwick (103905) | about 2 years ago | (#41730067)

Reading about this made me want to reread this classic cyber-punk novel

Your hovercraft is full of eels did you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41731479)

Yes yes, my nipples explode with delight too!

Word Salad (1)

SilverJets (131916) | about 2 years ago | (#41732047)

I doubt it will produce anything useful for anything more complicated than, "Hello. How may I help you?"

Ever use Google translate for Japanese -> English or English -> Japanese ? Word salad is typically the result.

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