Forget about Learning Vocabulary?

Some people argue that the latest developments in real-time translation might “change everything”. That was the case when Word Lens, an augmented reality app for the iPhone, came out a few months ago. And the comments on the new Google Translate conversation mode sound quite the same. But what does it mean? No more foreign language skills at all? Surely not. But given the latest developments in statistical translation technologies, mobile computing and cloud-sourcing, there are already some handy prototype solutions to facilitate your next trip abroad.

If only you keep in mind that “the only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself”. To get  an idea of how good (or bad) statistical translation methods work nowadays, after huge progress made in the last few years, I took the Golden Rule and translated it into different languages. The original idea is usually cloud-transformed into complete nonsense. Let’s give it a try with an English-German there-and-back translation:

  • Google Translate: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. -> Man sollte andere behandeln, wie man möchte, um sich andere zu behandeln. -> You should treat others as you would like to get another treat.
  • Yahoo! Babelfish: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. -> Ein sollte andere behandeln, da man möchte, dass andere sich behandeln. -> Other one should treat, since one would like that others treat themselves.

In my opinion, nothing changes for the moment. You still have to double check your machine translations with your vocabulary list and your own linguistic and social skills. Your hands and gestures might stay the best “conversation mode” for a long time compared to any cloud-sourced translation. It’s just like with instant coffee: never as good as the real one.

Enjoy the short presentations, they are nonetheless impressing and entertaining!

1 Google Android App for Real-Time Translation

“Please keep in mind this is experimental, so it may or may not work perfectly.”

2 On-the-fly video translations with Word Lens

Word Lens translates printed words from one language to another using the video camera on your iPhone.

3 Google Goggles Translation Feature

An experimental demo of Google Goggles that incorporates translation and optical character recognition.


Socialnomics – Nice Video, crude Statistics

Erik Qualman says: “Statistics Show Social Media Is Bigger Than You Think”.

I would say: “Social Media Shows How Flexible Statistics Have Become!”

  1. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30-years-old – That is right.
  2. 96% of Millennials have joined a social network – In this context, it is wrong! The truth is slightly different: Trendspotting found in a surveys on the US young generation that 96% of online teens/tweens report ever having used any type of social networking technology including IM/chat, text messaging and email.
  3. Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S. – That is right. https://www.hitwise.com/us/datacenter/main/dashboard-10133.html
  4. Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web – That is right since 2009. https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/01/social-media-po.html
  5. 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media – I could not find the cited McKinsey study. Everyone on the web cites McKinsey but no one links to the source.
  6. Years to Reach 50 millions Users: Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years)… – I could not verify these numbers but the authors cite https://cyberschoolbus.un.org/
  7. Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year – That may be right, but only in the 6th year of facebook’s existence. If really compared to Radio, TV, Internet and iPod (point 6), it would be right to say: facebook (4 Years). Facebook reached 1 Million in 2004, 5.5 Million in 2005, 12 Million in 2006, 50 Million in 2007, 100 Million in 2008 and 350 Million in 2009. https://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?timeline
  8. iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months. – 1 Billion what? Apples? However, one billion Downloads from the Appstore, to be honest. What is social about downloading an app for iPhone and iPod touch? https://www.apple.com/itunes/billion-app-countdown/
  9. “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it.” – Another question is how well we DO statistics.
  10. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 3rd largest ahead of the United States and only behind China and India – That might be true, but obviously facebook isn’t a country. Would you compare your TV to a country? Or your Mobile Phone? Otherwise you could say: Mobile Phones are the world’s biggest country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_mobile_phones_in_use Read more