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Translation by Siri

Siri may have difficulty understanding English when it is spoken in a Scottish accent, but Apple’s virtual personal assistant now has another trick up her sleeve: translation.

A team of developers recently introduced an app called Lingual, which turns Siri into your own personal translator, allowing your iPhone to translate spoken words and phrases into 30 different languages. All you have to do is ask Siri “How do you say “_____” in “_____?” and a translation will appear on your screen in the language of your choice.

Before you venture off to another country with your iPhone in hand, though, there are a few drawbacks to consider. The first, as reported by The Verge, is the simple fact that Lingual’s translation capabilities are far from perfect.

“We installed the tweak and can report that it works flawlessly, quickly pulling in results using Microsoft’s Bing Translate API as a backend. Its only limitation is that backend, which isn’t as strong as Google’s offering, and regularly fails to correctly translate phrases.”

Poor translation is a pretty big limitation, isn’t it? Google Translate has issues enough, so you may want to think twice before relying on this app as your sole means of communication.

Another potential issue: in order to use Lingual, you must jailbreak your iPhone if you haven’t done so already. Not that big of a deal, but it does make installation a bit more complicated than simply firing up the app store and downloading it.

Finally, if you are travelling, you may be charged extra for using data while roaming. That means that you may end up paying an arm and a leg for Lingual’s translation services when you get back home – not a good way to end a vacation! It’s not as flashy, but you might be better served by downloading a translation application that is stored on your phone and doesn’t require access to your carrier’s data network.

apple translation fail

Apple Translation Fail

Translation fails are a well-trodden internet path for people looking for a quick giggle. Whether it’s that Chinese toilet sign inviting you to ‘pee in the pool’ or a coffee shop in Bulgaria that proudly boasts a poster saying ‘we hope you lick our coffee and our waiters’, the idea that something so inappropriate could reach public display is just plain comedy gold. These well-meaning attempts at transmitting a message aren’t just funny though; they remind us that translation is more complex than a lot of people imagine. I mean how obvious are some of those classic examples weve all seen? Well, not very if you have little understanding of the language.

There are situations where this kind of innocuous mistake can have more serious implications, though, if say it was made by a giant multinational technology company for example. Take the Apple iPhone 7 slogan ‘This is 7’. Hilariously, in September when this ad was shown in Hong Kong it became apparent that in Cantonese the slogan read as ‘This is male genitalia’. Read more