Microsoft App Adds Translation Subtitles

Microsoft just released an updated version of its translation app for Windows phones, and it comes equipped with nifty new features.  As described on the Bing blog, the augmented reality option sounds especially cool:

“With the Translator App for Windows Phone you can now translate printed language by simply pointing the camera. From street signs and posters to transit schedules and restaurant menus translating is now a snap. Well, easier than a snap – all you do is point and scan. Think of this as automatic subtitles for everyday life.”

Think of how much confusion that could save you the next time you’re somewhere where nobody speaks your language.

Of course, as with all machine translation, there’s always the risk that you’ll get back something awkward, misleading, or flat-out wrong, but it’s definitely better than having to bumble along with no help at all.

Another cool feature is the ability to use this app without a data connection. This is an exceptionally important capability because not only is data often unavailable in remote regions, even if it is available you’re likely to pay through the nose for using it.

The app also has voice recognition, so you can speak into it in your language and then have your phone play back the translated version of what you just said.

Travel is a great learning experience, and hopefully most people will use this app to teach themselves at least some key words and phrases in the language of the country they are traveling in, instead of using it as a crutch.  Either way, though, if it helps motivate people to get out of their comfort zones and experience another culture, it’s a good thing.

As Vikram Dendi, the Director of Product Management for Microsoft/Bing Translator, put it in a post on the Microsoft company blog:

“If we are able to provide you that little bit of extra confidence that makes the difference between going somewhere and not – then we would have succeeded.”

Video Game Localisation: 5 Reasons It’s Still Necessary

Game localisation is the process of translating and adapting a video game to reach new markets. In a multilingual world where almost everyone knows a little bit of English and Google Translate is omnipresent, is video game localisation still necessary? In a word, yes.  And here are five reasons why.

Video game localisation provides a better user experience

Many of today’s video games are immersive experiences. They’re interactive movies, and the player is the star.  While some gamers have used video games as a language learning tool, most people want the option to play in their native language.

And of course, changing the language is only the first step. Video games often contain cultural references or humour that doesn’t translate directly. A skilled localisation team can find equivalents in the target language and culture so that players aren’t confused or offended.

And of course, any localisation team worth its salt will help you avoid translation bloopers like these: 8 Famously Bad Video Game Translations

If you don’t localise, someone else might.

Video game fans want to play the games they covet in their own languages. In fact, if there’s not an official localised version available,  fans may well devote their own time and resources to create one.

Most fan translation communities are careful not to promote piracy. Translations are generally released as software patches. So, they aren’t functional on their own, and you still have to purchase the original game to play.  However, some Chinese volunteer translators were recently arrested for translating Japanese anime and video games into Chinese.  And according  to,  “a 2013 inquiry by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs found that Japanese manga, anime, and games illegally distributed to online Chinese sites amount to losses of JPY 3.8t (USD 34.8b).”

The online world is becoming more multilingual, not less

In the beginning, most of the content on the Internet was in English.  But now, the linguistic landscape of the Internet is diversifying. More and more, people are becoming used to having content available in their native tongue. They expect it. And those expectations carry over to gaming, software, smartphones . . . and gaming. Read more

A Translation App for the Olympics

As the 2012 Summer Olympics kick off and London prepares for the onslaught of foreign visitors, a new iPhone app is being released to make it easier for all of those people to communicate.

The app, called VoiceTra4U-M, works for both telephone conversations and face-to-face conversations in 13 different languages, including American English, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Malay and Vietnamese. Text-only translation is available for another 10.

The app is the brainchild of the Universal Speech Translation Advanced Research Consortium, otherwise known as U-STAR. This research group was formed with the objective of “breaking language barriers around the world and implementing vocal communication between different languages.” It really is a perfect fit for the Olympics.

Of course, there are other translation apps for the iPhone, but VoiceTra4U-M has the advantage of openness, meaning that a country could set up its own servers and use the app to translate its local language, which might give it an advantage when it comes to attracting tourists.

Like all machine translation technology, VoiceTra4U-M is not perfect and does have some drawbacks. For one thing, the actual translating takes place on remote servers, which implies that you do need to have a data connection available to use it. And depending on your carrier, the fees for that data could add up quickly. Then, there’s the fact that the conversation will inevitably be full of awkward pauses as the data gets beamed to those servers, translated and sent back.

Finally, the U-STAR team chose to sacrifice breadth of translation ability in favor of accuracy (an understandable decision given the limitations of available technology). As the New Scientist notes,

“U-STAR has also initially focused on translating words and phrase related to tourism, making it 80 to 90 per cent accurate versus Google’s 40 to 60 per cent accuracy – though of course, this falls if you want to discuss a topic not covered by the app.”

That’s not to knock the potential usefulness of this app for travelers, though. Oftentimes as a tourist, all you need is to be able to accurately ask a simple question like “Where is the bathroom?” and then understand the answer.

bad video game translations

8 Hilariously Bad Video Game Translations

Those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s remember when video games were the new hotness. Everyone wanted an NES or a Sega Genesis, and we were all so enthralled with the magic of pressing buttons that nobody even cared how bad the dialogue was.

And often, it was bad. Many games were made in Japan first. Translation wasn’t always a top priority. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “Early translations were sometimes “literally done by a “programmer with a phrase book.”  The end result? Some hilariously bad video game translations!

With that in mind, here’s a look back at 8 of the funniest crimes against translation from the video game industry:

Ikari Warriors: Take Good Rest

The end of Nintendo’s famously difficult game Ikari Warriors  had an unexpected reward for the lucky few who were dedicated and skilled enough t0 beat the game: an epic translation fail.

The closing message reads: “You have accomplished the mission.” (So far so good.)
“You are the very prevailer that protect right and justice.” (Thanks . . .  I think.)
I would express my sincere. Thanks to You. Take good rest! Read more

Quebec’s Controversial Video Game Language Laws

A recent law passed in Quebec forbids the sale of English only games if a French translation exists or will be released at some point.

Not many games are officially translated into French (or many other languages) and I doubt that gamers will want to wait for them as many games are released in English long before they are translated.

This could be the end of the road for games shops in Quebec as gamers turn to the internet to snap up the latest releases. The goal of the new law is to protect and promote the French language. It will be even harder for local game stores to compete with the internet giants such as which these laws can’t touch.

More and more companies are starting to release translated games, especially for consoles such as the Nintendo DS as many of the games have high text content unlike action games on the Sony Playstation 3 and X-box 360 for example. Although the process of translating a whole game into a different language can be expensive and after translation it must then be thoroughly tested again as code may need to be changed in line with the new text for the game to work correctly.

Games should be available in your choice of language and a professional translation company can help game companies achieve this within budget and on time.

Unfortunately for Canadian games shops the new law is bad news and it won’t be long until these small time stores die a sad and painful death and the internet giants take over.

15 Powerful Translation Apps and Devices for Travelers in 2018

You’d love to see the world, but fear holds you back. You’re afraid of being isolated in a foreign country, unable to speak the language. How are you going to communicate? Charades? Well, stop worrying, and book those tickets! Here are 15 futuristic translation apps and devices for travelers in 2018 to help you get your point across.

This post was originally published in 2016. It has been updated for accuracy and to include new apps and devices. 

Best Translation Apps: Google TranslateTranslation Apps 1

When it comes to translation apps, Google Translate is obviously the elephant in the room — and for good reason. It supports more languages than the competition, and its comprehensive feature set makes it especially well-suited for travelers.

Languages: Google Translate offers varying degrees of support for 103 languages:

  • Type to translate: 103 languages
  • Offline support: 52 languages
  • Real-Time Video translation: 30 languages
  • Camera Mode: 37 Languages
  • Speech-to-speech translation: 32 languages
  • Handwriting translation: 93 languages

See which features work with which languages here.

Cool Tricks: Translate signs, menus and other written content using your phone’s camera. Offline support for some languages, plus excellent integration with the Android operating system for translating text messages and websites.

Recently, Google added neural machine translation (NMT) for improved accuracy in some languages. And you can launch it with your voice using Google Assistant.

All this, and it’s free. Free is good.

How to Get It: Download it from the App Store or from Google Play. Read more

The Language of Pokémon Go (and Why It’s Taking Over the World)

It’s official:  Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. A week after release, it had more active users than Twitter and more engagement than Facebook. Players are walking off cliffs and walking into traffic.  Those of us who don’t play are thoroughly confused, by both our friends’ behavior and by the incomprehensible babble coming out of their mouths.

“Pikachu?” “Gesundheit, and I’ll thank you to cover your mouth next time you sneeze!”

Why does everyone love Pokémon Go? Would you be surprised to learn that language has a lot to do with it? If you’ve been scratching your head in confusion, your wait is over. Let’s unravel the mystery of the language of Pokémon Go, and why the game seems to be taking over the world.

Pokémon Go: Nostalgia That Cuts Across Cultures


In the late 90s, Pokémon was kind of a big deal. The little “pocket monsters” (and their associated games, cards and other merchandise) spread from Japan to the US and everywhere in between.

It should come as no surprise, then, that 25% of Pokémon Go players are between the ages of 30-40, and 46% percent are between the ages of 18-29.  A substantial chunk of those 2 age groups would have been kids in the late 90s/early 2000s. Pokémon mania created a common touchpoint for people around the world who were kids at that time. So, the game taps into feelings of nostalgia that cut across cultures.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, there will be more of these common cross-cultural experiences to bind us together, and more opportunities for businesses and brands to create and harness them. Read more

Father Builds Inuit Video Game

When it comes to protecting threatened languages, technology can be a double-edged sword. It can serve to discourage young people from speaking the language of their parents and grandparents, or it can provide tools to help them learn it and space for them to practice it.

Here’s one especially sweet example of how technology can help preserve indigenous languages: an Inuit father named Qajaaq Ellsworth is in the process of developing a video game for young children ages three to seven, the same age range as his little girl. The video game, called Ilinniarnaqsivuq (Time for School), has two goals. The first is to help children get a head start on school by teaching them about colours, numbers, animals, weather and how to navigate the classroom setting.  The second is to help children practice these concepts in three languages: English and the Inuit dialects of  Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun. Read more

Translation in Video Games

Translation in Gaming: You Must Defeat Sheng Long

Video games have come a long way in the past 30 years. The cinematic masterpieces offered today bear little resemblance to the pixelated classics that so many of us remember fondly from our childhood.

Gaming has become a huge global industry. There are believed to be up to 2.6 billion gamers in the world, with an estimated industry value of $128.5 billion by the end of 2020. The revenue from international video games surpassed that of the international film industry some years ago. Indeed, by 2013 it had reached more than double the revenue that the film industry commanded.

Video game translation

Video game translation plays a key role in the international sale of modern video games. Game producers’ enhanced budgets mean that they can afford top notch translation services in order to ensure that their offerings are word-perfect around the world. However, that wasn’t always the case, as one of the gaming industry’s most famous hoaxes reveals. Read more