Smartphone Apps Make Language Translation Easier

July 15, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. ubiquitous [yoo-BIK-wi-tuh s] (adj.) – widely available; existing everywhere
Example: Smartphones and tablets are very ubiquitous nowadays.

2. speech recognition [speech rek-uh g-NISH-uh n] (n. phrase)  – a technology that translates spoken words into text
Example: Many smartphones with speech recognition technology can type words as the owner speaks. 

3. proficiency [pruh-FISH-uh n-see] (n.) – the quality of being good or skilled at something
Example: My sister’s proficiency in English qualifies her for teaching the English language.

4. pick up on [pik uhp on] (idiom) – to quickly understand
Example: Despite reviewing the whole night, Sheila still find difficulties picking up on the English lesson.

5. sarcasm [SAHR-kaz-uh m] (n.) – the use of words that are opposite of what one really wants to say
Example: The students did not do what the teacher asked because they knew it was told in sarcasm.


Read the text below.

Software developers are coming out with translation apps that are instantly accessible through ubiquitous smartphones.

Rosetta Stone, a language learning company, has released free apps for iOS devices that provide users with simple exercises to learn basic French, Spanish, German, and Italian. One unique characteristic of the apps is the speech recognition. This technology allows the apps to know if the user is pronouncing a word correctly.

Meanwhile, Google has a translation app called Google Translate, which is available for iOS and Android devices. Google Translate can translate a spoken phrase into whatever language the user chooses by combining speech recognition with translation technology.

Another app called VerbalizeIt is also available for iOS and Android users. The app uses human translators to help customers around the world. Customers choose a language they need to be translated, and the app connects them to a human translator for assistance. Ryan Frankel, chief executive officer of VerbalizeIt, revealed that the company employs more than 8,500 translators worldwide, all of whom have passed a language proficiency exam.

According to the developers, these apps show that learning how to speak the language is just as important as learning how to read it.

However, Frankel says smartphone apps still need a lot of time to develop accurate language translators for people. He believes that until computers get better, the world will always need human translators because only humans can pick up on local context, sarcasm, and emotion.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think translation apps like Google Translate are useful? Why or why not?
·         Do you agree that human translators are better than computer or software translators? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         With all the technology available today, do you believe that communicating with any person from any country is now easy? Why or why not?
·         What other technologies do you think can make communication around the world even better and easier? Share your ideas with your tutor.


July 15, 2013