Friday, April 20, 2012

A Software That Can Translate Your Voice...

Imagine being able to speak to the locals while you’re traveling even if you don’t know the language. With new software being developed by Microsoft, this could become a reality. Researchers have developed software that uses voice recognition and text-to-speech to translate into 26 languages. This software is so advanced, that you won’t even get a robot voice reading your sentence… It will be your own voice!

The software was shown at a demonstration in Washington where Microsoft research scientist, Frank Soong, used the voice of his boss, Rick Rashid, to say a few sentences in English. He then used the software to say the same thing in Spanish.

On top of this, he was able to develop a “talking head” avatar of Mr. Rashid to say the phrases. He had previously used the software to develop the avatar and remember Mr. Rashid’s oral movements when making various sounds. He was then able to make the Spanish-speaking avatar’s lips move with the Spanish words, rather than retaining the English movements and making him look like he is in an old Godzilla movie.

Unfortunately, this software is not yet available to the public and right now is only being used by Microsoft to perfect it.

You can watch the whole demonstration here (starts at about 12 minutes into the video), or you can read a little more about this software and hear a few short sound clips of Rick Rashid speaking different languages here.

Tips on How to Streamline the Software Localization Process

Software localization is one of the most complex projects in regards to translation. Most of the time, localization involves translating software strings to the target language without affecting the coding. Some clients prefer to simply translate a list of English words/phrases, so that they can later be inserted into the code manually. This may not be an option for everyone, especially for those less savvy in software strings, coding and foreign language characters.

Those who cannot, or choose not to, localize the file themselves may elect to send the strings to the translation agency and ask them to work on the translations within the code. This would allow the agency to deliver an in-tact code, with the foreign language replacing the original English text. If you choose to take this route, we have some tips to make the process easier:

1.       Try to maintain consistency through the strings. For example, if you have an error message in one place that says “File not found”, try not to change it in another place to say “Cannot find file”

2.       Provide context for your strings. If a line in your string simply says “End”, you must provide context. Does this mean that clicking “End” will take you to the end of the document? Does it mean that clicking will end the program you are running in the software? If you have the source software available for the agency to review, this is also very helpful. Without context, it is also difficult to know the gender (remember that other languages often have genders for nouns). Providing context will also help to identify whether a word is a noun or verb (e.g., “call”), etc.

a.       Wikipedia explains this as well: User interface strings that are available for translation in a separate file or web interface are out of context. Ideally, the translator ought to be able to press a button and somehow "see the context". Simply translating a string without knowing its precise location in the user interface will often lead to wrong translations, in particular if English is the source language.

3.       Keep in mind that translated text is often much longer and can take up more space than the English. If you have a dialog box that is only large enough for 3 characters but the translated word is 10 characters, you will have to adjust the size of the font or text frame. It is much simpler to make the text boxes too large before translation and shrink them later, than to go the other way around.

4.       Provide resource materials! This is important. If you have previous software translations that relate, glossaries compiled from other projects or the English software available, send it all. It may seem like a lot, but it is better for the agency to have too much information and not use it all, than to have too little and delay the turnaround time.

Software localization is a very complex and time-consuming process. If you can help to make the process as streamlined as possible, your project will yield a faster turnaround and an overall better experience.

Business Trend Snapshot: Technical Translations

Over the past couple years at Precision Language & Graphics Inc., we have seen an increased number of translation requests for materials in various technical fields, such as engineering, specifically for manuals. Though we cannot say exactly what has stimulated the growing demand, it is evident that the economy is recovering and international commerce is likely to follow suit. Within the last few weeks we have had the pleasure of supporting technical manual translations totaling several hundred pages of highly technical content. These projects are not like common translations, and a few quality assurance measures should be taken. These include, but are not limited to, measurement specifications, glossary building and the use of a specialized translator.
When requesting a quotation for a technical manual, one thing that is important to clarify is whether or not measurements and other numbers will need to be converted in the target language, e.g., 1” to 2.54cm. For general translations such as product packaging, measurements will be converted. However, with technical manuals, it is up to the client to decide if they want them converted because the measurements in technical manuals are often very specific, and a conversion that is rounded to the nearest millimeter could even cause a problem. This is why most clients choose not to convert measurements for highly technical materials.
Another quality assurance measure to take, before beginning the project, is to utilize the best-fit translator. A general translator will not suffice for technical translations. It is imperative that a specialist, with a background in the material field, is chosen to support the translation. Without this industry background, it would be near impossible to translate heavily technical content.
Once the project has started, we will create a short glossary of terms and ask that the client have someone within the company who speaks the target language, if available, review the translations provided. With technical materials, there is often terminology that is industry-specific. By creating and reviewing a glossary, we can be sure to use terms that are preferred by the client according to the industry/company. If the client does not have someone to review the glossary, we still create one to store and use for future translation projects for that specific client. By using glossaries and translation memory software, in addition to our regular quality assurance measures, we strive to ensure the highest level of consistency and accuracy of translation.
After we have completed the project and returned the final files to the client, we welcome any feedback. If the client has a representative in the target region or someone to review and/or edit the translations, we request that the edits are sent to us. This allows us to know and understand any changes and apply them to future translation projects. This continuous improvement will guarantee that the process is refined after each project.
If you have any translation needs, for technical materials or others, please contact us at or call 847-413-1688.

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