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Translation Apps are Popular but Not Perfect

During the 2018 Soccer World Cup in Russia there was a dramatic spike in the use of Google Translate. Fans needed to strike up conversations with their hosts and fellow fans from around the world. The words for "stadium" and "beer" were in particularly high demand. These days the traditional phrasebook is on the way out. A recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of 16 to 34-year-olds now rely on translation apps to help navigate the local lingo.

But while such apps are getting better, they're still not totally reliable. One-fifth of those surveyed said they experienced misunderstandings while on vacation because of mistranslations on their phone.

People noticed that Google Translate was often throwing up mangled or silly sentences. For example, Welsh people have noticed some particularly "scummy" translations. A warning sign reading "Blasting in Progress" was rendered as "Workers Exploding.”

A team of Microsoft researchers has started to make significant progress on translation work. But it’s still complicated. As one of the lead researchers noted, “Machine translation is much more complex than a pure pattern recognition task. People can use different words to express the exact same thing, but you cannot necessarily say which one is better.”

Possible Preaching Angles: Intercession; Prayer – If we have trouble communicating with other humans, how can we ever hope to express our thoughts and needs to the infinite God? This is where we depend on our infallible “translator,” the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26) and Jesus our great high priest (Heb. 4:13-16).

Emma Woollacott, “How translation apps iron out embarrassing gaffes,” The BBC (9-25-18)

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