Make sure nothing gets lost in translation
For years, I’ve been entertained by online translation services. I once received a message from a native Portuguese speaker telling me that she was going to “beat the crop”, which left me very confused. Luckily, I had a brilliant roommate who pointed out that she likely meant “hit the hay”. That was my first introduction to the hilarious fumbles that online translations services are capable of. Recently, I’ve see some other hilarious examples of language translations gone wrong.
The Tonight Show
They got me thinking, though. Why not check the translation by translating it back and seeing if it’s close? Granted this isn’t foolproof either, but definitely improves my confidence. I’m an iOS app developer, so predictably I called up my favorite designer, Heidi Helen, and we started working on an app that double-checks translations. We’re calling it Boomerang (“Paper” was taken).
Boomerang uses Google Translate to translate between over 100 languages. In addition to performing the translation, Boomerang will also translate the result back into the original language. The original translation works most of the time. Of course, when it doesn’t it’s hilarious and you’ll be relieved that you used Boomerang to double check.
Boomerang can also help translation services find their weaknesses. As of this writing, I’d say Google has some work to do. Here is “Here’s to the crazy ones” in a few languages.
Arabic: I am a generation old.
Catalan: This is for fools.
Corsican: Here is their sick.
Danish: Here they are insane.
Japanese: This is crazy.
Kurdish: Here, for those who is mad.
Lao: Here not Crazy.
Malayalam: Here’s mad cows.
Spanish: This is for crazy people.
Sundanese: Here is more crazy.
Tamil: Here’s the crazy thing.
Translation services charge per character. That means that over time the expenses of maintaining an app dependent on translation services will grow. As such, a paid up front monetization model won’t work. Boomerang is free with ad support but we will also have an in-app purchase in the form of an annual subscription for anyone who doesn’t want ads and/or would like to help support our work.
Boomerang is now available on the App Store. Check it out