iPhone calls out Arabic translation

At WorldAccent we use a mixture of PCs and Macs for our multilingual typesetting, but many of us firmly belong to the Apple camp in our hearts. So when a new iPhone app does a clever thing in the world of translation, we sit up and take notice.

One of great functions on the new iPhone 3GS is voice control. And now a new app for the iPhone and Blackberry claims to translate your speech between Arabic and English.

It is called Mobile Speech to Speech Arabic Translator and it promises an Arabic translation on screen as well as spoken out loud. It’s worth noting, for the pedants among us, technically this translation of spoken word to spoken word is Arabic interpreting, what we do at WorldAccent, dealing with the written word, is Arabic translation.

As yet, the app is not on general release having been developed for use by the US Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and other military customers. Perhaps not surprising given their ongoing problems with Arabic interpreters.

Obviously we haven’t been able to try out the app and so can’t vouch for how well it would work. It certainly could be intriguing for getting around town or ordering a coffee. But, as always with such non-human translation, I wouldn’t want to entrust a formal introduction or something that really mattered to a company’s reputation to it. Most likely, it will be subject to usual vagaries and misunderstandings inherent with machine translation – a worrying thought if being used in life and death situations!

While I’m on the subject of iPhone apps, it seems to me there’s more to be said on the subject of app translation. The Apple Store is spreading from country to country and, if you are an app developer, translation of at least your product description seems a no-brainer. But more on that another time…