Business babble: the power of translation apps

As an increasing number of smaller companies enter the foreign market to assert their presence worldwide, the need to overcome language barriers is higher than ever

From website content and marketing materials to product manuals and training documents, there are many things that require translation to make sense to your new markets. Choosing the right translation service is crucial as miscommunication in translation can lead to anything from financial loss to reputational damage.

As a result, many organisations elect to spend a significant amount on translation services to ensure clear communication with their network of customers, partners, and even government agencies. And this is on the rise, with the annual sum spent on business translation services set to reach $45 billion by 2020.

Why are translation apps so popular?

The growing popularity of artificial intelligence (AI) has helped bring down the cost of translation dramatically. Today we have AI-enabled translation apps such as Google Translate, Amazon Translate, and Microsoft Translator which have evolved over time to deliver highly accurate results. However, it is important to know which of these services is right for your business purposes.

For people who need to translate a web page or product descriptions designed to be read when someone is casually browsing, the results delivered by widely-available, free translation apps are good enough. However, when it comes to creating a user manual in a foreign language, translating a tax document or developing a new user interface, companies require error-free, colloquial translation, vetted by a real human being.

How translation services are empowering sectors

A recent development, used by apps such as Jibbigo, Vocre and I translate, is the inclusion of voice-recognition software that enables translation apps to decode words and phrases into text or audio format as you speak. The more they are used, the better they are able to interpret text and sound.

Translation apps vary widely in terms of user interface, price, functionality, and features. Their accuracy primarily depends on your dialect, your vocabulary, and the environment. Some apps may be better at translating to Spanish, but fare poorly in French; while others may be great with technical words but perform miserably when you use culinary terms.

Apps such as these can can help organisations, from the retail sector to the service industry, reach out to larger markets and serve people from different countries. Smaller enterprises too may find it easier to offer their products or services globally without having to worry about high translation costs.

What the future holds for translation apps

With companies like eBay, Skype, Twitter, and WeChat adding translation features to boost their usability around the world, the future of translation apps looks bright.

Many mobile apps now offer a “visual translation” feature which allows global travellers to point their smartphone at a road sign or poster, and get an instant translation. This technology has now been taken up by Google Glass, allowing a seamless translation experience. Information technology company, Hewlett Packard is working on a startup called SpeechTrans that will provide real-time translation of conference calls and business meetings while they are in progress.

While these AI tools may not completely replace human translation in the high-end enterprise market, they will be useful in meeting the needs of highly-specialised translation in such sectors as law, engineering, healthcare, and IT.