for the SANDRINE

One Asia

Okay, so we all know that Asia is the world’s largest continent with billions of people living and about 50 countries in it. We also know that most of the time, learning the English language is essential especially now that the world is getting smaller and smaller. However in China you won’t hear anybody speaking English. I’ve had the chance of experiencing China for a day and no one, at least among the people we encountered, spoke English—even the waiters of a restaurant near the airport. I mean one would expect the said restaurant to be accommodating enough and have English-speaking waiters get their orders, but no. Chinese people and some other countries in Asia stand by the use of their local language in everyday life—even in business. Very nationalistic.

That was just one instance proving the fact that the flow of information and communication in this part of the world is a bit problematic. This is why Google’s employees are very busy today, trying to connect ideas and people more.

The Philippine Star on July 05, 2010 enumerated the different problems of Asia regarding information and what Google has done to solve it. One is the availability of information in other languages. Today people from outside the country can read President Noynoy’s speech in different languages, thanks to Google.  They have this Translate tool that, well obviously, translates a word, an article or even a whole website in a certain language to another language.

It’s not that effective though. If you would like to get just an idea of what a certain article is all about then Translate may be enough for you. But if it’s important for you to really understand it, I think Google’s tool can’t help you that much. I haven’t experienced the Translate tool, but I got disappointed when I tried other “translate” websites so that I could understand what the song Dia de Enero is all about. The English translation was really word per word that I couldn’t get the whole message.

This is a limitation of search engines—machines. Computers don’t have the ability, for example, to determine whether the phrase “squeezing lemons into my cuts” is in its figurative or literal meaning. More than that, culture plays an important role in understanding another language. You have to know it before you can comprehend and communicate well. Computers can’t teach you all that.

Google is doing a great job in helping people look for what they need and making business easier. But it’s good to know that computers can’t do everything. I think life would be a bit more boring. Experiences would be much fun if you go for the adventure, trying to look for the best in the world through your own means.

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6 responses

  1. slightlydillydallying

    Culture and language are inseparable. This is the reason the “translate” tool does not encapsulate the meanings behind the words in a non-English website. It is a good thing though that Google spearheaded a project that would seemingly facilitate understanding between people of different native languages. However, it (the project) has a long way to go. They must shift their strategy from translating each word/character to including the human perspective within each statement. That way, they can incorporate culture in the process of translation.

    July 18, 2010 at 4:54 am

    • I agree with Ninin. Translation is still going to be problematic because culture is ingrained in every word and in sentence/thought construction. I think this is what gives IMAGES more power over words when it comes to advertising, or to communication in general. Unlike words, images don’t need translation. 🙂

      July 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm

  2. Karen

    Try translating Tagalog words just for the fun of it! (And please use translate.google.com) Go! This used to be my hobby. Haha!

    July 19, 2010 at 12:05 am

  3. When you talked about China, I suddenly remembered Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, with the Chinese characters in the movie (awkwardly) speaking in English. Anyway, you’re right when you said that machines like search engines have limitations. The world we’re living in is made up of people, and people want conversations, not machines and their boring processes. One principle we must embrace as we take on our Orcom hats (as Jen would say): the business is no longer a steep rigid organizational chart, but a network of fluid connections among people. And connections thrive only through shared experiences.
    (This is a product of a night of reading Weinberger’s The Hyperlinked Organization. :D)

    July 21, 2010 at 3:54 am

  4. Because of technology and innovation, computers are becoming more and more powerful now. And this imposes threats to the future of the human workforce. We saw how humans are being replaced by computers in accomplishing a particular task. In this case, translating from one language to another 🙂
    However, computers are not as high context as humans. If a text is literal or figurative, we would know. And as what you have said, that is one thing that a computer cannot do. Machines have limitations, no matter how good they are. We could take advantage of those limitations by improving ourselves.

    July 25, 2010 at 12:27 pm

  5. Accuracy is mainly the problem here. I think no matter how advanced technology or the Internet will be, there is still a factor in language and communication that it won’t be at par with. In this case, its the diversity of language. Issues of transliterations and the non-existence of some words in culture to another are hard to resolve using the Internet. However, efforts from Google are good start to bridge this gap and is helpful to some.

    October 2, 2010 at 3:17 pm

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