Camera translation or interpreting?

Camera translation
By March 11th, 2021 | localization and translation | 0 Comments

Constant development of applications has turned your smartphone into a multipurpose tool. Camera translation is a new type of translation that can either get you out of a jam at a given time or make life more difficult if used in a professional environment. Despite its name, the machine doesn’t translate, it’s more of an interpreting system. If you'd like to know when you should and shouldn’t use it, this article is for you.

How do camera translation apps work?

It’s simple. Take a picture of the text you’re interested in with your smartphone’s camera. The device processes it online and gives you a real-time translation that overlaps the original text in augmented reality. Some of the apps with this technology translate without taking a picture, just focusing the camera on the text is enough.

It’s not actually a translation since the mobile device interprets the symbols and translates them literally using its database. It’s an automatic process that doesn't take into account the intentionality of the text nor the linguistic context on which the specific meaning of a word, sentence or fragment depends.

Camera translation apps: benefits and limitations of their use

The main feature of these applications is their immediacy. They are useful tools when you need to know the meaning of a word, by way of a bilingual dictionary. If you travel to a country where you don’t speak the language it can help you understand a menu or sign.

It can even be used at the workplace to help you understand an email or message from a foreign supplier or client, but under no circumstance should they be used to interpret long texts nor demand special attention. In that case, we recommend you turn to a professional translator, who will be able to grasp the meanings and nuances of the document.

Because of this, these tools have never been a good alternative to translate the content or projects you want to communicate to your clients or collaborators. Trusting a camera translation app can seem like an easy way to communicate your content in other languages, but you shouldn't forget that the machine “interprets” what it sees without understanding it and the result can be terribly awful for the image of your company.

Disadvantages of camera translation apps that can (really) harm you

There are several disadvantages that advise against turning a camera translation app into your translation resource.

  • Literal translations, without distinguishing expressions or other linguistic resources such as metaphors, that turn the text into nonsense. Only a professional translator can understand and find the most appropriate equivalence avoiding syntactic and grammatical incoherencies.
  • Imperfect translations, that can cause a bad impression. A simple spelling mistake can be seriously harmful in just one sentence, therefore the longer the text, the more possibilities of finding translation errors. A human translator understands a mistake or incorrect structure by translating and contextualizing the text.
  • Idea mix-up in complex texts. The more technical or specific the content, the more you should avoid this technology. Camera translation apps are usually faulty and tend to be more inefficient the more complicated it is to interpret the text. The more skilled the translation’s target audience may be, the more obvious the mistakes.

Camera translation can be useful for your daily life, but if you really need a professional translation it is advisable to invest in the services of a professional translation company so as to turn your content into a beneficial asset.