Language Translators in Second Life

Impressive Language Translators!!!!!!

I have found some Language Translator programs in Second Life (SL) that remind me of the Universal Translator of science fiction lore (i.e., Star Trek and Dr. Who & ?)

There are two – The Simbolic Language Translator and the Free Translator by Ferd. Let me tell you how I found them . . .

A couple of nights ago, I was exploring in Second Life when I met a gentleman. He and I began chatting (only text). I noticed that it would take as long as 15-20 seconds for him to respond to me. Through conversation I found out that he was from Portugal and that he was using a translator. This translator took what he typed in Portuguese and translated it into English (I could not see his writing in Portuguese.) I would read his message in English and reply in English. The translator would convert my message from English to Portguese so that he could read it.

Pretty Tricky. He told me that this was the Simbolic Language Translator and directed me to where I could download it. I beamed over the Simbolic site and downloaded it. (I must warn you that this site is not in the “best part of SL” so be forewarned that you may see some strange stuff there.) This language translator is a HUD (Heads-Up Display) so I had to “wear” it for it to work. Once I donned the translator, a small control panel appeared in the upper left corner of my screen. It enabled me to select the language that I was speaking and then the language of the person to whom I was speaking. Engaging the appropriate settings, I tested this out with my new Portuguese friend and it worked quite well. There were a few times when the literal translation didn’t work too well but “it’s only a computer.”

Today, I was over at the Simbolic site to find out more about it. There are probably a half dozen avatars speaking an assortment of languages. I realized the primary limitation in the Language Translator. Before I could converse with another person through the translator, I needed to know what language they spoke so that I could make the appropriate settings. Before I had much time to think about this, I met Ferd Federix. Ferd told me that he had developed an even more sophisticated translator. This is the Free Translator.

The Free Translator is a language translator that will scan the area (within 20 SL ft) and determine the primary language of each of the avatars based upon their chat history. Having identified that, it provides a list of the individuals along with their primary languages on my screen. Moreover, Ferd’s Free Translator uses this information to make multiple translations simultaneously to multiple people. This means that when I type “Hello”, it will translate that into each of the primary languages of the surrounding avatars. Secondly, when someone responds in their primary language, it will translate that back into my primary language which is English. WOW!!!

I wanted to test this out, so:

  • I traveled through SL looking for non-English speakers. First I met a woman from Brazil. I typed to her in English and her responses returned in English. When I learned that she was from Brazilia, I asked her if she was typing in Portuguese. She was.
  • I went to a Japanese SL site looking for a Japanese speaker. The woman I met was from Holland. She was speaking English but when I asked her to speak in Dutch, the responses came to me in English. Once she began speaking in Dutch, my translator identified this and began translating to Dutch. Turned out that this woman was a profesional language translator. She said that the translations were pretty good but too literal. Well, “it’s only a computer.”

How do they do this? You guessed it – Google. (Don’t they run everything? =-) Ferd told me that both of the language translators are running the text through the Google translator. I don’t know much about this but he said that Google offers APIs for developers to use their tool. (You might also notice that I have installed a Google translator for this blog. Look in the right column and you will see a gadget that will translate this page into any of 35 languages.)

This is an amazing advance in SL communication. It builds a language link that can break down the language barriers that get in the way of humans communicating. It IS a literal translation and I wouldn’t use if for international negotiations, but these translators can further connections between people around the world.

SLURLs for the Second Life Translators:

Simbolic Language Translator
Remember that this is in the “wrong side of town” in SL. You will land in front of the Simbolic Language Translator board. (You may have to turn around and it might take a little while to appear.) Just click on it and it will allow you to buy it for L$0 (nothing). Click the Buy button and a transaction window will appear. You will now find the Language Translator by Simbolic folder in your inventory.

Ferd Free Translator
Find the Orange Globe (you may have to turn around). Press your up arrow to walk towards the orange globe. Touch the globe
(Right/Command click) and the translator will be placed in your inventory. It just happens. There is no text window saying that you have received it. Check your inventory for a folder entitled Ferd’s Google Translator Folder.
(Updated 1/21/09)

What are your experiences, hopes or dreams in reference to this newly-developed language translator capability?
Leave me a comment about your impressions of a second life language translator.


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