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   Undertoad  Tuesday Apr 29 12:59 PM

4/29/2003: Translating device for military

From here: what you're seeing there is a "phraselator" in use. This little device allows troops in Iraq and/or Afghanistan to use the phraselator to actually speak given phrases in the host language.

It looks like the soldier here is selecting from the menu-based phrase database, but the phraselator will also let the user speak directly into the unit with up to 3500 phrases.

Of course, there's no reverse phraselator for translation in the other direction, so it's probably hard to know whether the people take your precise meaning. (We recently had a set of anti-war Spaniards invade the Cellar. I tried to use Google's translation tools to speak directly to them, on their site in Spain -- and it just didn't fly. The translation was just not good enough for general usage, and there was a lot of confusion in trying to communicate two-way.)

The phraselator is interesting because it combines several developing technologies into one unit: handheld computing, voice recognition, and software translation. It's interesting when several technologies arrive at the same time, and bring about new approaches to the world.

You can easily imagine including wireless technology into this thing, so that if you wind up desperately needing stronger translations you could press a button and reach a human translator. Or include a memory card of some sort to load new languages on the fly. And after it's been developed for military applications, there's practically no cost to turn it into a consumer device; replace the military phrases with touristy ones, and suddenly any of us can visit any place in the world and chat with the locals, as long as we have one of these devices.

Fudge Armadillo  Tuesday Apr 29 02:32 PM

I'm sure everyone has done this before...

Babelfish translates the English phrase:
"Do not shoot, I come in peace"

Into this phrase in Portuguese:
"Não dispare, mim vêm na paz "

Which translates back to:
"It does not go off, me come in the peace"

I hope their translation is better. Yes, I realize Portuguese is nothing like Arabic, but Babelfish doesn't handle Arabic.


Whit  Tuesday Apr 29 03:32 PM

     Forget the device for the second and look at the pic! 15-20 years or so ago that could have been my friends and I dealing with a cop. I mean look at the expressions on the kid's faces. Studied, non-threatening politeness punctuated by the irritation of "Can we go now?"
     Exactly like American kids dealing with small town American cops when I was young. Of course in a small town you knew that the chance of having a witness if the cop decided to whip your ass was no greater than 0%. So we were always polite. I don't know what it was like for you city folk. Maybe the cops had better things to do.

Cochese  Tuesday Apr 29 04:13 PM

Just barely related question

I've always wanted to know why the US Flag is embroidered backwards on uniforms. I seem to recall hearing that it's the normal way on the left sleeve, and the reversed way on the right sleeve, but it was never adequately explained why. Can someone enlighten me?

mitheral  Tuesday Apr 29 04:31 PM

Re: Just barely related question

Originally posted by Cochese
I've always wanted to know why the US Flag is embroidered backwards on uniforms. I seem to recall hearing that it's the normal way on the left sleeve, and the reversed way on the right sleeve, but it was never adequately explained why. Can someone enlighten me?
The star field end is attached to the pole. Imagine the soldier as a pole. Now imagine the pole moving forward and observe in your mind the orientation of the flag from left and right sides.

xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Apr 29 04:50 PM

Now imagine the pole moving forward
I wonder if the French embroider their flags reversed?

Uryoces  Tuesday Apr 29 08:12 PM

English: Please do not discharge the firearm at me. I am peaceful.

Babelfish to Portuguese: Por favor não descarregue o firearm em mim. Eu sou calmo.

Babelfish from Portuguese:Please it does not unload firearm in me. I am calm.

think bablefish's -language- to English function is broken. That Portuguese phrase could be transliterated as "Please no discharge the firearm at me", but babelfish seems to mangle it.

quzah  Wednesday Apr 30 02:28 AM

Originally posted by xoxoxoBruce
I wonder if the French embroider their flags reversed?
Kinda like the US in WWI? We didn't want to join. The only reason we did is because a starving Germany decided to sink every ship around Britian and we couldn't have that since some of them were ours. We stayed out for how many years? No one cries about us... but then that's "water under the bridge" and no one remembers anything bad about the good ol' US-of-A.

God forbid someone actually NOT want to go to war. That'd be a crime against humanity.


wolf  Wednesday Apr 30 02:45 AM

I got pretty accurate translations, both in and out from worldlingo but that may have been in part due to the fact that I chose German as a target language to play with.

I will say that a handheld device that can do translation on the fly beats the heck out of flipping through a Berlitz book.

xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Apr 30 06:05 PM

Quzah, we reluctantly went to WWI to bail out our"friends". Our mistake was winning and leaving the peace to others which was the prime cause for WWII. To France, lead, follow or get out of the way.

Torrere  Wednesday Apr 30 09:46 PM

One can also argue that since we had loaned so much money to the Allies, we had wanted to make sure that they paid.

World War I was a wierd war.

dave  Thursday May 1 08:04 AM

My favorite thing about World War I is the Christmas Soccer match. Good times, and too bad the English officers had to spoil it.

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