Content Curation

Fact: there are more than 7,000 languages in the world, and many still defy machine translation


Information remains a powerful weapon, even more, in the circumstances around the world these days.

AP | Portugal Tech Language Solutions' content curation not only aims to disseminate knowledge, by embracing this important role, we also take the selection of the best and most valid content in multiple areas very seriously.


Many languages still defy machine translation

There are more than 7,000 languages in the world, 4,000 of which are written. Yet only 100 or so can be translated by automated tools such as Google Translate. 

Google Translate currently offers the ability to communicate in around 108 different languages while Microsoft's Bing Translator offers around 70 languages. Yet there are more than 7,000 spoken languages around the world, and at least 4,000 with a writing system. 

If the message is in French or Spanish, typing it into an automatic translation engine will instantly solve the mystery and produce a solid answer in English. But many other languages still defy machine translation, including languages spoken by millions of people, such as Wolof, Luganda, Twi and Ewe in Africa.

There is an abundance of such material for languages like English, French, Spanish and German, thanks to multilingual institutions like the Canadian parliament, the United Nations and the European Union. Their human translators churn out streams of translated transcripts and other documents. The European Parliament alone produces a data trove of 1.37 billion words in 23 languages over a decade.



A good translator is practically invisible


The job of a literary translator can be a thankless one. It’s a multiskilled calling with two main demands: fluency in at least one other language that isn’t your own and an exceptional talent for writing. It’s a role requiring immense artistic empathy, putting oneself inside the mind, motivations and technique of another writer to create something as fluent and nuanced as the original work.

A good translator hears and feels the rhythms and undulations of another person’s prose in another person’s language and is able to render them in language at least as good as the original. A good translator is also practically invisible.

When translators do break out of a small-font namecheck on a title page it’s not often to be chaired shoulder high through the streets, either. Most recently the selection of Marieke Lucas Rijneveld to take on the Dutch translation of Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb, the poem she performed at Joe Biden’s US presidential inauguration in January, drew protests that a white non-binary person was the wrong choice to tackle a work inspired by the lived experience of a young black woman.


Hiring activity in the language industry increased strongly


Hiring activity in the language industry increased strongly in April 2021, continuing the upward trajectory from March and February 2021. In April 2021, the Slator Language Industry Job Index (LIJI) climbed by a little more than 10 points, the biggest upswing in more than 18 months.

The index now stands at an all-time high of 132.66, surpassing previous peaks of 126.31 in July 2019 and 126.82 in March 2020.

The increase in the April 2021 figure is linked to an uptick in job ads across most platforms monitored by Slator. Observational data related to activity across the language industry in the month of March 2021 also indicated a buoyant environment in terms of hiring and demand levels.



Street sign removed after embarrassing Welsh translation


A street sign in Merthyr Tydfil (Wales) had to be removed after the council made a gaffe with its Welsh language translation.

The sign for Wingfield Rise near Quakers Yard was spotted by someone passing through the area as having been converted to "Wingfield Yn Codi", which has a closer literal meaning to "Wingfield is Rising" and is altogether unsuitable in any event.

The sign also popped up on Facebook with one poster commenting, "Is this true? And after Wingfield gets up what does he do then?" Another blamed the mistake on someone relying too heavily on Google Translate when it came to bilingual sign writing.

Several streets from Wentloog Road to Treorchy Street all have different spellings on different signs at either end of the street. And it turns out it was all down to human error.

A Cardiff council spokesman confirmed the "very old" street signs were spelled in error when translating from Welsh to English. It turns out that someone a long time ago just guessed what the English spelling would be and those versions were used.


How autosuggest affects your brain


Start typing a reply in Google’s Gmail and it might feel like it is reading your mind. Tap out the letters “tha” and up pops the rest of a sentence in greyed out letters. Press tab and your sentence completes itself.

In simpler times, you would need to go to the hassle of using valuable seconds to type out “thank you very much” or “that sounds great” all by yourself. But now, email systems like Gmail can finish sentences for you. This feature is powered by a form of artificial intelligence known as natural language processing, which aims to understand and use language in ways that are more human-like than computers have managed before.

But while it can help to reduce the amount of time spent composing an email, many people have mixed feelings about the autocomplete feature, known as Smart Compose, with some describing its ability to scan our messages and come up with a suitable response as downright “creepy”.

Is there a risk that the languages we love and use everyday will lose something as a result?


This text was not written by a native English speaker, but by a language lover. However, all our language services are always provided by native speakers.







AP | PORTUGAL Tech Language Solutions is a Portuguese translation company certified by the ISO 17100 International Quality Standard. The company offers a wide range of language services, which include translation (TEP), post-editing machine translation (PEMT), transcription, desktop publishing and subtitling, voice talent, software, and website localization technology, SEO, and consulting. It invests enthusiastically in the development of partnerships and cooperation anywhere in the world where your organization may need a partner for the African, Brazilian, and European Portuguese language.

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