(Five adapted to Android so far.)
The Entente Translator works accurately between any pair of fourteen languages covering most of the Earth. Entente (ahn-TAHNT, French for "Understanding") is a new kind of translator, not for documents but for conversation.
Entente is meant to help people get around in foreign countries; to converse, and ask questions, and get understandable replies. Entente is different from ordinary document translators in several ways. Most programs try to guess the meanings of ambiguous words, but Entente asks instead. (The user types I LIKE... and it beeps and asks LIKE in which sense? O I like candy. O Jim is like Jane. The user knows what he means, taps the first button , and the computer makes the right translation .)
Unlike phrase translators, which cover only a few stock situations, Entente lets the user say anything he wants. The user can save the translations or send them as e-mail.
Unlike Google Translate, Babelfish etc., Entente runs on your own device and works where there is no connection to the Internet. There is never a connection charge, so you can use it for hours.
There are limitations -- the program will not translate foreign documents, has only a small-but-adequate 3500 word vocabulary, and relies on the intelligence of people to compensate for its minimal grammar. It uses neither plurals nor conjugations (e.g.: 3 MAN ROB BANK YESTERDAY) and listeners smile at the grammar, but grasp the meaning very well.
The program is inexpensive, and easy to learn and use -- it takes three minutes to read the rules, and four to read the sample session. Yet easy as it is, Entente lets almost everyone on Earth say practically anything to nearly anyone else.
Languages: (Android in bold) Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian.
System Requirements: Android device with OS 2.2 or better, and 2.5 Meg of storage.
Entente is meant to help people get around in foreign countries; to converse, and ask questions, and get understandable replies. Suppose you're in Hungary, and want to say "Where can I rent an airplane?" You couldn't say this with a phrase book -- they can't be big enough to cover all such situations -- and you'd look silly trying to pantomime it! Yet life is complicated, and to be effective you often have to say such things. With Entente you can say them, and understand the replies, and more. You can say complex things. You can be understood about as well as a third-year language student.
With a 3500 word vocabulary, you can say anything and the foreigner can respond. Laugh at the grammar -- but grasp the meaning every time. And get information you need: English: I WANT TO RENT A BICYCLE . -- to Spanish: YO QUERER ALQUILAR UN BICICLETA. Spanish response: LA TIENDA DE BICICLETA ESTAR CERCA DEL MUSEO DE ARTE. -- to English : THE SHOP OF BICYCLE BE NEAR OF THE MUSEUM OF ART.
Entente VS Google Translate
Google Translate runs on Google servers, so to use it you must have an Internet connection. Entente runs on your Android device in just 2.5 Meg, so you don't use the Net. This saves you connect-time charges so you can use it as much as you want, and you can use it in places where there is no service, like the High Andes.
Google was developed by taking a huge number of translations and analysing them, so it uses the most common translation when you input similar words. It always translates a phrase the same way: Say “Charge it”, and it says the same thing every time: “Make an accounting charge” (as in “Charge my Mastercard.”) If you happen to mean “Charge the battery” the listener is likely to misunderstand and charge you for your own battery. If you say “murder charge” the corrupt cop may say “We charge $500, and who should we kill?”, “Charge the enemy!” may draw the response “How much?” and so on. Entente asks you : “Which meaning of charge? Charge my credit card/Charge the battery/murder charge/Charge!/... You know what you mean and select that choice so the translation is correct. Thus Entente is more accurate.
Because Google needs millions of translations for each language it cannot be compiled for the thousands of obscure languages in danger of dying out. There are few translations for those tongues. Entente uses a 3,500 word vocabulary that can be compiled in a week, so it can preserve those languages.
Babelfish is a little cumbersome for conversation. You type your sentences and select input and output languages from long lists, and it translates. The foreigner types, and selects input and output languages from the lists... With Entente you select languages once, say English => French. You type in English and hit GO and there's the French. For the Frenchman to reply you just hit the arrow and the display turns to French => English, so he can type immediately. It's much faster. Entente is made for conversation.
That said, Google is magnificent. It has a huge vocabulary and makes grammatical translations, and it works for documents. Entente does not work for documents, it's conversation only.
Entente does away with many unnecessary aspects of grammar. It uses no plurals -- for we understand "3 MAN" as well as "3 MEN". It uses no tenses or conjugations, for we understand "3 man rob bank yesterday" just as well as "3 men robbed it." It does not rearrange the words of the sentence, for people can do that easily, once they are told about the foreign custom. (Spanish puts the adjective after the noun -- "the car red" instead of "the red car". The instructions for Spanish tell you about this, and then you can easily understand "I LIKE THE CAR RED BUT NOT THE CAR PURPLE".)
These rules are easy for humans to learn, but very hard for computers. So Entente uses your natural, common-sense language ability in combination with the computer's ability to "memorize" thousands of words, and by this teamwork makes possible universal communication.
Perhaps this sounds confusing, but really it's easy and natural. And rather fun! Here are some examples of real translations:
(Note: Foreign alphabets such as Arabic cannot be shown here, but all foreign characters appear on-screen. For Android we are having trouble making keyboards switch, so for the moment only languages that use a Latin (standard) keyboard will work.)
Russian to English: HOW MUCH THIS SHIRT?
Chinese to English (Chinese is always input in "Bopomopho", or alphabetic writing. This is well established on Taiwan, where children learn to read it for six years, before starting the ideograms. It is known to well-educated, recent graduates on the mainland, but is less well learned, rather like the metric system in the U.S.) : I LOVE YOU. YOU WANT GO DANCING AND DRINK BEER TODAY NIGHT?
Hungarian to English: EN SZERET TERMESZET. ITT A SOK HEGY NAGYON SZEP ES MAGAS.
I LOVE ENVIRONMENT. HERE THE MUCH MOUNTAIN IS VERY BEAUTIFUL AND TALL.
German to English: ICH BENOTIGEN EINE SEKRETARIN, DER SCHNELL TIPPEN KONNEN UND UBESSETZEN VON DEUTSCH AUF UNGARISCH.
I NEED A SECRETARY, THAT QUICKLY TYPE CAN AND TRANSLATE FROM GERMAN UPON HUNGARIAN.
Many more examples are included in the manual with the full and free versions.
We often refer to the simple rules, and claim you can read them in three minutes, and, using the practice sentences included in the manual, be comfortable with them in ten. Then you can translate to thirteen other languages. We say this compares favorably with the four years it take to learn a single language this well. Lest you think we exaggerate and you'll really have to flummox the intransitive gerund, here they are:
Type in your sentences. If you use an ambiguous word the program beeps and asks which sense you mean (O I like candy O Joe looks like John). Tap the meaning you want and continue.
It translates automatically when you hit the GO key. You can then type more sentences. Or you can press the => key to switch to foreign input (so the foreigner can reply). E.g.: English => French, tap the => and it changes to French => English.
Use only one verb form--the infinitive (as in to walk, to talk, to go, to be) -- but forget the "to". Say: John be tall, he go to Peru, I walk over hill, etc.
Use all singular nouns: 3 MAN ROB BANK YESTERDAY, ALL BABY CRY IN NIGHT, MANY AMERICAN THINK THAT...(you may use WE, THEY or THEM or any other pronoun though).
Do not use possessives--not John's car but car of John. Again you may use the possessive pronouns -- HIS CAR, YOUR CAR, MY CAR or THEIR CAR are all OK. (Note: for Hungarian and some other languages you should say THE JOHN CAR -- check the section on Language Peculiarities.)
Any sentence with PLEASE in it is a polite command, regardless of word order: US YOU GIVE PASSPORT, PLEASE. (In various languages, word order varies, but this rule takes care of that -- for command always say PLEASE).
Any sentence with a question mark is a question, regardless of word order "TIME BE 5:00?" "LIKE WINE YOU?"
Do not use complex, multi-word verbs. I LEAVE FOR CHILE TOMORROW, not "I will leave"," I should have left", "I am leaving", or "Do I leave?" And, "PERHAPS I GO", not "I may go". You may say: I WANT TO GO, I CAN GO, I MUST GO, I SEE HIM GO – just stick to the present tense.
Just after you type a word it doesn't know, the computer emits a low, discreet "click". This feature lets you backspace to correct the spelling, remove the "s" from the end of a word you've accidently pluralized (remember, it doesn't know plurals), or try a similar, perhaps more common word. (Use the DEL key to backspace.)
Later, look at the translation. Some of the words may be the same as those you typed. This may be OK--the words may be proper names or you may have said I LIVE IN DENVER and it translated YO VIVIR EN DENVER. DENVER and FRED JONES can't be translated, so unknown words are repeated unchanged. The foreigner can probably read such words with no trouble. (NOTE: For languages such as Arabic that don't use the Latin alphabet you should point to the untranslated word and pronounce it clearly. It may also be helpful to carry a small map, and point to the place.)
But sometimes you'll suspect the word didn't translate because the program didn't know it, and you should try a more common word, or explain it (and when this happens to you, point to the word you don't understand, or ask what it means.)
If you've read these rules, you've done most of the work required to use Entente. It's really that simple.
If you still have questions just read the next session – everyone who ever has, has felt well prepared to use the program.
A SESSION USING ENTENTE
John turns on the smart phone and touches the Entente Icon. He has never read the rules but assumes he doesn’t have to, so he touches Continue. Now he sees the main screen and the boxes English and Hungarian at the bottom. Since he wants Spanish he touches the Hungarian box and gets a language is. He touches Spanish and the main screen appears, with English and Spanish boxes at the bottom. Good.
Above the text box it says English to Spanish, which is what he wants. Good.
He touches the textbox where it says Enter English Word, and a keyboard appears. Good.
John wants to say "Hello. I like your car".
He types HELLO. I LIKE...
The keyboard disappears. John is frustrated. He looks up at the author of the program (conveniently standing by his shoulder) and says "What is wrong? Is it broken? Why can’t I type?"
The author responds: It is trying to get your attention. This means you must look at the screen. John looks, and sees:
Oh, says John, a huge white sign has appeared, asking a question. But why, and what must I do?
The author explains: you have used an ambiguous word: LIKE, and the program needs to know which meaning you want. It must know this before it can go on, so now you must read the big white sign and touch your selection.
John reads the sign and decides he wants the first meaning 1. He touches it and the sign disappears. John finishes his sentence.
Wanting to translate it, he presses "Enter" and the translation appears-
HOLA. YO GUSTAR SU COCHE
Juana, John's Spanish friend, reads the translator and understands it.
(Gustar really means "pleases", so "your car pleases me" is theoretically correct, but GUSTAR can be used in either way (as "like" or "pleases") in closely related Portuguese, and Spaniards really understand it too, despite what American Spanish teachers say.)
Juana tries to type a reply: UD PODER... but the computer clicks after every word, to show it does not know these words. Help! Why? Because, says the author, you have not switched to Spanish input. The computer does not know UD or PODER because they are not English words. Touch English to Spanish to change it to Spanish to English.
Juana does and it changes and the screen turns green. ( Not changing languages is an easy mistake to make so the screens are different colors to give you the strongest possible indication.)
UD PODER COMPRAR LE ... FLASH NO KEYBOARD! Juana wonders what the trouble may be. The author explains that every time it does this it means an ambiguous word has been used and you must choose a meaning before continuing ( LE can mean "him" "her" or "it") Juana touches the third choice for "it" and continues. The translation is:
YOU CAN BUY IT BY $50000.
John notes that "by" is confusing (that's right, prepositions are confusing) but he understands the sentence.
John start to type his reply, but the computer clicks at him after each word. And, he notes, the screen is green and it says Spanish to English at the top! A touch changes it to English to Spanish.
John types his reply THIS PRICE BE EXCESSIVE! but it clicks after "excessive". Uh-oh, the computer did not know that word. Well, it is a bit uncommon. John erases it (using the back-arrow next to the M.) He goes to replace it with TOO MUCH MONEY, but after TOO the white screen appears! John is confused, but then he remembers: I must have used an ambiguous word! I must look at the screen! And there in a big white box is:
John touches TOO MUCH and continues. (John seems slow to learn about the white screen, but it really happens this way.)
The translation is ESTO PRECIO SER DEMASIADO MUCHO DINERO.
Which is understood.
Eventually, Juana needs to use her phone for other things again, and wonders "How do I get out of this program? I want to get back to my spreadsheet work." Fortunately she sees the familiar “Little house” icon and touches it to return to her Home screen.
You can translate a document from your language to a foreign one by simplifying the ideas and translating in the usual way. But you cannot translate a document from a foreign language you don't know, to your own. Here's why:
Suppose you start typing in a foreign document. You type BSZAGY-- and the computer clicks to show it doesn't know the word. Is this because the word is a plural, like GEESE instead of GOOSE? If so, how do you make it singular? Is it because it's a conjugated verb, like WENT instead of GO? If so, how do you make it the infinitive form, GO, as required? Or is BSZAGY an uncommon word, like ORDINARILY, and what would be a more common one, like USUALLY? If you don't know the language your task is impossible.
So you can't translate a document from a foreign language to your own, say English. However, for a foreigner it's easy. The foreigner need not speak a word of English -- you don't need an expensive translator -- he need only speak his own language and be able to read and use the simple rules (and grammatically correct translations of the rules are provided in all languages.) This means practically anyone can translate for you: a secretary, a starving student, even the twelve year old daughter of your foreign friend.
Entente is some help in this regard, but it still won't let you do the translation. Google Translate, Babelfish, Alatavista etc. are excellent for documents. They are usually grammatical and have huge vocabularies. So use them for documents. But they are rather slow for spontaneous translations of "Run! Our train leaves in 1 minute!", so use Entente for that.
You can try the best document translator at google.com, which is always free. Document translators often do a good job but then make funny, fascinating mistakes. They are interesting...
Try Entente by clicking here for the free demo version, for English & Spanish only. It has a slightly smaller vocabulary than the standard, 3200 words instead of 3500, but otherwise is the same. You can install it and be using it in five minutes, and no amount of reading about a program will tell you as much as actually using it!