For people who love languages
VOLUME 12, NEWSLETTER 3 March 2010
Palm webOS Update
Survey and Coupon
Machine Translation
App Gifting
Usage Notes
About Our Company
View Our Products
Product Support
Join the Conversation in our Forums!
You'll find discussions addressing grammar questions, cultural differences, technical issues, and more in our forums!

Dear Subscriber,

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Palm webOS 1.0.2 - Free Update, or 50% off for New Users

Our free update for all Palm webOS products is available now!

We listened to your suggestions and made changes to improve your dictionary experience, especially the way that searching works. Some of the main changes include:

  • Find the word you need faster with search results appearing as you type.
  • When you misspell or mistype your search, see a list of suggestions for words that you might have been looking for.
  • We also fixed a bug in the history tool.

With these new features, you get a much smarter dictionary that works harder to find the word you need. For instance, you can search for a word without knowing exactly how to spell it, and the dictionary will figure out what you most likely mean. Or you can search a conjugated form of a word and find it's root. All in all, this new and improved search function gives you quick, easy access to the word you're looking for.

This is a free update. If you already have an Ultralingua dictionary for Palm webOS, the program will prompt you to download it automatically.

If you're interested in purchasing the software for the first time, we are offering it at 50% off for a limited time only. This means that, depending on the dictionary, you'll pay either $4.99 or $9.99 (except for the French-English Medical Dictionary, which will be $24.99).

Go to the App Catalog on your Palm Pre of Pixi device and search "Ultralingua" to find our complete selection of Palm webOS dictionaries, and take advantage of this great deal. You can get this dictionary in Spanish-English, French-English, and most of our other languages as well.

Answer 6 Questions, Get a Coupon!

Here's your chance to tell us what you want. As our valued customers and subscribers, nothing is more important to us than delivering content that is interesting and relevant to you. And in order to do that, we need to know what it is you think is important.

We've put together a very brief survey (six multiple choice questions) to help us get an idea of what interests you in the Ultralingua newsletter. If you complete the survey, you'll be putting us one step closer to our goal of providing our customers with exactly what they're looking for. And in return, we'll give you a coupon code for 25% off of your next Ultralingua.com purchase.*

Simply answer the questions and click "Get Coupon Code" at the bottom of the screen. You'll then be taken to a screen where you'll see a coupon code, which you can then use on your next purchase from the Ultralingua.com store.

Follow this link for the survey and the coupon. The coupon will be valid through Sunday, April 4th, so don't wait! Get your coupon now.

*Discounts are already available when you buy three or more products at a time. You can use the coupon on top of this special pricing to get an even bigger discount. So if you buy three or four products, you'll get 45% off. If you buy five or more, you'll get 55% off.

Machine Translation and the Future of the Translation Industry

The New York Times recently ran an interesting article on Google Translate, the automatic translation tool that has, in traditional Google fashion, soared ahead of its competition in the machine translation world.

Since we here at Ultralingua are very interested in the translation industry, and since many of you are translation enthusiasts and professionals, we thought we'd take a closer look at the rapidly expanding realm of machine translation, and its current and future impact on the time-honored practice of human translation.

After you read the article, be sure to give us your thoughts on this fascinating and sometimes controversial topic. Send us a tweet or check out our forums to voice your opinion.

Machine Translation: A Very Brief History

The idea of using computers to translate human language is almost as old as electronic computing itself. At first, people assumed that language would be easily computable. "Common wisdom was that translation would be an easy task for computers," says Lane Schwartz, a PhD research candidate in statistical machine translation at the University of Minnesota. "Fifty years later," however, "machine translation is still a very active research field."

If you've ever seen the output of an automatic translator, you know why it's still a work in progress. Despite the decades of research that have gone into machine translation, computers have always had trouble translating natural language accurately.

The reasons for this lie largely in the inherent complexity and ambiguity of language itself. Rosalind Brayfield, Ultralingua's staff linguist, tells us that linguistic ambiguity occurs at three levels - referential, where, for instance, the pronoun "her" in a sentence might refer to two or three different people; lexical, where words themselves can have a variety of very different meanings; and syntactic, where the order of words and phrases in a sentence can be correctly interpreted in more than one way. All of this makes language very difficult for a computer to accurately parse.

Despite these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, machine translation has recently made huge leaps in both accuracy and quality. Much of this is due to increased computing power and current research in statistical methods for translation (see the NYT article on Google Translate for examples of this notable progress).

It used to be that computer translations were something of a novelty - fascinating in theory, but mostly useless in practice. But machine translations are now getting good enough to have actual utility value, especially for people who just want to understand the basic idea of an email or news article. "Full automatic machine translation, while not perfect, is an incredibly powerful enabling technology that [allows] users who otherwise would not have access to human translators to get the gist of web pages and news reports written in a foreign language," says Schwartz.

The Future of Translation

While machine translations have yet to match the quality and consistency of human translations - the NYT article says that machine translators "will not put human translators out of a job anytime soon" - one can't help but wonder what the future of the translation industry looks like.

Even now, new niches are arising that combine the job of the human translator with the assistance of a computer. "Companies are currently experimenting with translation pipelines that use machine translation, in conjunction with translation memories, to provide a rough draft translation that is corrected and edited by a post-editor," says Schwartz.

And while this hybridization may seem like a step towards a more computer-based translation industry, the fact that the sheer amount of content and number of translation situations are constantly increasing means that human translators will continue to play a crucial role in the translation process. As Schwartz puts it, hybridization will create opportunities for "more people to help more documents to reach a wider audience."

To a certain extent, the infinite and ever-changing nature of human language means that humans will always have to be a part of the process. Brayfield notes that "there are an infinite number of new combinations [of words] that humans can easily understand, but that are difficult to build into a finite computer system." For instance, have you ever heard the sentence '"When you are crossing the road in Arizona, watch out for stampeding pink giraffes trying to cause trouble."? Probably not, but that doesn't keep you from understanding it.

"Humans will always be integral to translation for dissemination," says Schwartz. "I believe that ongoing research will continue to improve the quality of automated machine translation, provide tools to allow monolingual speakers willing to invest their time, and provide tools to assist the productivity of human translators and post-editors." Human and computer translators will both continue to thrive, and their evolving interaction will be the focus of the future of the translation industry.

App Gifting Now Available for iPhone® and iPod touch®

Do you know somebody who would love to have an Ultralingua dictionary on their iPhone or iPod touch? Do you think an Ultralingua dictionary app would make a great gift? Apple just added a feature to the App Store that allows you to easily send an app as a gift, so giving the gift of an Ultralingua iPhone app is just a click away.

This new "gifting" feature is very easy to access. Just go to the product page in the App Store for the app you want to gift, and click the arrow next to the button that says "Buy App". This will show you a drop down menu from which you can can select the first option, "Gift This App." Then simply follow the instructions to fill in the recipient's name, email address and so forth, add a personal message if you like, enter your billing information, and click "Buy Gift" to complete the purchase. The recipient will get an email with a link to redeem their gift in the iTunes store.

You can gift any app in the App Store, and it makes a nice surprise for that special iPhone/iPod touch owner in your life. And, from April 2nd to April 4th, we are discounting our Ultralingua brand (not Collins or Vox) iPhone/iPod touch apps by 20%, so now is a great time to take advantage of this new feature.

Spotlight - Usage Notes

Translation is an inexact science, and more often an art. Bilingual dictionaries can offer you an equivalent for a given word in another language easily enough, but the idea of "equivalence" between two languages is not nearly as precise as we'd like it to be. Two words might "mean" the same thing, more or less, but have very different uses in practice.

That's why some of Ultralingua's most popular dictionaries include Usage Notes along with translations and definitions. These Usage Notes warn you about known pitfalls that should be avoided when equating two words in two different languages.

For instance, if you look up the verb "to have" in the Ultralingua English-French dictionary, you'll see the following Usage Note:

"The verb 'to have' is often used as an auxiliary for other tenses, just like 'avoir' in French. Be careful in the translation of idiomatic expressions, though, where the French 'avoir' may translate into expressions with 'to be': 'avoir faim' → 'to be hungry'; 'avoir vingt ans' → 'to be twenty years old.'"

This is the sort of specific insight helpful to students and translators that you won't find in many other dictionaries. Usage Notes are available in the following Ultralingua products: Ultralingua English, Ultralingua English-French, Ultralingua English-Spanish, Ultralingua English-German, Ultralingua English-Italian, Ultralingua English-Portuguese, and Ultralingua French-English Medical.


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1313 SE 5th Street, Suite 108, Minneapolis, MN, 55414