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Education Handhelds Hardware

Hands on With the PSP Talkman Translator 126

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the handheld-of-babel dept.
PSP News writes "Lik Sang has a review and hands on of Sonys new Talkman accessory for the PSP, which enables translation of 4 of the worlds most spoken languages. From the article: 'Traveling and meeting people from all around the globe sure is fun, but may have its drawbacks when you're not speaking the language. To ease this barrier, innovation comes via Sony which took ScanSoft's speech recognition software and created both an universal language interpreter and trainer for English and a couple of Asian languages: Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin) and Korean.'"
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Hands on With the PSP Talkman Translator

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  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:30PM (#14119468)
    Sannolikt alla dessa icke språkkunniga folken som strövar över vidderna därute.
  • it seems like a phrasebook with a large blue 3d bird.....
    • Re:so basically (Score:4, Interesting)

      by forkazoo (138186) <(wrosecrans) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:49PM (#14119565) Homepage
      Yeah, doesn't look to stellar. Goes along with the "Wireless TV" thing for the PSP... Sort of a yawn.

      That said, for the next generation of handhelds, I can see a huge opportunity for really great language learning games. Nintendo could probably pull it off. Imagine having to control a character through an adventure game by voice, where each level forces you to learn new vocabulary. ("Take the blue book" "push the button on the largest robot" "thinly slice the duck, and sautee it in a plum sauce until golden brown, then serve on the china with a floral pattern."

      With a built-in dictionary, and lesson-tutor modes. Also, handwriting recognition with the touch screen. , to help you learn the alphabet of the language. Maybe FMV snippets, so you can see real dialogs with visual cues. Having interactivity could really improve the learning process, if it were done right. If you are pronouncing a vowell sound wrong, it could give you extra tutoring. Visual cues could help you understand a scene without having to resort to your native tongue as much as a pimsleur audio tape, improving your immersion. Seeing bad results of your commands could help you organise the difference between similar sounding words, which would be very abstract in a classrom, or with a text book. "Flip the cup." (character turns over soffee cup, dumping it on ground) "No, dammit, I meant SIP from the cup." (Helpful animation appears split screen showing both what the character needs to do, and the word that the player used, with text at the bottom stating the verb.) Obviously, you couldn't make it perfectly intelligent so that It would be able to make sense of every wrong statement, but you could get a lot of generic animations for verbs, and models for nouns which could be shown when the player fails to use the right word.
      • actually really simple.
        It's nothing more than a DVD or Xvid file with subtitles and two PCs.
        You take one PC with the subtitles or the audio in your native tongue and another in the language you're trying to learn. As you go through the movie, re-type the subtitles in the target language repeating the spoken phrases in the target language. The re-typing and reciting part is to drill it into your head since just watching the movie tends to leave you fo
      • Yes, the perfect learning environment for us! That way we can go to another country and learn how to boss them around by giving them orders! "Command and control" based language works well for gaming, but it is hard to keep the playability when switching to other types of dialogues (I.E. Greetings, Shopping, Restaurants...). There are hundreds of immersive and interactive language learning programs out there, but they don't market to handhelds because they aren't really playable as far as a gamer would
      • Nintendo already made a game titled 'Hey You, Pikachu!' Features: * Fully interactive voice recognition * Mount microphone onto your controller * Tell Pikachu what to do * Play games with Pikachu * Collect items and "friend" points http://ign64.ign.com/articles/153/153734p1.html [ign.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:32PM (#14119479)
    The top four are the following
    1. Chinese* (937,132,000)
    2. Spanish (332,000,000)
    3. English (322,000,000)
    4. Bengali (189,000,000)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      In their top demographic countries.
    • by gordo3000 (785698) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @03:05PM (#14119632)
      do make the distinction that those numbers are only for native speakers.
      those numbers for english don't even add up well when you consider that there are at least 4 english speaking countries I can think of, UK, US, Canada, and Australia. I believe there are three African countries that speak english nad then New Zealand but I'm not positive.

      Those numbers ignore the millions of people in India nad China who learn english. In india, it is required to get into college(as they all are taught in english).
    • which enables translation of 4 of the worlds most spoken languages

      Note that it says "4 of the worlds most spoken languages", not "the world's 4 most spoken languages". I don't know about the other 3 languages but it looks like your English could use some work!

    • by chill (34294) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @03:56PM (#14119851) Journal
      Not quite.

      Chinese is not Chinese. I worked at a company that employed several Chinese engineers. While they could all read the same newspaper, they couldn't all talk to each other. Those from the south (Hong Kong and surrounding area) couldn't understand those from the north.

      Also, the population of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and the U.K. is > 322,000,000 and while you could subtract the minorities in the U.S. and Canada that don't speak English, you're still missing the 300,000,000+ in India who speak English. Throw in all the other places where English is known, to some usable degree, as a secondary language and you're probably looking at 750,000,000+ speakers.

      It is also, along with Spanish and French, one of the most widely dispersed languages in the world. There may be a ton of Bengali speakers, but I'll be 95% of them are in the Bengal region of North-Eastern India and the surrounding area.

      And then consider this is a Sony Japan product. Their market -- East Asia -- deals mostly in (surprise) East Asian languages and English.

        -Charles
      • by Afrosheen (42464) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @04:05PM (#14119887)
        Yeah, Chinese dialects are probably the world's most fragmented. While the written language is a standard, the spoken language is nuts. There are around 10,000 dialects in Chinese, and about 3 or 4 major dialects (mandarin, etc.).

          English is becoming very popular in Asia just as a bridge language. Chinese may not be able to speak to Taiwanese or Hong Kong people, but if everyone knows a little English, they can get by (and do business with Europe, consequently).
      • good post. but can't help levitizing here...

        >>Chinese is not Chinese. I worked at a company that employed several Chinese engineers. While they could all read the same newspaper, they couldn't all talk to each other. Those from the south (Hong Kong and surrounding area) couldn't understand those from the north.

        I worked for a company that employeed several California engineers. They could all read the same newspaper. Those from the north couldn't understand those from the south.
      • Not to mention that Australian "English" and American "English" are sufficiently different that misunderstandings can occur. Vowel sounds, word meanings, word choice, and phrase pitch are all somewhat different. I learned this the hard way the first time I went from my home in the US to "down under". They could understand me just fine (lots of exposure to American television), but I would sometimes have to ask them to repeat or explain things.
      • by adam1101 (805240) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @05:45PM (#14120310)

        Chinese is not Chinese. I worked at a company that employed several Chinese engineers. While they could all read the same newspaper, they couldn't all talk to each other. Those from the south (Hong Kong and surrounding area) couldn't understand those from the north.

        True, but you cannot extrapolate too much from your anecdote. Even by conservative estimates, the Mandarin dialect accounts for 800 million+ almost-native speakers. Your experience is colored by the fact that Cantonese is especially overrepresented in California. If you take a random Chinese person in China (or even Asia), there's a high probability that he or she understands Mandarin. It's true that the probability is much lower if you take a sample from the Chinese in the US, but there are over a billion Chinese in China and only a few million in the US. While there are indeed a lot of different and mutually incomprehensible (spoken) local variants of Chinese, in the larger scheme only two count: Mandarin [wikipedia.org] and Cantonese [wikipedia.org].

        Mandarin was the local dialect of the area around Beijing, and later adapted by the government as the official national language of China (both the People's Republic (PRC) and Taiwan). In absolute numbers, it is by far the most important. In the PRC, although most regions and provinces have their own dialect used in daily life, the language used on TV and school is Mandarin. This may sound like Mandarin is a second language to the local dialect for most Chinese, but it's more like a "second native" language, as 1) all courses starting from elementary school are completely in Mandarin regardless of the local dialect, and 2) the script is the same as the local dialect. Thus, the majority of Chinese from Taiwan or the PRC will speak Mandarin (in addition to their own local dialect).

        Cantonese is the native dialect around Guangdong (Canton) and Hong Kong, in the south. It's less important then Mandarin, but overrepresented the West (especially California and in the UK). Its importance is due to two factors: 1) a large proportion of early Chinese emmigrants came from the Guangdong (so many later emmigrants even from other provinces learned it as it was the language of the established community) and 2) it's the native language of the economic powerhouse Hong Kong. Most younger people from HK speak Mandarin pretty decently nowadays, but not as well as those from the PRC, since (AFAIK) courses in HK schools are still taught in Cantonese, and Mandarin is indeed a second language. However, many older Chinese emmigrants in the US and their descendents only understand Cantonese.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @06:17PM (#14120428) Homepage Journal
        > Chinese is not Chinese. I worked at a company that employed several Chinese
        > engineers. While they could all read the same newspaper, they couldn't all talk
        > to each other. Those from the south (Hong Kong and surrounding area) couldn't
        > understand those from the north.

        All people in China are taught Mandarin these days, even in the south (where a student will grow up learning both Cantonese and Mandarin now).

        Many Cantonese speakers will pick up Mandarin. My fiancee moved from Hong Kong around 6th grade (pre-changeover so no Mandarin in school), and learned Mandarin in AMERICA, simply from talking with other Mandarin speakers. Pretty amazing, but it only took her a year or so, and she can converse fluently in Mandarin.

        Hence a Mandarin translator is about all you need, insofar as the new generation of Chinese go, especially if you are dealing with mainland China. A Cantonese one would be nice, but you'll get much better coverage with Mandarin.

    • Except that barely half of the population in China actually speaks Mandarin, and even then, most of those that speak it speak so so as a second language. The written language is much more pervasive. http://english.people.com.cn/200501/03/eng20050103 _169500.html [people.com.cn] The relevant sections: "Mandarin's status as China's standard language has been further enhanced as nearly 53 percent of the 1.3 billion Chinese in the country can communicate with others via Mandarin, said a national survey released here Sunday.
    • Mandarin 885 million
      English 470 million
      Hindi 418 million
      Spanish 362 million

      Top four for all speakers, not just natives. I'm not sure why the Chinese is listed as Mandarin when there are so many different dialects.

      source: http://www.nicemice.net/amc/tmp/lang-pop.var [nicemice.net]
  • My ears!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by simp (25997) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:34PM (#14119487)
    I'm not going to stick a PSP in my ear! Have you seen the size of it? I'm sticking to my fish, proven technology.
  • by God'sDuck (837829) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:39PM (#14119508)
    Software solutions are great, but *be sure* to memorize (with your brain) "Where can I buy batteries?" in your target language...
    • by Rosyna (80334)
      That *would* be funny if not for the fact that the PSP uses rechargeable lithium ion batteries. So asking where to buy batteries at is not going to help to.
  • by spectrokid (660550) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:40PM (#14119520) Homepage
    If it has a phone line plug, maybe we can use it for calling tech support?
  • Korean? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    English, Japanese, Chinese, that's ok, where is Korean one of the most spoken languages in the world?
    • Re:Korean? (Score:5, Informative)

      by antifoidulus (807088) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @03:01PM (#14119611) Homepage Journal
      Ok, so not very widely spoken, but despite rampant racism against ethnic Koreans in Japan, a lot of younger Japanese are really getting into Korean culture and are starting to choose Korea over the Americas and Europe as their favorite international tourist destination. (namely because of Korean soap operas, but that is beside the point). Sony would probably lose a significant chunk of sales in its home market if it neglected to include Korean.
      • Yes, it's true. I think the racism of earlier days has been beaten, in a way. Lots of Japanese, both men and women, seem to want Korean mates. Just look at Winter Sonata and Bae Yong Jung. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bae_Yong_Jun [wikipedia.org]

        This is very different from how it seems to have been before. I remember reading a travelogue--Hokkaido Highway Blues I think it was called--where the author asks a guy who has been annoying him at a bar: "are you Korean?" whereupon the man answers "no, I'm not Korean! I'm Japanes

  • Hack (Score:2, Funny)

    by interiot (50685)
    How long until someone hacks it to speak Tux?

    Okay, seriously... how long until I have one to use when travelling to Q'onoS?

    • Honestly, I'm surprised there isn't an extensible open source language translation community. Makes sense that there would be. Any group can maintain a database for a particular language, and there would be a standard for how the databases interact. I don't know enough about linguistics or machine translation to try to start it, but it sure seems like something that would be well recieved.

      Wikipedia and Wiktonary sort of some close, but as far as I know, there is no dorect correlation between the Japanese
  • by xfletch (623022) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:46PM (#14119553) Homepage
    "Hello sir, I can't be bothered to learn your language so would you mind speaking to the badly animated sesame street character on my portable gaming device?"

    I guess this isn't going to be as big a hit among the international business community as Sony might have hoped.

  • and a couple of Asian languages: Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin) and Korean

    two make a couple
    three make..mmm...err...more than a couple

    Unless you are trying to say that Korea is a part of China or Japan!

    --
    Some men see things as they are and say, 'Why?'
    I dream things that never were and say, 'Why not?'
    Sir George Bernard Shaw
    • couple: (1) two things related in some way which are not usually used separately. (2) two people who live or spend time together. (3) (informal) a few, several, a small number. Reference: Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.
  • by Kohath (38547) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:56PM (#14119592)
    I'm going to get one of these so I can go visit a cave [engrish.com] and eat some butterflies.
  • one wonders... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by versiondub (694793) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @03:13PM (#14119663) Homepage
    The full scope and scale of this technology in the years to come. I'm a first year chinese student at Vassar College, with the full intention of becoming fluent - will learning a second language become useless and a waste of time when this technology improves to such a point that people will be able to speak quickly and naturally in their native tongue and have everyone else understand them with the help of a simple computer?
    • Re:one wonders... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by retrosteve (77918)
      Wonder away, Vassar Chinese Student, but get your language credentials for sure. This technology will not be useful in everyday conversation anytime in the next 15 years.

      If you don't believe me, look at what it's made of:

      1. Mechanical language translation (read any article through Babelfish to see how clear and comprehensible these currently are)
      2. Voice recognition software (there's a reason it's been around for over 10 years and hasn't caught on yet except in niche applications)
      3. Text-to-speech software
    • A few things from someone who learned another languager later in life.

      If you want to really learn another language. Well, get a certificate, and take for two years, not six weeks, or even one year, and teach English as a second language. Well, a year and a half perhaps.

      1. Do not hang around with other Americans in whatever country you choose.
      2. Do not hang around with only the wealthy, uni students or local politicos. This is what usually happens. But make friends with all walks of life. Cabbies, the g
    • few things convey sincerity on the international stage like putting in the effort to be able to say a few words in the language of your host. I can't see a mechanical translator having the same effect.

      I suspect the same is true of romantic endeavours, but hey, this is slashdot.

  • by Silverlancer (786390) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @03:14PM (#14119666)
    The day people will regret the Talkman existing is the day that someone takes it and attempt to translate anime with it.

    Hell that might actually be pretty funny...
  • Okay, queue the ST "Universal Translator" jokes.
  • and it seems that this machine is kind of like a *very* consumer-level Phraselator [phraselator.com], a Windows Mobile program that the military has been using to some success in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much better to have a $1,000 device than pay somebody $500 a day for dubious results.

    I'd say that the Phraselator folks have little to be worried about because the PDA-type interface - although clunky for games - seems well suited to finding what you desire to communicate. The talking duck seems like it's both inflexible to

  • that everything human beings need to know was created on Star Trek. Remember the Universal Translator they carried with them.
  • I wonder how well this really works. For example, babel fish has trouble with the translation of some text which is for the most part exact information. But throw in audio and try to translate it? I think we have quite a way to go in order to make this a viable product. But then again, I could be wrong
    • I wonder how well this really works. For example, babel fish has trouble with the translation of some text which is for the most part exact information. But throw in audio and try to translate it? I think we have quite a way to go in order to make this a viable product. But then again, I could be wrong

      I use babelfish always, none of foreignors I to transmit are times when what trouble says me is found. If it possesses the trouble of babelfish, being not to know the method at all of speaking English perhaps

    • Mangez vers le haut de Martha
  • Are you sure it's not already on my computer?
  • I don't want to buy this record, it is scratched.

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