We all know how much technology improved during the last decade. We can see any part of the world via Internet, talk with anyone, anywhere, anyhow. But is learning a foreign language without paying expensive classes or going to language schools also that simple? Today we bring you an overview of the five best rated apps for foreign language learning. We have tried to refresh our Italian, and you can tell us which languages you tried and if you were successful in them.
Whenever we talk about learning a foreign language, Duolingo is probably the first app everyone mentions, which isn’t surprising as it is highly rated on Google Play Store. It provides the option of a Placement test and places you at a level based on your score. The number of skipped lessons depends on the level you have been placed.
Before you start, you can choose how much time you want to spend learning a language on a daily basis (5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes). The app contains ads and purchase offers (both are short enough not to interfere with your learning process, and it is also pointed out that the ads help to keep the education free).
To use this app, proficiency in English is key, because knowledge of spelling and grammar is highly important during the learning process, but also during the translation process from the language you are learning to English.
There is no daily limit of lessons you can complete. Also, all those questions you answered incorrectly will appear again at the end of the lesson. The lessons unlock gradually, in order to ensure you don’t skip too many lessons until you really learn the previous ones.
Every lesson has its levels arranged by their difficulty. Let’s take the FOOD lesson as an example. The first level contains the basics, the second is a bit harder and includes recognition, matching, identifying gender, etc., while the third level includes independent translation from Italian to English and writing of certain words, as well as use of the correct article (l/l'/le/i/gli in Italian). Also, the harder the levels, the more tasks they contain.
You can look up the meanings of underlined words in the sentence while you are in the middle of the task. Also, words appearing in Italian always contain the appropriate article, which is very important in the Italian language. You won’t see the word “la ragazza” written as only “ragazza”. The app also offers the option of pronouncing words on a microphone. The microphone can be turned off if you find yourself in an environment where you are unable to speak.
There are also some bonus levels unlocked with gems, which you get after completing lessons.
DUOLINGO PLUS is a feature that activates for a week if you invite one of your friends to Duolingo (they can choose any language, they are not obliged to learn the same language you are learning). If you invite two friends, the option will be active for two weeks. The feature works only if that person doesn’t have the app installed on their phone but installs it upon your invitation. This feature offers the option to download lessons for offline language learning, and automatic download when you are connected to Wi-Fi. While DUOLINGO PLUS is active, you get additional prizes without having to watch ads and you have the option to open two chests in order to get gems.
Another cool feature Duolingo offers is Discussion during learning, in case a certain task or answer is not clear enough. You can enter the Discussion by pressing the speech balloon icon, right next to the flag icon. The users can comment on a certain lesson in that Discussion so you can get additional explanations, which is extremely useful in less familiar languages, Japanese for example. The following screenshots show you how that looks like in the app itself.
Tinycards by Duolingo is an app with a rating of 4.1 on Google Play Store. Knowing the English language is necessary for this app as well. It is designed in the form of flashcards containing an expression (and sometimes a picture) in English on the one side, and an expression in the language you are learning on the other side. You have the option to hear the foreign language expression on the side that contains it. You can see the example below.
After a certain number of pictures appear, a picture that needs to be matched with the correct expression comes up, while by the end of the lesson you have to independently translate expressions from English to the language you are learning and vice versa. So, the app doesn’t contain only flashcards, it also tests what you have learned right away.
The lessons are, just like in Duolingo, unlocked gradually. Additionally, they can be added into collections or shared via social networks.
Mondly is an app rated 4.7 on Google Play Store. It doesn’t contain ads like the previous ones, but it encourages users to purchase it. This is the only app for which the knowledge of English is not important.
As you are learning, new words are underlined, and you can see the translation. There is also the option to assemble a certain word with offered letters, which is extremely useful because it contributes to learning new words. If the unknown word is a verb, its whole conjugation will pop out in the past, the present, and the future.
The articles before foreign words are not shown, even though the articles in Italian are almost as important as those in German.
While translating, it’s necessary to connect the offered words into a meaningful sentence. Since the first word in a sentence is always written with a capital letter, and there is always a period after the last word, it is questionable how much you can learn using this method and if that kind of translation process is even demanding enough.
Mondly is the only app we tried that requires 15 minutes to pass between lessons. If you allow app notifications, it will remind you daily. This app offers Weekly and Monthly Challenges. You cannot participate in the Weekly Challenge if you don’t finish all seven Daily Lessons, and you cannot participate in the Monthly Challenge if you don’t complete all Weekly Challenges.
Except for Hi, Daily Lesson and Chatbox bubbles, all subsequent lessons are locked behind a Premium membership. Chatbox requires the use of a microphone, which should definitively be pointed out as a good feature.
Busuu is an app rated 4.5 on Google Play Store. It also encourages users to purchase it and it is essential to know English in order to use it.
Before you start learning, you have to complete the obligatory Placement test. The results said we belong on the A2 level and all previous lessons were unlocked.
As in other apps, all the questions you answer incorrectly are repeated at the end of the lesson.
The app doesn’t offer the option of speaking into a microphone, only the option of listening.
It is organized with flashcards, meaning that the first thing that appears are two or three pictures with audio recording and written text in Italian and English. After that, two out of those three expressions in Italian appear, and you need to decide whether the offered translation is correct or not. That cycle is repeated four times. Everything is followed by a short revision where you should choose the correct phrase, complete the sentence with a word that is missing or the one you hear on audio recording.
In the very next lesson, there is dialogue that requires listening and contains a lot of unknown words for which the translation is not offered. After that, the same dialogue appears, this time with empty lines for the expressions that are offered. You are learning the phrases, while the rest of the text is a bit too difficult for beginners.
In the entire fourth lesson of the A2 level, only five exercises were unlocked, while the other six remained locked because we don’t have Premium membership. So, we have managed to complete only 45% of that lesson.
Also, the lesson that is completely locked is the one concerning grammar, which deals with irregular nouns. Not even the lessons that were automatically completed because the A1 level was skipped are available. A Quiz after the lesson is not available without Premium membership.
Memrise is an app with a 4.7 rating on Google Play Store. It also contains ads and purchase offers. This app also requires the knowledge of the English language.
Firstly, the app doesn’t provide a Placement test at the beginning of the course. Just like Duolingo, it repeats the questions you answer incorrectly at the end of the lesson. The introduction of grammar rules after the vocabulary practice is a nice novelty. Also, after you complete a grammar lesson, you are shown its summary.
As you solve your tasks, a small lamp in the bottom left corner shows the rule required to solve the current task.
Just like the previous ones, this app was listed in the top 10 best free apps. It is not clear why, since you cannot continue your learning process after lesson number two. The price of a membership is HRK 385 a year.
Have you tried some of these apps or any other apps for learning foreign languages? Were they useful and interesting? What features did they have? Is there an app that has everything you need to learn a foreign language?
Translating is hard as it is, but how do translators cope with non-existent terms like wizarding, an essential part of Harry Potter? Check out in our blog post.
For those of you who don't know, Harry Potter is the main protagonist in a series of fantasy novels written by J.K. Rowling. In a nutshell, he and his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and every now and then they confront Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter's archenemy.
The increasing popularity of the book, increased the need for its translation all over the world. As you may know, the books are packed with invented names for spells, potions, alleys and basically everything connected to the wizarding world. But what you may not know, or even think about, is the difficulties most translators have with such non-existent terms, especially since there were no instructions given to the translators regarding Rowling's motives for each invented word. This lead to different takes and interpretations for each language, even in different editions of the same target-language.
The most obvious example for that is the fact that the original name Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the UK turned into Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US. The reasoning for it might have more to do with the publishers and their opinion on what would be a more attractive title in the US, but it proves the point in the most obvious way.
We can see different takes in other languages as well, such as Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers (Harry Potter at the School of Wizards) in French, or Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen in German and Harry Potter i kamen mudraca in Croatian (both translated into Harry Potter and the Stone of the Wise Men). But that's just the title.
Harry Potter fans know that many characters from the series have names that reveal a lot about that character. For instance, Severus Snape. Severus has apparent connotations with strictness and severity, and Snape sounds like snake, and, of course, the alliteration is obvious. Therefore, you can see how it might represent a problem in translation. For that reason, the Italians opted for Severus Piton (Python), and the French for Severus Rogue (arrogant), both sacrificing alliteration for meaning. Most, however, stuck to the original, losing the meaning in the process.
The same happened with translating Moaning Myrtle, who, for example, became Plačljiva Myrtla (crying Myrtle) in Croatian, but some languages cleverly managed to maintain the alliteration, such as Mirtilla Malcontenta (unhappy Myrtle) in Italian or Hisztis Myrtle (hysterical Myrtle) in Hungarian.
The translators surely had an interesting time translating the real name of Lord Voldemort, Tom Marvolo Riddle, which eventually must create an anagram for "I am Lord Voldemort". So let's see several examples of the result:
- Tom Elvis Jedusor --> Je suis Voldemort (I am Voldemort), French
- Tom Rowle Denem --> Nevem Voldemort (My name is Voldemort), Hungarian
- Tom Rojvol Raddle --> Já, lord Voldemort (I, Lord Voldemort), Czech
Some versions, however, opted for the original name with a footnote explaining the anagram.
This is, naturally, only a brief analysis focused on names of characters, but the examples are endless for every edition. It's the translator's job to transfer the story into a target-language to the best of his/her abilities. But what can one do when there is no exact translation equivalent? Something must be sacrificed. Which means that every translated book is written at least twice; by the author and by the translator who must adapt it. It can make you wonder just how much of the source text remains lost in translation.
Since this type of translation mostly regards legislation, and the fact remains that most translators are not legal experts, it’s important to familiarise oneself with the legal systems the translation project is concerned with. Acquiring knowledge on the way the European Union works, as well as on the Croatian legal system is highly recommended.
The translator should keep in mind that the source language texts are legally binding. That's why the translation should be of a very high standard, both from the linguistic and the legal perspective. It should be faithful to the source language, but not literal; the translator has a certain amount of freedom to create a translation in the spirit of the target language. Nevertheless, the format of the source language text must be respected and transferred to the target language. Standard linguistic formulations and terms set out in translation manuals must be used. Terminological consistency is obligatory. Naturally, it takes practice for the translator to be able to evaluate to what degree the translation can be free, i.e. to know what can be modified and what cannot.
Among the things to look out for when translating legislation in the Croatian-English combination is the use of shall and the use of negations. In English, shall is used to express a legal imperative and not the future. In Croatian, legal imperative is expressed in the present tense. Using the future tense to express legal imperatives in the Croatian language and omitting shall when translating the legal imperative from Croatian to English are common mistakes. Here are two examples:
Source text: Annuity payments shall be made monthly in advance.
Incorrect translation: Novčana renta plaćat će se mjesečno unaprijed.
Correct translation: Novčana renta plaća se mjesečno unaprijed.
Source text: Tko drugoga usmrti, kaznit će se kaznom zatvora najmanje pet godina.
Incorrect translation: A person who kills another will be sentenced to prison for at least five years.
Correct translation: A person who kills another shall be sentenced to prison for at least five years
Also, regarding negations, English language does not allow for more than one negation in a sentence. This results in an ambiguous sentence or alters its meaning; this is highly undesirable when dealing with legal texts. However, if the source text itself is ambiguous, an official interpretation should be requested from an institution that issued the source text. If that does not resolve the ambiguity, it should be transferred to the target language.
Source text: Osim ako se ne odbijaju od regulatornog kapitala, sljedeće stavke iskazuju se nadležnim tijelima zasebno kako bi se omogućila procjena potreba za stabilnim izvorima financiranja.
Incorrect translation: Unless not deducted from own funds, the following items shall be reported to competent authorities separately in order to allow an assessment of the needs for stable funding.
Correct translation: Unless deducted from own funds, the following items shall be reported to competent authorities separately in order to allow an assessment of the needs for stable funding.
Another thing to be noted are quotations. Where there is a quotation referring to another document within the legal text that is being translated, and the official translation of such document already exists or the legal text actually originates from the target language, the translator should find the respective document and use the official translation or source text, as opposed to doing it on their own. Many of these official translations or source documents can be found online. Using them in the translation makes the translators job much easier and ensures consistency in the translation of the respective text.
Finally, here are several resources that might come in handy when translating EU legislation:
Translation manuals (in Croatian) and glossaries
InterActive Terminology for Europe
Eur-Lex: Access to European Union Law
EUdict (European dictionary)
And of course, when everything else fails:
Keep in mind that terminology in these types of texts is extremely important. If uncertain, a term should be checked in several resources before use. Above all, the translation needs to make sense, i.e. the meaning needs to be translated from the source language to the target language and the translation needs to be clear and unambiguous.
Although it might seem like one and the same thing, localization and translation are two rather different processes. Translation is a process of translating a certain text into a target language, in order to make the information written in one language understandable to the speakers of some other language. Localization is the process of completely customizing the product or service to the target market while taking into account the culture of the target market and the functionality of a product or service in that particular market.
Video games are an interactive medium that is constantly growing. The skyrocketing popularity of video games has made localization an inevitable step in the process of video game production and placement on the global market.
Video games are usually sold all over the world, which means they need to be adapted to a great number of languages and need to take into account cultural differences, ways of speaking and thinking. Even in the countries in which the same language is spoken (for example, Spanish), it is not recommended to use the same localized version of a video game because there are some linguistic and cultural differences between those countries as well.
Video game localization also presupposes adjustment to the legal and regional requirements of a target language and country, as well as to various cultural nuances that are specific to each language, country, and even its regions. It implies translation of video game texts, transcripts of audio materials and other video game components, as well as adjustment of settings, such as design, advertisements, colors, dates, currencies, keyboard features, and the like. Localization also has to take into consideration all cultural, historical, religious, ethnic and geopolitical characteristics.
Transcript – Video game transcript implies a text in a video game visible to the player (dialogs, descriptions, controls, menus, options, and more), but also a computer code that "remains invisible" but often has to be taken into account in order for translated text to perfectly fit into the context of a game.
Translation – All materials are then translated into the target language. According to our experience, if a project is large, with a tight deadline, the source material needs to be distributed to multiple translators. It is necessary to then assign a project manager who will coordinate the translators, but who will also make sure that the terminology used by the translators is consistent.
Adjustment – It is not enough for the translator only to review the text, correct possible mistakes, and customize the used terms. The translated material should be revised by someone who is deeply immersed in the world of video games, familiar with the common terms used in gaming, and who will, in the end, make sure that all of pieces of the translated material blend together flawlessly.
Once a translation is imported into a game, an additional and very useful service can be provided, namely quality assurance, which means testing of the video game in the target language. It that way, any possible remaining mistakes or inconsistencies can be found and that is when new ideas on how to improve localization and further adapt the game to the targeted market culture often emerge.
Developers often use translation and localization services provided by people or agencies that are not experts in video game localization. Some of them localize their video games on their own, hiring freelancers or even using the Google translate tool.
It is understandable that they try to save money on localization, since it may appear non-essential, but the results show that a well-localized game sells better. Today's gamers are very demanding, as far as the gaming experience is concerned, and they want it to be as natural, as realistic and as accessible as possible. Since nowadays there are so many video games, people like to try out a lot of different ones and often do not spend too much time playing one game. The first impression and the very beginning of a game are crucial in deciding whether the gamer will continue to play and eventually buy the game.
Some of the games we've localized are SpeedRunners, Shopping Tycoon, Pipe Push Paradise i Starpoint Gemini Warlords. So far we have localized video games from English into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian.