Extra Spicy with Google Translate

by Translation Guy on November 19, 2010

A few months back, Google translate added a reader so that not only could the tool translate into 50 languages, it could now speak them for you as well. Very cool. And completely useless, since the tool can only speak, not understand. Text entry is required. So I was super impressed by how Candace, Dana and Alana made good use of this tool in their work on “Extra Spicy Slam,” a demo video hosted on Google Demo Slam, where users are encouraged to post demos of favorite Google features. So Google-istic, isn’t it?

These three young women made the video “to show you how easy it is to speak another language by ordering Indian food in Hindi.” They cued up each phrase they planned to translate on a Google Translate page and then tabbed their way through a phone conversation. And it worked, thanks to the patience and good humor of the order-taker at the Indian restaurant. (Standard operating procedure. . . . Machine translation has always depended on the kindness of strangers.)

They ran into a problem when they made false assumptions about the questions the order-taker was asking in turn. When he asked, “Will that be all?” in Hindi, they assumed he was asking for their address, so they kept keying that into the tool. But finally, mission (or slam) accomplished, with all fish curries delivered extra-spicy, as ordered.

A lot of fun to watch. These girls are great. Please vote for them.

But as far as demonstrating any utility, well, these girls could sell iceboxes to the Inuit, that’s for sure, but I’m not sure they made a good case for Google Translate audio. Since it speaks, but doesn’t hear, it’s more of a toy than actually useful. Real-time communication has got to be two-way, even for an exchange as tightly scripted as ordering Indian take-out.

Had the curry-man been in on the joke, he could have hooked up Google Translate on his own PC and pushed out his Hindi into audible English. That would work. But why bother? Wouldn’t it just be easier to text?

Consider this. We speak at about 150 words per minute. We text at about, say, 25 words per minute, and read at about 300 words per minute, so why listen when you can read it twice as fast? In texting to get it translated, transmission speed takes six times longer than a regular conversation, even if readers are quicker on the uptake of a text message, so even though the actual translations are real-time within a second or two, the transaction is anything but. Same kind of thing with telephone interpretation, which takes two and a half times longer, since it requires more than twice the time for an interpreter to repeat a phrase in a different language.

Guess we’ve gotta do some of our own demos. Stay tuned. Hopefully early next year.


  1. benkingery says:

    Man I wanna work with Google someday…at least for a day

  2. Billie Moss says:

    You guys won in MY Slam..

  3. foxguy says:

    Nice, but it would be great if the translator could also understand what the guy on the line was saying. Knowing Google, it’s just a matter of time 😀

    Btw, you girls are hot! Nice eye Ken 😉

  4. Louis Harvey says:

    now im in the mood for indian food :)

  5. This is so stupid. I’m Indian and the Indian guy on the phone his accent sounds like an educated Indian and not a delivery guy and the delivery guy looks bangladeshi and sounds bangladeshi when he says Thank you (they don’t speak Hindi in Bangladesh). Clearly staged!! How the heck did a bangladeshi restaurant understand Hindi?

    Also Google Translate sucks!! Very bad pronunciations .What the heck is Basanti chaval?? Its Basmati chaaval.

    • Ken says:

      Linda smells a rat. A slam scam? I love spotting the fakes on “America’s Funniest Home Videos”.

  6. He’s laughing because even though “alvida” is the correct translation for “goodbye”, no one ever uses it. EVER!

    Also, “hot” got translated as “garam” which is the temperature hot not the spicy hot.

    It was still a lot of fun! :)

  7. They don’t understand what the guy is speaking.

    Near the end, the guy asks whether they want anything else, and they tell their address. Then he asks again, and they tell the address again. Then he says he took down their address. And they say goodbye out of context, but cery cool!

  8. This just proves, people like this are waaay too stupid to learn a new language.

  9. Those free translators have about 94% accuracy. And the way that they translate it, if you were to speak the language to someone who’s primary language is that language, you would sound like a robot. Cuz you’re talking with perfect grammar and some words are guessingly translated. Like for example if you were to translate “This has been a really fun night,” It would translate something like “This night was been a real fun.” It’s always better to just learn from a legit teacher.

  10. Jan Brown says:

    He was laughing cuz he knew that u are not Indian , Like when Indians speak English u immediately understand that person in front of you is not american

  11. shg says:

    wow… good job .. damn funny when the guy was asking if you all want to order any more food, you kept repeating the address… and theres hardly any one in India who says thanks and goodbye in Hindi .. Great stuff..

  12. Good slam!

  13. Erin Finch says:

    You’ve got my vote!

  14. Judy Schultz says:

    Very cool. These girls remind me of the girls that lived across from my roommates and me when I was at university.

  15. Geek girls are extra awesome. Very good slam.

  16. Tritboss says:

    Haha! Awesome, Google!

    Maybe a Google apocalypse *wouldn’t* be so bad!

  17. Did they pay? It looks as if when you order in another language you do not have to pay and do not have to give a tip either … to the delivery guy… I like it! Where did they find the lovely translators/interpreters?

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