Online translation tools have gotten pretty good at converting words between languages and, if not always perfect, can usually be relied on for a decent approximation of the original message.
With that in mind, Google has now enlisted Swedish indie band Vita Bergen to demonstrate how good its translation technology has become. Vita Bergen’s new single, “Light the Lights,” was originally recorded in Swedish, but the band said that it has used Google Translate to convert the song into three new languages. On December 1, the band will embark on a mini Google Translate tour of Europe to perform the song on the streets of London, Paris, and Madrid — in English, French, and Spanish.
This could be pegged as little more than a marketing gimmick for both Google and Vita Bergen, but it still serves as an interesting use-case for translation technology that has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. It’s now a year since Google Translate switched to neural machine translation, which effectively allows it to garner greater context and meaning from a series of words by translating them as a sentence rather on a word-by-word basis.
While you wouldn’t want to rely on Google Translate to convert your company’s mission-critical documents at this stage, it may well suffice for bands looking to market themselves to new markets.
“The music industry in Sweden is one of the world’s most successful exporters of hit music in English, with artists such as Abba, The Cardigans, and Avicii originating from the country,” said Google Sweden’s head of communications, Farshad Shadloo, in a blog post. “But there are still many talented Swedish artists who may not get the recognition or success they deserve except for in a small country up in the north. This sparked an idea: Might it be possible to use Google Translate with the sole purpose of breaking a Swedish band internationally?”
It’s not entirely clear whether the band (or Google) ran the translated lyrics past a human translator to ensure there was nothing too ridiculous in there. In all honesty, it’s difficult to make out every word from the audio recordings, and song lyrics don’t always make a great deal of sense anyway, so either way, the band can probably pull this off without too much scrutiny.