Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Answer: How to read other scripts and languages?

It can seem magical... 

... when you realize that you have the ability to read another language, especially one that you don't know and in a script that you can't even identify.  

But that's what this week's Challenge was all about--a moment of magical realism, learning how to do something that seems impossible.  

This is a great chance to talk about how to do exactly that--read in writing systems (what the pros call "orthographies") that you don't recognize.  In some cases (such as Hindi or Arabic), I can't even recognize the letter boundaries.  

You have to know that there are around 300 different writing systems worldwide, and that's counting only the current ones.  There are plenty of languages out there without ANY writing system, and plenty of languages-that-once-were that are literally lost in time.  If you're interested in these other scripts and other languages, check out the Script Encoding Initiative at UC Berkeley which includes some writing systems that we still can't read (e.g., Linear A).  

But in our current world there are still plenty of scripts and languages that you might run across.  Here's this week's Challenge about different scripts and languages.  How do I read these?   

1.  For each of these images below: What is the language?  What is the translation of the text?  





My approach was the same in all cases: use Google Lens.  Notice that there are a couple of ways to do this. 

Method 1: You can use your phone to take a picture with the camera and bring up Lens, which includes the Translate function.  (Here's how to do this on your iPhone.)  

When I take a picture of image A, this is what I see in my Camera application. 

Then I select "Lens" (the circle on the right), which gives me the chance to search for the image, or 

And if you wait a moment, it will translate for you (while trying to preserve the color and layout as much as possible).  Thus, the top characters (in the Cambodian script, Khmer) spell out "Learn English Introduction" while the bottom Hebrew characters spell out "Significant discount for soldiers in uniform."  

Method 2: Of course, if you're on a computer, you can right click (or Control-click a Mac), which leads to the same result:  

And the Amharic text shows up like this: 

Then... a non-obvious translation, but apparently it's a cautionary sign telling the driver to beware of deep holes created by roadwork.  (Something like the "no shoulder" signs you sometimes see on road construction sites.)  

Notice that one of the options is to copy the text in the original orthography.  Clicking on the "Text" button will copy the text for you.  

And that's how you get from the image to the text: አፕ ቱ ዴት ስታይል

To summarize: 

A. Khmer - "English Language Introduction" 
B. Hebrew - "Significant discount for soldiers in uniform" 
C. Amharic - "Up to date style" 
D. Arabic - "Deep excavations"  

So... the simplest way to figure out the writing system and to do translation is by using Google Lens.  Works for me.  Hope it works for you as well.  

SearchResearch Lessons 

One of the big takeaways is that not everyone knows all of the tools!  Just out of curiosity, I asked about 20 people (in Silicon Valley, not exactly a random sample), but even here, in the technological heartland, I found that fewer than half of the people I asked knew that there was an image-to-text translator built into your phone.  

I guess that's one of the reasons I keep doing SRS... there are still truly valuable lessons to learn and to share.  

Keep reading. And Search On! 

P.S. Sorry about the missing week.  It's not as interesting as Agatha Christie's 11-day disappearance just a very ordinary case of too many things to do... 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks Dr. Russell

    After reading your answer, and trying method 3 noticed you only took one photo with the 4 languages and Google Lens translated all. That is new for me. I was trying language by language. Never thought we could translate many languages at once.

    In "Method 3", I took a screenshot with my phone and applied Lens. It's basically Method 1, except that maybe us taking the photo could make Google not work perfectly.

    1. Out of topic for this Challenge. And, related to previous ones

      Kelvin-Helmholtz: Rare wave clouds amaze sky-watchers in Wyoming

      El Capitan in Yosemite National Park glows and Alpenglow effect

  3. B'lonian cunei'
    ( trans: Dan, now everything is being auto-translated into Babylonian Cuneiform… life is becoming much simpler now that I can't read anything on the screen… thanks! (no cuneiform text rendering))
    now I need a new screen name… think I'll use AL

    Agatha, Old Swan
    history extra
    ‘I believe she was suicidal,’ says Norman. ‘Her state of mind was very low and she writes about it later through the character of Celia in her autobiographical novel Unfinished Portrait.’

  4. Me: "But what can I do with that app if the text is written on paper (for example, on a restaurant menu)?"

    ChatGPT: "If the text is written on paper and you don't know the script, you could try using a mobile app that offers optical character recognition (OCR) to scan the text and convert it into a digital format. Once the text is in digital form, you could use a translation app or website to translate it. There are many OCR apps available for download, and some translation apps also offer OCR functionality."

  5. Me:
    "Can you recommend an app like that for an Android phone?"

    "Sure, here are a few OCR and translation apps that are available for Android:

    - Google Translate: This app offers OCR for more than 100 languages, as well as translation into more than 100 languages.
    - Text Fairy: This is a free OCR app that supports more than 50 languages.
    - CamScanner: This app allows you to scan and digitize documents using your phone's camera, and it includes OCR functionality for more than 200 languages.
    - Microsoft Translator: This app offers OCR for more than 60 languages, as well as translation into more than 60 languages.

    These are just a few examples, and there are many other OCR and translation apps available for Android. It's a good idea to compare several options and choose the one that best meets your needs."

  6. Gin and Tonic, while reflecting on Agatha
    silent pool
    SP wiki
    uninvited visitor
    SP history - Prince John(crossed with William Wallace)
    "‘fugue’ state or, more technically, a psychogenic trance. It’s a rare condition brought on by trauma or depression.
    Norman says that her adoption of a new personality, Theresa Neele, and her failure to recognize herself in newspaper photographs were signs that she had fallen into psychogenic amnesia."

    "Jim Wilson" on/in flight - WotD - 'argot' group slang:

    Sir Max Mallowan
    no 'h' Teresa - Nancy Neele
    newspaper clipping…
    Nancy with Archie, after Agatha
    find a grave
    in detail, with pics

  7. too far afield? how were Agatha's teeth? or Hercule Poirot's?(even though he is Belgian)
    am gnashing teeth…
    tea & peas - video
    dental lies

  8. I don’t hang out with Silicon Valleyites, but I call a number of avid world travelers my friends, people who I think would make the best use of these digital translators. In my experience, most of them are unaware of these translation tools, as was I until last week.

    That said, this may be the most valuable and meaningful tool/procedure I have learned here. That said, I’m still glad that I went through the process of recognizing the need for an alternate keyboard, figuring out how to find one, then how to use it, and finally putting it all together it to solve my problem.

  9. some duplication sorry, brain-fogged… it was there, then it wasn't & then it was/wasn't it any longer…
    …a comment on AI?…

    from your syllabus, final week before finals: (stunning or stunned?)
    did you find any pros? - different perspectives, expanded perspectives… definitions of reals & fakes
    perpetual view generation - RRR

  10. 25mph? double nose ring?
    the internet is magically/manically delicious - kinda like Lucky Charms…
    needs translation… where's the wood diversity?
    and how many rings would Pinocchio sport?


    pine, oak, bamboozle?

  11. fwiw, an example from ChatGPT -interesting, not quite Hemingway... yet - inquiry/topic was about Stanford & AI: (following was AI generated)
    will try on next sRs question...

    Stanford University has a strong research program in artificial intelligence (AI), with several faculty members and research groups working on various aspects of AI. The university has a number of centers and institutes focused on AI research, including the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL), the Human-Centered AI Institute (HAI), and the Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI). These centers and institutes conduct research on a wide range of topics within AI, including machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics. Additionally, Stanford offers a number of undergraduate and graduate programs in AI and related fields, providing students with the opportunity to study and conduct research in this exciting and rapidly-growing field.

    will AI replace human activity

    2 / 2

    It is unlikely that AI will completely replace human activity in the near future. While AI has the ability to perform many tasks that were previously only possible for humans to do, it is unlikely that it will be able to fully replicate the range of abilities and capabilities that humans possess. Additionally, there are many activities and tasks that are uniquely human and that AI is not capable of performing. For example, tasks that require creativity, empathy, and critical thinking are difficult for AI to replicate, and it is unlikely that they will be able to fully replace human activity in these areas. Instead, it is more likely that AI will augment and enhance human activity, rather than completely replacing it.

    another - sRs related:
    should there be a single language used on earth
    It is not necessary for there to be a single language used on Earth. In fact, having multiple languages can be beneficial because it allows people to communicate and express themselves in the language that they are most comfortable with. Additionally, having multiple languages can promote cultural diversity and help to preserve the unique cultural identities of different groups of people. While it may be convenient for everyone to speak the same language, it is not necessary, and the benefits of having multiple languages likely outweigh any potential drawbacks.


    1. The part addressing language interests me because it intersects with something I have been doing/reading. Why would anyone want to have fewer languages? Language seems so multi-faceted and complex and idiosyncratic. I would think that languages reflect, rather than promote, cultural diversity. Rita Mae Brown has said that “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where a people come from and where they are going.” (I apologize in advance if the following article is behind a paywall for non-subscribers; I could not find it elsewhere. I hate it when people do that to me.)

      A few phrases from a lengthy commentary “Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective” by Leslie Marmon Silko.

      “… we don’t think of words as being isolated from the speaker.” What does that mean when the speaker is not human?

      And “language is story… each word that one is speaking has a story of its own too.”

      I watched an episode or two of “Derry Girls” way back when and was soon bored. Then I spent time in Londonderry/Derry, tried it again, and binge watched it, loving every minute. To me, the language in that series is intertwined with the story.

      I could see a computer writing a manual on how to change a light bulb, but not writing a story that would change the world. Then there’s the conundrum of the Infinite Monkey Theorem; more importantly, would the computer be aware of having written a classic?

      One of the expressions on the heading of this challenge is “Dia duit” which Google
      Translate says is “Hello”, but actually means “God be with you”. Do those mean the same? A response can be “Dia is Muire duit” which Google Translate also says is simply “Hello”.

  12. ChatGPT suggests math is a universal language... we are all headed to 1&0s - ChatGPT is kinda contextual search engine, not just a computer spiel generator - combs the web to form a response - (not always accurate) - tylko mówię

    write a poem about math
    Math is the language of the universe,
    A series of numbers and symbols,
    It helps us to understand the world around us,
    And find solutions to complex problems.

    Math is the foundation of science and technology,
    A tool that we use every day,
    From calculating the distance to the moon,
    To figuring out how much to pay.

    It can be challenging and daunting at times,
    But with practice and perseverance,
    We can unlock its mysteries,
    And find beauty in its complexity.

    Math is a never-ending journey,
    With new discoveries to be made,
    It helps us to explore the world,
    And the secrets that it contains.

    So let us embrace this language,
    And all that it has to offer,
    For math is a treasure trove,
    Of knowledge and understanding.

    examples from the past:
    why do bats hang upside down
    Bats hang upside down because it allows them to easily take off into the air. When hanging, a bat's wings are positioned below its body, which makes it easy for the animal to quickly unfold them and fly. Additionally, hanging upside down allows bats to conserve energy, as it requires less muscle strength to hold onto a surface in this position than it would to perch upright. Additionally, hanging upside down allows bats to quickly access their food, as many species of bats feed on insects that they catch in mid-air.
    meaning of 42
    The meaning of the number 42 is a matter of interpretation and personal belief. Some people believe that the number has special significance or is associated with certain beliefs or ideas. For example, in the science fiction novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams, the number 42 is revealed to be the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything" calculated by an enormous supercomputer over a period of 7.5 million years. However, in most cases, the number 42 has no inherent meaning and is simply a numerical value used in mathematical operations and equations.
    a second alt:
    The number 42 is a numerical symbol with many potential meanings. In popular culture, the number 42 is often associated with the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything, as described in the book "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams. In some religious and spiritual traditions, the number 42 is considered to be a sacred or special number with significant spiritual or philosophical significance. In mathematics, 42 is an even composite number, meaning that it is a number that is divisible by both 2 and at least one other number. It is also a pronic number, a Harshad number, and a primes of the form p^2 + 1. In other contexts, the number 42 may have different meanings or significance depending on the context in which it is used.

    1. I’ve been trying to make sense of the phrase “primes of the form p^2 + 1”. According to my reckoning (assuming p represents a prime number) only one number fits that definition, and that is 5. What does this have to do with 42, which is not prime and is not any integer squared plus one?

    2. what can you expect from AI - not omniscient…
      I had no luck either — just drilled a series of dry holes… 42 of them, now that I think about it.
      base 13 &101010
      ""It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do'". Douglas Adams"
      … I thought it was Scott Adams
      wiki SERP/rabbit hole
      lazy 8
      the answer doesn't appear to be here
      Ein Sof
      one unknowable
      The Unknowable

  13. math hiaku from ChatGPT: (hope MXcity isn't still shaking, Ramon)

    A math haiku is a type of poem that uses the structure and rules of haiku to explore a mathematical concept or idea. A typical math haiku has three lines, with the first and third lines containing five syllables and the second line containing seven syllables. Math haikus often use imagery and metaphor to convey complex mathematical ideas in a simple and concise way. For example:

    Copy code
    The golden ratio
    Nature's secret proportion
    Beauty and balance

    Pi never ends
    A never-ending story
    Of circles and arcs

    Infinity looms
    A vast and endless expanse
    Beyond human grasp

    The Fibonacci
    A spiral of growth and change
    In nature's design
    Math haikus can be fun and engaging ways to explore and understand mathematical concepts, and can also serve as a creative outlet for students and teachers alike.

    A math haiku is a type of poetry that uses math concepts as its inspiration or subject matter. Like traditional haiku, a math haiku is a three-line poem with a syllable count of 5-7-5. However, instead of focusing on nature or the seasons, a math haiku may explore mathematical ideas such as numbers, shapes, or equations. Here is an example of a math haiku:

    Curving lines and arcs
    Geometry at its finest
    Beauty in math found.

    Math haikus can be a fun and creative way to explore and appreciate the beauty of mathematics. They can also be a useful tool for introducing and explaining complex mathematical concepts in a simple and engaging way. Do you have any other questions about math haikus? I'd be happy to help!

    current limits -
    math haiku image
    I'm sorry, but I am not able to browse the internet to provide you with images. I am a large language model trained by OpenAI, and my abilities are limited to providing text-based information and answers. If you have any other questions, I'd be happy to help to the best of my ability.