On the fly language translation coming to mobile phones within the next few years?

by Mike
Posted February 8th, 2010 at 8:49 am

As fun, exciting, and simply cool as learning a second language is, some people just don’t have enough time or money to do so. Learning another language later in life after you’ve already spent an entire lifetime with one language is a pretty daunting task. The internet and digital devices in general have helped curb that learning curve and reduce the amount of time needed to learn another language. But the same problem exists — we are still having to “learn”, which takes valuable time. For the go go go business person or world traveler, becoming fluent takes too much time.

Thankfully, those same digital services that have aided us in learning languages have also aided us in translating. Using an online or pocket translator is obviously much faster as there is no learning to be had. Instead, capturing the speaker’s voice into some sort of device will then within a few seconds be turned into something the listener can understand. We have on-the-fly translation services available via desktop software, online, and on a few select *expensive* pocket-able hardware. If Google has their way however, we’ll soon be able to use it on just about any cellphone.

With over 6,000 spoken languages, getting the necessary code stuffed within a cellphone’s limited memory to quickly and accurately transcribe and translate one language to another is no small task. Google is up to the challenge however and has plans to have a basic working version of their “universal” language translator available for the mass market within the next couple of years.

Just think how many language barriers and other types of artificial walls due to different spoken languages could be torn down if talking to someone that spoke a different language was as easy as holding your phone up between the two of you. It’s pretty darn cool to think about. I just hope the whole process is more accurate than Googlve Voice and other similar services. As currently, sifting through my transcribed messages and accompanying deciphering shows that there is much work to be done.

Geeky-Gadgets > Times UK

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2 ResponsesLeave a comment
  • Bill Chapman
    February 8, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I wish Google well but, as a linguist, I’m not convinced that they are aware of the enormity of the task that faces them. I advocate a non-technological solution, i.e. wider use of the planned international language Esperanto. At least we know it works.

    • Mike
      February 8, 2010 at 10:25 am

      I’ve thought about the challenges as well. Just one language alone has thousands of expressions, inflections, meanings, exceptions, and so on. Taking that into account and then multiplying it by over 6,000 is mind boggling. Not to mention, an incorrectly translated word could mean the difference between a multi-trillion contract between two companies and failure. Scary to think of for sure.

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