Thursday, January 13, 2011

Google Introduces New Type of Telephone Interpretation

As announced yesterday on Google's blog, next month Google will launch what it is calling the Conversation Mode in Google Translate for Android. You can see a preview of it here.

It is a basic process of Voice Recognition, followed by Machine Translation that is converted back to voice using text-to-speech. The service will start to be offered in February 2011 between English and Spanish, but other languages will follow soon.

Google alerts that this is still an experimental feature that is in its early stages and that it cannot handle accents, background noise or rapid speech.

Is this the so awaited Universal Translator that we saw in Star Trek? Will this replace telephone interpretation or even human interpretation?

Not yet. In fact, I have seen demos of voice-based MT systems several times. Language companies used it as a technique to impress investors and get some venture capital. One of the first ones I was from Lernout & Hauspie that translated between English and Chinese. More recently, I was very impressed by how Speaklike was able to create a functioning demo just using off-the-shelf or free software.

Just like Google Translate, the Conversation Mode will help in situations where an interpreter would never be called before, like the shoe store case presented in the preview mentioned above. The applications are limited and the accuracy is not consistent. And just like Google Translate, the Conversation Mode will probably help increase the awareness of the importance of professional interpretation. Or would you go to court in foreign country using your Android phone as your translator?

5 comments:

  1. Just like the recent release of Word Lens on the iPhone, tools like this hopefully expose more people to the need for professional linguists.

    Innovations like this can only be good for the industry in my opinion. If anything they highlight the quality of professionals and should help increase usage.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Human interpreters have advantages, a machine can never have: He or she is familiar with the subject matter, i.e. an interpreter specialising in medicine will not be used in an agricultural conference. Interpreters have to perform 'live' and in front of an audience. They can read body language and help overcoming misunderstandings. Professional interpreters can be briefed prior to any face to face meetings and Familiarised with the who’s, what’s and why’s. This is something no software in the world, however elaborate, can replace.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous1:25 PM

    Telephone interpreting is a simple, easy to use, and cost-effective solution to overcome any language barrier. By using Fluent Language Solutions’ telephone interpreting service you can instantly connect with an highly qualified telephone interpreter at any time, day or night.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous5:42 PM

    Stop advertising your company in posts.

    Everyone knows that agencies take advantage of overworked and underpaid interpreters and then turn around and charge a big ticket to the client. Many of those agencies grab any bilingual person with no experience in interpretation and then sell him/her as a "trained professional interpreter" so that they can charge a pretty penny, while paying peanuts to the poor person doing all the work. Some interpreters get paid as little as minimum wage.

    On top of that, many agencies don't even want to call these interpreters "employees" that way the agency doesn't pay taxes to the irs nor offer benefits to the so-called interpreter.
    It should be an "employee" due to all the control they exert on the interpreter.

    ReplyDelete
  5. henry5:45 PM

    Stop advertising your company in posts.

    Everyone knows that agencies take advantage of overworked and underpaid interpreters and then turn around and charge a big ticket to the client. Many of those agencies grab any bilingual person with no experience in interpretation and then sell him/her as a "trained professional interpreter" so that they can charge a pretty penny, while paying peanuts to the poor person doing all the work. Some interpreters get paid as little as minimum wage.

    On top of that, many agencies don't even want to call these interpreters "employees" that way the agency doesn't pay taxes to the irs nor offer benefits to the so-called interpreter.
    It should be an "employee" due to all the control they exert on the interpreter.

    ReplyDelete