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Skype Translate

This is quite an exciting development. Microsoft have been working for 15 years on a "Star Trek style" translator which will work in real time. We already have machine translation and text-to-speech, but Microsoft that the Skype Translator is not just a "daisy chain" combination of existing technologies. I have no idea how the new system works, but the researchers are talking about neural networks and the system being able to improve itself by while learning new languages.

For the moment the system is tied in with Skype and we do not know if you will have to pay for it. A portable device which provided instantaneous verbal translation would be very useful too.

Is this all good news? I think it is. It should bring people closer together. Not everyone can learn new languages easily and people who could not communicate will now be able to do so. I can see this technology being used in a business context, by tourists with hand-held devices and for social communication. The translations are not entirely accurate, but are more than adequate for everyday communication and should get better.

Will it in the longer run reduce the motivation of students or put teachers out of a job? Well, it will take a little persuasion to convince students that there is no real substitute for speaking and understanding the language and enjoying all this entails in terms of personal fulfilment and accessing other cultures. The reality is that only a minority of monolingual Britons achieve fluency in another language. "Universal translators" will be of enormous benefit to them.

Here's the video:




Comments

  1. I'm holding out for the Babelfish ;)

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