Thursday, May 27, 2010

Will Technology Overcome Language Barriers?

I remember making jokes about futuristic scenarios on how technology would help us completely eliminate language barriers. Today, this is about to become reality, is it not?

Speech or voice recognition has dramatically improved over the years. When I dictate SMS messages in English into my Android phone, it now successfully translates everything I say into perfectly written English.

When, over time, Google translate becomes a widely accepted business standard (it is continually improving) it no longer is difficult to imagine simple tools that can process voice input and voice output in one go - at an instant. My prediction is that in just a few years this will become an effective tool to speak with any "foreigner", e.g. me talking with someone in Hindi or even Mandarin via some kind of "translator software". This will also, and maybe especially, include teleconferencing and webinars. While most of the participants may be speaking English for example, any participant can by pressing a button listen, and even participate, in their own language.

I guess the next challenge would then be to include intonation, huh..? Let alone, body language! No, even though the future may look bright when it comes to language translation, learning another language will always be an important and valued skill. What do you think?

p.s. Listening to Spanish training while writing this post ;-)

1 comment:

  1. This is a very interesting thought. Using the mobile as a helper, language barriers is no longer a problem. Imagine how productivity in meetings, business processes, deals and the like can increase. Combine this with AR (augmented reality), and then you could wear your glasses, see the person you are talking to (on a layer on the screen/glasses), i.e. see a live subtitle in your own language, realtime, as you are having the conversation! In other words, people with glasses will benefit from technology :-)