Google has embarked on something unique as far as real time translation is concerned. It has released a preliminary version of Talk to Me app for Android. With the recent introduction of Android based mobile phones viz. Motorola Droid and Google Nexus One mobile phones in the market, Talk to Me works as real time speech translator on these phones. You can say anything in English and the application translates and repeats it in a language of your choice. Android is the OS developed by Google especially for mobile phones. The Talk to Me app can be downloaded for free from the Android Market. Though the translation capability of this mobile app at present is limited to a few European languages, Google is said to be working on advanced version of the app that is expected to support text translation in 52 languages along with voice recognition and text to speech facility. The Android translator is aiming for high quality translations by crawling through web pages and documents in different languages to get a better idea of the overall meaning of the text / speech to be translated. Instead of the traditional word to word translation, Android translator would attempt to translate complete sentences as a whole. Further enhancements to this translator would include speech to speech translation on the fly as it happens. That would allow speakers with no common language to communicate with each other in real time. The concept is simple: when one speaker speaks in his native language, the translator software running on the receiver’s phone would interpret it and repeat the conversation in his/her language of choice. This translator is said to translate phrases as they are spoken instead of waiting for each sentence to be completed to take care of pauses in conversation. The future of such real time translators is really bright what if a conversation in Japanese could be translated instantly into English while talking over the phone! Multinational corporations would love to have such a facility that could greatly enhance their capability to do business overseas. It would save them a lot of their time and improve business efficiency by breaking the language barrier. It would also revolutionize communication over the internet. On the flip side, while Google’s efforts on real time translation are a welcome step, it is hard to see them replacing humans in the foreseeable future. As with all machine based translators, the translations will not be 100% accurate. One can only arrive at the gist of what the other is person is talking about at best. Lot of work needs to be done in speech translations as far as pronunciation, accent, intonation etc are concerned. Google believes such speech to speech translators should be practicable and work reasonably well in a few years’ time.
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