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Japan Cellphones Handhelds Software

One Step Toward a Babel Fish: Real-Time Voice Translation For Phones 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-said-what? dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "Douglas Adams's fictional Babel fish, which lived in the brain and could translate any language in the universe, was so incredibly useful that it simultaneously proved and disproved the existence of God. This real-time translation app for mobile phones, offered by the Japanese telecom company NTT DoCoMo, isn't going to freak out theologians any time soon. The company admits it has lots of work to do to improve translation accuracy, and it can currently only translate between Japanese and three languages: English, Korean, and Mandarin. But by allowing phone calls to pierce the language barrier, we just might have taken a step toward the universe that Adams envisioned: one where open communication between people of different cultures leads to an onslaught of terrible bloody warfare."
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One Step Toward a Babel Fish: Real-Time Voice Translation For Phones

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  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday November 16, 2012 @02:11AM (#41999155)

    When machines start translating languages on the fly, people will stop learning other languages and that's a bad thing.

    Good machine translation is a big help when learning a foreign language, so this might encourage more people to give it a try. I use Chrome's speech-to-text to practice speaking Mandarin. It is not a complete substitute for an actual Mandarin speaking human, but a human isn't always available. Maybe the technology in TFA could be adapted to language learners, and let them know when their pronunciation is a little off, and guide them toward clearer expressions.

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Friday November 16, 2012 @03:41AM (#41999443) Homepage

    When machines start translating languages on the fly, people will stop learning other languages and that's a bad thing.

    That's not really true. I can speak English, German, a good bit of Japanese( know about 40% of the syntax). But it'll probably take me another 3 years or so to learn it. My uncle who travels to Japan regularly for work can't grasp it, can't wrap his head around it. . He struggled with english. Though his job requires him to be able to travel all around the world fixing million dollar machinery, setting it up, tearing it down and doing repairs.

    Luckily in every place he's been, people have been exceptionally accommodating of this, especially in places where no one speaks english. Even if he could learn the language of wherever he was going, there's no way he'd be able to learn and grasp 90+ languages. And while english is the defacto business language(and it's taught pretty much everywhere) that doesn't stop cultural cross-communication issues either.

    Machine language translations are a good way to allow people to talk, for those that can't, or unable to grasp another language. And it does get harder as you get older, and not everyone is lucky enough to live in a multilingual country or city-state like Singapore.

If money can't buy happiness, I guess you'll just have to rent it.

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