Babel Fish? Skype Translator provides instantaneous translations for videoconferences

Story and images by Manish Singh / WinBeta Earlier this year, 

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced “Skype Translator”, a ground breaking feature which would allow two people speaking in different languages to have audio conversations. At the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced a development to that project — Skype Translator now facilitates video conferencing as well.

Source: www.telepresenceoptions.com

Although universal communication among people speaking different languages is certainly a worthy goal, I am reluctant to embrace the technology that allegedly allows instantaneous translation during audio/video conferences among speakers of different languages–for many reasons.

  • My ethnic Kazakh daughter and I are bilingual (English & Russian), and I have found that the act, itself, of learning a new language necessarily draws one closer to the customs and practices of the people who use the language in their day-to-day lives (requiring an examination of nearly every aspect of the lives of those who speak the “different language”–allowing, at least the feeling of, adoption of a new and different culture).
  • Language (particularly oral as opposed to written) is an imprecise method of communication, and even experienced translators will attest that different languages have idiosyncrasies that do not allow for an accurate or precise communication of a particular idea, description or opinion sought to be сonveyed. Подвиг (Podvig) is a Russian word used to describe a particular idea in Eastern Orthodox Christianity is an example of one such word–though others may disagree
  • Because of the decline of formal language usage in favor of slang and the explosion of the use of acronyms (SMH, YOLO, WTF), and the multitudes of “figures of speech”, I am skeptical that current technology exists that would allow a computer program algorithm to translate accurately and instantaneously the communications between people speaking different languages.
  • Upon reflection, I could not support the widespread use of the technology described in this article. Language, in its many different and beautiful forms, is a reflection of the culture, history and heritage of those who speak it.

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