This morning Paul Maglione, Co-Founder of English Attack! asked an interesting question on Twitter.
The end of the road for interpreters? Google now translates conversations.
It’s based on the alpha release of the Google Translate application on Android which now features an option to translate spoken conversations, dubbed “conversation mode”, for now exclusively in English and Spanish.
So, is this the end of the road for interpreters? Looking at the demo back in September you see that the quality was still pretty flaky and especially in the interpreter business you want or better need to have excellent and instantaneous translations.
That being said I feel we have definitely passed the blind alley sign and it’s only a matter of time until the road runs out.
Far more interesting and disruptive is the effect that technology like this will have on the need to learn other languages. As you can hear from the off at the end of the presentation
This really is history because for fifty years people have talked about being able to do what you just demoed. It’s here today.
I don’t know exact numbers for now but if you take the market segment of people who learn a language on a basic level to travel abroad and take a look at publishers and schools that offer specialized material and courses for those customers, I believe, it is save to say that they will see a significant market break in the next two to five years.
Another interesting example comes from the Google Demo Slam where people use or “hack” Google products to show the possibilities.
Again, pretty early stage but the girls got what they ordered. Of course, the conversation needs to stay on the scripted track but with the new Google Translate conversation mode you could even have a real non scripted talk with the delivery service guy.
With smartphones getting more and more powerful we will have the multi-purpose device we need for all of those tasks and challenges in our pockets all the time. If you compare the specs of today’s leading smartphones they are already more powerful than laptops just a couple of years ago plus they have features laptops or netbooks don’t have such as GPS, applications or the possibility to add a device like Square to turn a smartphone into a mobile payment device.
Picture: Kim Cybulski