Language gadgets, a touchy subject for many professional linguists, appeared in the spotlight of The Gadget Show on Channel 5 this week. And rightly so, with Skype and Google releasing newer versions of their software and adding more languages, the question of their reliability would certainly tickle the viewers’ curiosity. How good are these devices or are they any good at all?
The team at Channel 5 ran their experiment in two parts, putting first a UN translator and then a G8 Summit interpreter to the test.
The translator was competing against the WorldPenScan, a gadget looking like a marker which scans and translates texts into any language. The verdict given by the TV programme’s independent German linguist was in favour of the professional translator as the pen made more basic errors.
A shaky start to the experiment
The second part of the experiment involved a spoken language interpreter and Skype Translate. While Skype Translate at times featured mistranslations, odd foreign words and confused word order, the total understanding of the message by a group of people was not so bad as was expected, with the score of 43 out of 55.
So can technology make the entire language profession obsolete? The European Commission, the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting are holding a free event with a topical focus: Machine Translation: Opportunities and Threats. It will take place at Durham University on Wednesday, 25th November 2015, from 13:30 to 18:00. The programme and registration details are available online. As with anything else, we’ll watch this space…
G8 Summit Interpreter, Kirsty Heimerl-Moggan, at work
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