By Emma Clarke
How far away are we from being able to take pictures, read the news, and speak foreign languages without even having to bother to pick up a smartphone? Google’s “How It Feels [through Glass]” video shows how easy it will be with Google Glasses to instantly say “delicious” in Thai. So do we need interpreters anymore?
“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” Xenophon, BC 431-350.
We all have countless stories about the limits of technology: voice-recognition making a job take much longer than it should, Google Translate taking a far too literal view of the world. Imagine the scope for error with these two technologies combined. Small, simple phrases, like you can see in the video, will be possible with Google Glass, but business meetings would prove tricky. Without the relevant context, voice-recognition struggles with Homonyms: words that sound identical but have different meanings. Let’s take Thai as our example, clearly this word could also be heard by the software as Tie.
Okay, accuracy is important but all these problems will improve over time, right?
Interpreters are not just linguists but experts in the relevant culture. When they interpret what they hear, they’re also localising the information using the context so that you understand exactly what is being said. A good interpreter is also an expert in the field in which they are working; they will be fluent in the relevant terminology.
Employing an interpreter reduces the risk dramatically. It shows respect for your potential business partner. Language mistakes could cost your business far more than what you would pay for an interpreter.
Interpreters who work for a proficient language company will not only boast years of experience but they will also be members of professional organisation of interpreters such as the CIoL and the ITI.
Do you think that Google Glass will eventually take the place of interpreters?
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