Yesterday I wrote about machine translation and why although it may look impressive, simple to use and delivers quick results, it may not be the best way to get your translations done. I so used an amazing quote from Friends (no, sadly it wasn’t ‘pivot!’), so you know it’s good!

Well, its not all about Google Translate and iTranslate! Over the past couple of weeks news has been circling about a new and innovative idea to bridge the gap between languages.



Google Pixel Buds have recently hit the news for its handle of real-time translation. For those ‘Trekkies’ out there, the Pixel Buds are an idea from Star Trek called the universal translator. It allowed characters to speak to aliens regardless of their native language.  Or, if you know ‘Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy‘, call the Pixel Buds your Babel Fish! Just ‘shove’ it in your ear and it will automatically translate any language in the universe for you.

Now this idea is fast becoming a reality for the price of $160. The Pixel Buds hear you and your Pixel’s speaker and “will play the translation in another language. When the other person speaks, you’ll hear the translation right in your ear”. Granted, it can’t interpret every language in the universe, but it claims to know 40 languages.

If this does work correctly, and is improved upon – this would be revolutionary! At the UN meetings there will be several translators and interpreters per language to assist the world leaders to understand each other. Imagine if all the world leader needed was to put on their earphones and let technology do the rest. Should our translators and interpreters start to worry that AI’s in the form of earphones can take their jobs?

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Google isn’t the only company that are using this idea of earphone translation. Many companies are using this technology. But, (here it comes again) … Do you trust this? You can’t deny that this technology is revolutionary, but is it safe? Would you be willing to have this earphone assist with a business call to the other side of the world? Now, I’m not saying the topic of the call will be world domination, but surely you’d prefer to have a safer, less tampered with means of communication.

I am always going to vouch for the human translator. I don’t think neutral translation systems are ready to replace human translators any time soon! Literature requires a far too robust understanding of the author’s intentions and culture for machines to suffice. I can’t see them understanding Shakespeare all to clearly!

no-machine-translation 318 × 292For translations which are technical, financial, legal, scientific, the smallest of errors could have a catastrophic consequence. We always advise that if a translation is to be published, or if the translation is of great importance a proof-reader. A proof-reader is a second pair of eyes to look over the document, not to check spelling or accuracy as such, but to ensure that the Source Text matches the Target Text. Something some people are using alongside machine technology. Soooooo…. human translation is always needed then!!