Talking the talk

Technology that translates the spoken word instantly will be a real game changer.

Imagine a world where everybody instantly understood each other, no matter what language they were speaking. What used to be the stuff of science fiction is slowly but surely becoming a reality. We have ­already seen Google Translate evolve from a product that often got it embarrassingly wrong into a mostly-reliable tool allowing users to, at least, get the gist of text written in a foreign language. Now, as The National reported yesterday, Microsoft has upped the ante.

Its latest product is real-time, spoken-word translation for its Skype voice-over-internet software – and if it proves fit for purpose when it is launched at the end of the year, it will be groundbreaking.

The prospect of instantaneous translation, allowing us to smash the language barrier and talk to anybody anywhere, is tantalising on a personal basis. When it comes to international commerce and diplomacy, it will be truly disruptive and game-changing.

In the UAE, obvious applications would be in business and education. Millions of dirhams could be saved in schools and universities by not having to teach the diverse population a common language. It could open up a whole world of learning to everybody – and, hopefully, open the door to better understanding in all senses of the word.

Published: May 29, 2014 04:00 AM