In last month’s issue of The Economist the article “Conquering Babel” states that companies like Microsoft and MTT DOCOMO ( A Japanese mobile communications company) are now perfecting voice recognition software to translate speech and act as an interpreter in a conversation. Although these technologies have been around for some time; the interpreter facet of them has not. By using speech recognition it “translates” speech and with the use of headsets, the other person would listen in. (This particular software is to translate phone calls) They all normally work in the consecutive mode, specifically question and answer and according to the article, the speakers have to speak slowly so as to capture and translate accurately.
The article continues that of these two companies, Microsoft seems to have an edge on this technology. In October, one Microsoft executive was able to use this technology to do a simultaneous interpretation of an entire conference in China by speaking into the device and projecting the output not only verbally but onscreen using text. Well, judging by Monday’s State of the Union Response ( video below) from Senator Marco Rubio I beg to differ. Although the video is in Spanish, the translation to his speech appears in the bottom with a wonderful disclaimer that “This text may not be 100% accurate” Really? (ABC’s version of the video). Furthermore, his speech had been written prior to the President’s speech (and judging by the transcribed version quite unrelated to Rubio’s speech itself and the translated transcript, which used this voice recognition software, does not follow the material spoken but is nothing more than incomprehensible text. Therefore I do find it hard to believe that it will ever be a substitute for a human interpreter. The same way that I believe (as I have written in the past) that machine translation will never substitute a translator. So here is the video and judge for yourself.