Google hopes to build on its existing translation database of 52 languages.
Search giant Google has said that it is working on a phone that can translate live, automatically between languages.
Live language translation on mobile phones could be just two years away, according to search giant Google. The company already offers text translation services and voice recognition, and Franz Och, head of translation services, says that work has already begun on combining the two.
The technology would work by translating phrases rather than individual words, and the company hopes that by looking at the huge amount of translated text already online, it can produce systems that are much more accurate than current versions. “If you look at the progress in machine translation and corresponding advances in voice recognition, there has been huge progress recently,” he said.
With over 6,000 languages spoken around the world, however, and only 52 currently on offer through Google’s existing translations services, the service is some way from meaning that language teaching in schools becomes redundant. “Clearly, for it to work smoothly, you need a combination of high-accuracy machine translation and high-accuracy voice recognition, and that’s what we’re working on,” said Mr Och.
So far, that is not yet possible, and language experts suggested that seamless technology is currently a distant prospect. David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor University, said the problems of dealing with speed of speech and range of accents could prove insurmountable.
‘No system at the moment can handle that properly,’ he added.