Real-time Translation Devices: The Next Best Thing?

Real-time Translation Devices: The Next Best Thing?

Technology is evolving quickly in all realms of human interaction, and most activities have already started down a path of automation with the help of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. For multilanguage settings, real-time translation devices are at the center of that change. 

In this article, we explore some of the key ideas that can help us understand how likely it is for language translation to become fully automated by machines, and what that means for your business and your everyday life. 

What is a real-time translation device? 

Real-time translation technology (RTT) is a solution that instantly translates content from one language to another. Earlier versions of this technology would first convert speech into text, and then translate it into the desired language. Over the years, it has been improved with the use of Artificial Intelligence and today these tools listen to a word and try to identify the original language and at the same time understand what is being said. It is a more holistic approach than word for word translation. 

RTT can be embedded in a variety of devices, ranging from cell phones to earplugs, and it was a definite game changer during the pandemic, because situations that require an interpreter in the room were not compatible with social distancing measures, and having a device available that could translate in real time was a lifesaver.

How effective is Artificial Intelligence for translation? 

Seth Godin says that an insightful definition of AI is: Artificial Intelligence is everything a computer can’t do yet. As soon as it can, we call it obvious. In the end, as he points out, our tendency to believe that AI is magical may very well be simply magical thinking. 

This real-time language translation technology currently has an efficiency of around 85% and the time taken for a translation is about 2 to 5 seconds, which, while indeed commendable at this stage, is still well below the experience standard when compared to human interpreters.  

Another thing to bear in mind is that these translation technologies are dependent on data stored in the cloud, which means there is a lag between speech and translation. This will probably get better as network speeds improve, but it remains an important issue for areas without coverage, network congestion and more importantly an economic factor, as data plans are required in open spaces where no Wi-Fi is available.  

Technology, but with a human touch 

There are many reasons why the human element is crucial in linguistic services, but a very important one is quality. The introduction of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence into the field of linguistics lowered the entry barrier for many providers who deliver their services exclusively with the use of these technologies. The results? You can probably guess.  

Professional translators and interpreters have a grasp of subtle nuances of the spoken word that is not easy for machines to reproduce. And it shows. In fact, the same is true about text translation: advanced as the technology is, it still underperforms when it comes to slang, professional jargon or wordplay, among others.  

At the core of this problem is the fact that, ​​when humans fail in their translations, they are usually making some attempt to understand what it is they’re translating. Machines don’t, because they simply apply rules to go from a message in the original language to a message in the target language. So, even when these algorithms are assessing the holistic meaning of the phrase to be translated, they can’t assess any unwanted secondary meaning in the language of origin or the target language, because this knowledge is part of the culture, not necessarily part of the rules of the language. To deliver a premium final product, quality assurance is paramount

At LST we work with a highly experienced team of professional linguists – both translators and native speakers – because we are driven by quality. We leverage the possibilities and advantages that technology has to offer to augment our capacity to deliver timely solutions to our customers, but we rely on the insight and expertise of our certified professionals to guarantee the highest quality in all of our work. 


Hugo Rizzi

CEO at Language Solutions Team

Laura Aguirre

Marketing Manager at Language Solutions Team

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