Picture this: you decide that for your gap year after high school you’re going to travel the world. You want to go somewhere exotic, a land far-flung and foreign, with exciting new cuisines and customs, a country where they not only dress and eat differently, but speak differently as well. You get a flight, a train, a couple of busses and a rickety taxi cab and end up in a rural town far from any city. You realize you’re lost, alone and unable to communicate with any of the locals other than with vague hand gestures and unintelligible babbling. It’s at that point that you break down and wish there was some way that both of you could be understood short of studiously learning the local language for three years.
Now there is. Translation software has come a long way since its inception in 1983. Of course, translation software back then was nothing more than a concept and offered very basic, clumsy translations at best. Since then, however, the field of translation has advanced rapidly. The most well-known software in this regard is undoubtedly Google Translate. Launched in 2006, the free multilingual translation service helps over 200 million people per day, translating 103 different languages fairly effectively. While it’s still a work in progress – language is notoriously complicated and requires an infinite amount of fine-tuning to achieve accurate results – it’s capabilities are nonetheless impressive.
An App Revolution
Google Translate operates not only as a website, but also as an extension for most browsers, as well as an app for both Android and iOS operating systems. It’s not the only one, either. In recent years there has been a slew of translation apps hitting the market in direct competition to Google’s translation behemoth. It’s brought many people together, helped in commerce and understanding foreign literature, as well as language learning in general.
Living in the Future
Translation software is all well and good, as long as you have the internet to connect to and a device to translate on, even then constantly typing and translating is a burdensome process. That was until the launch of the Google Pixel Buds. These wireless earbuds let you translate languages in real time with the person you’d like to communicate with. Each user wears the earbud which connects to a smartphone. After preselecting the sending and receiving language, the user simply speaks, after which the other user will hear a translated version of what the first person just said. It’s not a perfect system, and doesn’t do well with slang and certain hard-to-understand dialects, but it is a work in progress, and proof of how far we’ve come with regards to translation.