Jonathan Lichtman, senior vice president of SAIC, believes it’s possible. His firm recently launched the first translator that integrates both machine translation and automated speech recognition into the same platform. Below there is an interview with Lichtman about why the possibilities of this technology are exciting and what lies ahead for the sector.
Q: Why is translation technology important?
We live in an era of rapid globalization, which is demonstrated by the growing demand for language services. Common Sense Advisory, an independent analyst firm that focuses on this area, estimates the demand for language services will grow 12% annually. Simply put, human translators do not have the capacity to meet this demand.
Q: So how exactly does translation technology help meet this growing demand?
Translation technology solves this problem in two ways. First, it enables translation at a level where it does not need to involve a human. Secondly, we’ve seen translation technology increase human translator productivity by up to 400%.
Ultimately, translation is important because it facilitates multilingual communication and allows people from around the world to better understand one another culturally, economically and socially.
Q: With this new approach, at what point can we completely overcome the language barrier?
This is an interesting question that really shows the complexity of human language. If I am sitting in the same room as a colleague and we are both native English speakers, I still may only understand 98% of his intended meaning. So for that reason alone, translation technology will never be perfect. The rapidly evolving nature of language I mentioned earlier is another.
However, I do believe that there are currently tailored language solutions that can now approximate the accuracy of humans in some cases. I also believe that in the next decade the quality of language technology will continue to evolve where human-quality machine translations will be the norm rather than the exception. That said, human communication will never be without misunderstanding and an inaccurate perception regardless of how well the technology can perform. More.