What is Real-Time Translation?

Real-time machine translation refers to the process of a computer reproducing the reasoning characteristic of the human mind that allows for simultaneous real-time translation. Translation is based on interpreting the meaning of language or an action, and it takes a lot of work for our brains to conduct this analysis and consider the nuances of the specific situation. While computers have not yet mastered this activity, developments in real-time machine translation are bringing us closer to smarter, reactive, and more culturally aware devices. Currently, real-time machine translation is useful for quickly translating a written work into another language and deriving a general notion of text or audio. Systems have been designed that listen to student speech, and coach (or rate) a student’s speech for pacing, tone, dialect, and accuracy of pronunciation. Statistical machine translation is a sub-field that explores the use statistical methods to instantly interpret one language and translate it into another. (Google Translate uses this approach.) The low cost of and ease with which these services can be embedded in websites has made them very popular. In the next generation of machine translation, machines will be able to understand and interpret the personality behind speech, text, and gestures. Ray Kurzweil, a major thought leader in the area of machine translation, believes that before 2030, machines will reach a sufficient level of understanding of human written and spoken communications to allow for seamless and highly accurate translation. While not at that level today, the state of machine learning has advanced considerably in the past few years, and now has a great many applications in learning, teaching, and global communications.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Google translate is providing remarkable features to help in learning and communicating. Great example is the automatic translation available in youtube - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013
  • I have always been excited by the Universal Translator in Star Trek, so this offers a hint towards that dream :). By itself, such technology can certainly help students from different language background to interact, but it probably requires pedagogical inputs to make it more useful. Apart from the learning of foreign languages, it can possibly be used for students to understand more deeply the cultural aspects of languages. - hornmun.cheah hornmun.cheah Mar 6, 2013
  • Presumably, it could help with students in learning a foreign language. The computer could listen to their attempts to speak in the foreign language and correct them when they make mistakes. It could also help them to understand speech in the foreign language by repeating, emphasising or elaborating on parts of a sentence which the student isn't able to understand. This would be a very helpful advance on current forms of online language learning which simply allow the student to listen to a sentence over and over again in the hope of making sense of it. It would become more like conversing with a speaker of the foreign language - with a person, rather than a machine.- paul paul Mar 6, 2013

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Perhaps an assessment component can be added such that language learners can better guage their level of competence. - hornmun.cheah hornmun.cheah Mar 6, 2013
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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