By Tom Roswell
Nerds have been raving about the Skype real-time translation software since last summer, but we are now finding out how it actually performs.
For decades the world has dreamt of the kind of technology depicted in Star Trek.
Technology which can translate any language, as it is spoken, in real-time.
And it looks as though we might finally have it.
Real-Time Translation Technology
The new real-time translation technology from Skype presents myriad opportunities to innovative marketers.
While language barriers could previously be breached only with the aid of pricey translation services, smaller businesses couldn’t even dream of overseas expansion or outsourcing.
Let’s be honest, this “miracle” software still isn’t perfect.
It’s still in beta, and at the moment only supports English-to-Spanish translation, but there are more languages in the pipeline.
That said, as it combines translation software with voice recognition technology, significant mistakes can be made. The translation itself could be inaccurate, or the voice recognition software might confuse words which sound alike, such as “called” and “cold.”.
Vikram Dendi was the lead engineer at Microsoft on the project, and he said that synchronizing these different technologies was challenging—”each technology on its own is pretty complex, putting them together is a very difficult problem.”
The more users speak through the Microsoft translation platform, the better it understands human language and the more accurate it becomes. Errors that the software makes today will disappear as the software logs more examples of natural human language, of the way humans write and speak differently, and of how they word things differently for social media, e-mail, chat, and spoken conversation.
These adaptations are going to take a lot of time, so it doesn’t look like this technology is about to render professional translation services redundant any time soon.
But it still looks like an appealing prospect to small business owners that can’t afford professional translations.
If you want to communicate quickly with an overseas department, the Skype real-time translation software is a great way to ease communications over both linguistic and geographical boundaries.
Real-Time Translation and Marketing Opportunities
From a marketing perspective, you can’t use this kind of technology to translate sales copy directly into foreign languages, but you can use it to communicate with an overseas marketing team.
You need people with local knowledge and cultural capital in any overseas market you intend to reach out to, but synchronizing international campaigns and maintaining a consistent brand voice requires frequent and easy communications.
Being able to chat freely with someone who can’t speak your language opens up huge realms of possibility, but the implications of this breakthrough are yet to be fully realized.
I expect to see international markets being regarded as far more accessible to start-ups and other small businesses, and eventually for international teams, communicating almost exclusively via the Internet will become increasingly commonplace.
If you are trying to penetrate a developing overseas market via online content, you need to localize.
Research has shown consumers are much more likely to follow and buy from brands that speak to them in their own language. Simply relying on translation technology isn’t sufficient in these circumstances; one must invest in professional translation to reach these markets.
Anyone who has ever tested Google Translate can tell you that the translations, although helpful, do not meet professional standards, and unless you’re careful, relying on translation software could result in embarrassing mistakes.
That said, using real-time translation software during an online conference call shows you are a savvy marketer who is aware of and ready to employ the latest technology to improve international and intercultural communications.
Each technological development presents new opportunities for innovative marketers who know how to exploit them. Time to put your thinking caps on.
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