I don’t speak Tamil – Skype to the rescue?

I can’t speak or read Tamil. I also don’t speak any of the following languages:

1. Spanish
2. Mandarin
3. Russian
4. Vietnamese
5. Korean
6. Cantonese
7. Portuguese
8. Polish
9. French
10. Japanese
11. Arabic
12. Somali
13. Farsi
14. Haitian Creole
15. Italian
16. Hmong
17. German
18. Armenian
19. Tagalog
20. Hindi
21. Khmer
22. Bosnian
23. Punjabi
24. Bengali
25. Turkish
26. Amharic
27. Laotian
28. Albanian
29. Thai
30. Urdu

Embryonic services like Google Translate can help to an extent, as I’ve written about earlier.

However, if I wanted to talk to, say, a Tamil aid worker in the North or East of Sri Lanka to get first hand accounts of the conflict dynamics on the ground in real time, I obviously couldn’t rely on Google. Language barriers also pose significant problems for inter-cultural and international dispute resolution, where parties have to oftentimes rely on the availability of translators to facilitate communications.

Enter an innovative service for Skype. Through a partnership with Voxeo and Language Line Services, Skype is now offering real-time language translation services for Skype voice calls. 150 languages are supported, including all of the languages mentioned above and a few besides, all available 24/7, 365 days of the year.

This is amazing stuff.

Skype tells us that for the languages above, interpreter availability is 99+% with average connection times to reach a live interpreter of less than 45 seconds.

If the quality of translations is as good as they are made out to be, this service may well herald a new era in international, inter-ethnic and inter-cultural mediation through real-time voice conversations that can be held irrespective of whether the participants speak the same language or not.

Couple this with Skypecasting, a technology that I’ve explored earlier as one with great potential for peacebuilding and ODR, and what you have in theory is a global platform for people to communicate with each other using their mother-tongue, in real-time.

Vive la revolución!

7 thoughts on “I don’t speak Tamil – Skype to the rescue?

  1. You don’t have to think too long before the promise of skype will blow your mind. As CEO Niklas Zennstrom has put it:

    “Free is good. Free service is very, very good. We think you cannot charge for phone calls… the current and future strategy of Skype will knock the financial legs off of any company that still thinks it can make money by charging for phone calls. That list, of course, includes just about every major telecom company in the world.”


  2. // fee-for-service based voice telecom providers // it makes me cry. When something like that can happen in Sri Lanka? Forget about the cost, how much the TAX government charge over any call go in-and-out Sri Lanka? Why TRC artificially control the telecommunication market? What happened to entrepreneurship & free trade in telecommunication industry?
    REMEMBER! VOIP is virtually illegal in Sri Lanka. Skype run on VOIP platform. Theoretically Skype users are venerable for jail time and destroy any equipment use for VOIP in Sri Lanka.
    ICT is a government organization has no legal right to promote VOIP base technology in Sri Lanka. But that is not how it should be.
    We want to use Skype just like rest of the world do – but we don’t want to go to jail for it.
    We want to experiment aero technology just like rest of the world do – but we don’t want to go to jail for it.
    We want to use simple Waki Talki just like rest of the world do – but we don’t want to go to jail for it.
    We want to use cable TV just like rest of the world do – well.. If TRC does not stop it.
    I want to buy a bubble jet printer from Singapore and user it in Sri Lanka just like rest of the world do – if I don’t have to get approval form police intelligent department for me to bring my printer to Sri Lanka.

    We need a ‘Gandhi’ who can get his hand dirty – go to grass root level – fix the problems there – not just good talkers who can talk about new technology in ‘Tea Meetings’. I know ITS is the body for that. Future generations count on ITC (and Negambo lagoon).

  3. That is really nice..for any body, mother tongue is the most important thing. For example an online tamil tv shyamtv.com has realised the potential and webcasts tamil literary and non-literary songs apart from usual entertainment..these people have a flagship online radio called shyamradio.com which is also propagates in the same way..it is nice to be able to speak in mother tongue and communicate

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