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