The BBC is reporting that Japanese phone company NTT Docomo, the largest provider of mobile services in that country, has started offering its customers free language translation. Initially, the AFP Newswire via Channel News Asia, says, the service will include translations between Japanese and English, Chinese and Korean.
The service is smartphone based the BBC says. Customers who wish to avail themselves of the translation options can download and use a free app from the Docomo web site. They also note that those who use the service can use it with others on land-lines as well.
Users who download the app will find they have two choices when using the translation service; listening to an oral computer generated voice or reading the translated version of what another person has spoken on their phone’s screen. As with human translators, there will of course be a short delay time as the BBC explains, while individual words could be translated quickly enough to allow a nearly seamless conversation link, that would not allow for contextual differences between languages. Whole sentences must be spoken before its meaning can be deciphered. Because of that, the AFP says, those who use the service will need to learn to speak in a fragmented way so that they don’t talk over what the person on the other end is trying to say. They also point out that despite huge advances in translation technology, it still is not nearly as good as the human brain, thus, those that use the service need to first try to understand that the translations won’t always be perfect, and because of that, sometimes misunderstandings can occur. In such instances, Docomo suggests that users refrain from reacting emotionally when receiving unexpected words from another and instead request they repeat what they have said in another way.
The BBC adds that other phone service providers are also working on adding language translation as a service. France’s Alcatel-Lucent, they say, is reportedly working on a similar product.
Docomo has also said that other languages will soon be included in the app and include: German, Spanish, Indonesian, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Thai. As part of their announcement, they also announced another app that users can use to convert signs and menus, etc. using the camera on their smartphone and they added that the company is also working on developing software that will allow for language conversions to come across in the original speakers actual voice.