What is Real-Time Machine 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?

  • Globalisation means that we need tools for quick translation. Of course, many students worldwide speak a good English (as a first or second foreign language) and this goes for many teachers as well. But even so, we often experience that the communication does not run without problems. So this technology can be of huge importance for the multicultural and multilingual classroom where English is used as a lungua franca (EMI = English medium instruction).
    In many other cases, the technology will of course also be of graet value - communication between parties that do not have a common lingua franca, communication between/with somehow disabled persons etc. etc.- ole ole Oct 9, 2014
  • As the number of International students in our classrooms increase, translation becomes increasingly important. Although our students must be fluent in English, they more often than not, struggle with context. In Business Math, for example, they have difficulty understanding not the words, but the meaning because they don't understand simple business terms. Perhaps real-time machine translation can help in this regard. - lkoster lkoster Oct 20, 2014 - helga helga Oct 24, 2014
  • Important. This feels like one of topics so far that would not be immediately apparent and valuable for NMC to introduce to campus decision making now, where MOOC, BYOD, et al or simply affirming apparent trends. - dicksonk dicksonk Oct 22, 2014

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

  • I think one thing that should not be overlooked here is the potential for automated real-time transcription. As we create more and more video resources for our students the need for closed captioning rises. However, human-based transcription services are often prohibitively expensive. Functioning machine transcription technology should significantly reduce the costs associated with this need and make our multimedia content far more accessible to those with disabilities. - tom.haymes tom.haymes Oct 23, 2014 - helga helga Oct 24, 2014
  • I also think automated real-time transcription has a significant implication for higher education now that the technology is so sophisticated and ubiquitous as an input method. We don't have to type texts but speak to a device to input texts. - kumiko.aoki kumiko.aoki Oct 26, 2014

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

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

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