Language Barrier is No Match for a Voice Translator

Undoubtedly, we all want to see different parts of the world and connect with new people. Unfortunately, overcoming the language barrier is often too difficult. Luckily, this daunting language barrier is dissolving with the rise of voice translator technology and the wearable translator.

Within half a day you can be halfway around the world, experiencing a new culture. So why isn’t it that easy to converse halfway around the world?

Traveling with a Wearable Translator

One of the main reasons I’ve never traveled outside the US is the fear of being lost in translation. Basically, feeling alien to everyone around me because I can’t communicate with anyone. That’s a scary situation.

Today, there are many translation apps, but who wants to huddle around an iPhone and type responses to each other. It’s awkward. 

The alternative is picking up one of those nifty English to Spanish dictionaries and painstakingly piecing together sentences that really don’t make sense.

That’s where this incoming class of wearable translator devices is interesting. A handheld, wearable translator such as ili can turn English into Spanish, Mandarin, or Japanese, with nothing more than your voice.

Unlike an app, this wearable translator doesn’t depend on wi-fi or good signal. It has already learned the languages and acts as the bridge between them.

With a wearable translator in hand, curious tourists can ask locals whatever they want in their native language. And tourists aren’t the only travelers that could benefit from a voice translator.

Imagine if Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross outfitted all of their workers with a wearable translator. Giving treatment after disasters or in Third World countries would become a more personal interaction – using a voice translator to emotionally connect with the patients. Countless social entrepreneurship companies that could benefit from breaking down the language barrier. 

Although travelers rule the wearable translator market, it isn’t the only industry with a language barrier.

Overcoming the Business Language Barrier

When Phil Knight started Nike in the 1960s (then, Blue Ribbon Sports) he admired the industrial side of Japan. Unfortunately, international business wasn’t a common practice. But, he didn’t let the language or geographic barrier stop him. He just flew over to Japan and walked right into Onitsuka Tiger (now Asics). Although some of them spoke English, he had many misunderstandings due to the language barrier.

Yes, money is the common language of business, but often times the language barrier still hurts the common understanding. Today, this business language barrier is slowly dissolving thanks to Skype and Microsoft.

Back when I ran a digital art marketplace, many of the artists I worked with were located in eastern Europe. Many of them spoke English, but with thick accents and minimal understanding.

Skype was always a go-to tool for making these long-distance calls because they have an in-app translation feature. The feature is not quite seamless, but it worked well enough that they’ve now added the feature to PowerPoint presentations.  

This lineup of voice translator features alleviates the language barrier that exists in international business. As individual economies blend into the singular World economy, and international business becomes more commonplace, at the forefront of this wave will be real-time voice translators.

For the time being, these translators still have many kinks to unkink as this video hilariously shows.  

So, while these companies are perfecting their voice translator devices, perhaps we can use these tools instead to become better language learners.

Learning Through a Voice Translator

They say the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. I’ve attempted learning Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian, but am fluent in none of them because I never had a native speaker to casually converse with.

But, what if a wearable translator worked in the opposite way – turning native language into a foreign language – changing your language reality?

Taking an in-ear wearable translator like the Pilot Translating Earpiece, and flipping the settings, you could effectively change the language someone spoke to you in.

Say you wanted to learn German, but everyone around you spoke English. Using one of these earpieces, you could convert all the spoken English around you to German and feel as if you were at a Cafe in Berlin.

Further, if friends and family had the earpieces, they’d hear what you say in German, in English, and give feedback.

Of course, this may not be the best way to learn a language, but it would be a new way of immersing oneself in another language without having to spend money on a language coach or travel expenses.

Learning new languages is hard but also eye-opening. Language is a door into a culture. And in learning about other cultures and other ways of life, we realize that our way of doing things isn’t the only way (nor the best way) of doing something.

Naturally, our focus tends to stay on optimizing our own lives. But, this is one of those endless cycles of unsatisfaction.

Get out of your way

You can spend a lifetime solving every single one of your struggles, not realizing that there are other people with the same problem.

Going out of your way to forget your struggles and help someone else overcome theirs will not only benefit them, but you may get a new idea to better solve your problems.

We get in the way of ourselves all day long. And the best way to get out of your own way is to get in the way of others…in a good way.

That goes for knowledge too. Hoarding knowledge does not give you an advantage over others. If you enjoyed this article, do someone else a favor by sharing it.

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1 Comment

  • Zoe
    4 months ago

    Such an amazing tool to further globalization.

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