Will Skype Translator make translators redundant?

I  read an interesting blog post yesterday about a new product from Skype, Skype Translator, which they hope to have perfected by the end of the year. The writer of the blog post “Skype Translator Looks to put Human Translators Out of a Job!” wrote very enthusiastically about Skype Translator and how it would change doing business. He also mentioned a demo video showing a conversation between a German and an English person. I watched the video and it reminded me of a post I wrote about Google Translate a  few months ago: Is Google Translate getting any better? Skype Translator looks very similar. Some of the sentences had been translated brilliantly, others were absolutely appalling.

As with Google Translate I can imagine Skype Translator being a godsend if you find yourself unexpectedly in need of a conversation with somebody whose language you don’t understand, but for doing business where contracts or manuals etc  need to be accurate, Skype Translator will not help you discuss things accurately. At least not yet!

Have a look at this video which is another Skype Translator demo. What do you think about it?

I think Skype Translator will be very useful in situations when you wouldn’t even think of a translator anyway, but if it’s the case of getting that business deal or not, or finalising the last details it won’t be as good as a translator or interpreter is.

Do you agree?

6 thoughts on “Will Skype Translator make translators redundant?”

  1. Yes, I do agree, Angelika. There is no way that a digital product can be as intuitive as a human brain – not yet, anyway. What is difficult with translation is not the words, phrases and sentences, but the small nuances that occur in human conversation and that make all the difference to the meaning of what’s being said.

    And that’s even before you get into the metaphors and figures of speech peculiar not merely to languages, but to regional and cultural variants of a language.

    I do some French-to-English translation work and would challenge any digital product or system to do even that simple stuff properly…

    • I saw a really nice quote a few weeks ago, but unfortunately can’t find it, otherwise I would have added it to the post. It was something like ‘ translation software won’t replace translators, like medical software doesn’t replace doctors’. Pity, I can’t find it again, as it was spot on!

  2. To translate human language like a human, machines will need to UNDERSTAND the meanings in their context rather than just knowing the words, including, for example, distinguishing between an intended and an unintended ambiguity, recognising the motives behind plays on words and manners of speaking, and even having a sense of aesthetics.

    That is a very long way off.


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