What is a Translation Kit in conflict zones?

What is a Translation Kit in conflict zones?

Translators and interpreters in conflict zones: how machine translation made its way to replace human presence.

A brief evolution of machine translation and translation needs during conflict

Being a translator and interpreter in a conflict zone is one tense choice of a career. And a highly interesting one for a linguist. There are a few moments more crucial than these where understanding on both sides has a real impact on world peace.

Before, it was a 100% high-risk job. Translation would many times be done in an environment vulnerable to attacks. All people present had to be prepared on how to react under fire or havoc. There are cases where having an interpreter saved soldiers from landmines and dangerous paths.

Luckily, as time went by, machine translation made its way to replace unnecessary human presence in conflict situations. Today, a microphone can automatically translate into a screen or speaker multiple languages in real-time(a technology also used in restaurants in Japan). And if not, an earpiece with someone safely on the other side can do for the rest of the situations. The more is not the merrier in this case and being able to advance in smaller groups alleviates tension. In some cases, when negotiation is adamant, and in person, an interpreter could be necessary. But today this is a choice and not an imposition.

Whatever the means, the purpose is to ensure that the message is conveyed effectively. With most soldiers being unable to speak beyond basic phrases of foreign languages, and a shortage of interpreters, machine translation was a breakthrough.

How does this technology work and how can it improve how we communicate?

How it started

In 2006, IBM took a big leap. It delivered 35 notebook computers with voice recognition software for the medical personnel in US Special Operations forces and the US Marine Corps.

This meant that now medical situations with Iraqi security forces and citizens could be sailed through without major language complications. The technology allowed for effective communication in real-world tactical situations. It quickly translated languages that seemed immensely far away, like Iraqi Arabic.

The speech-to-speech translator had been in development since 2001. And at the time, machine translation was still far from being something that could be present in our daily lives.

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