The Changing Voice of Telephone Interpretation

by Translation Guy on October 26, 2009

The telephone, in some form or another, has been around for more than 100 years. But, over the years, the phone, and voice communication itself, have seen some significant changes. The development of wireless mobile communication revolutionized voice communication. No longer were we content to talk on the phone only from home – now most of us carry a phone wherever we go – and can’t imagine life without one. In fact, we now consider it a safety hazard to travel without a phone! And, we firmly believe that phones are necessary tools for our teens and even tweens (go Twitter!).

Of course, all this phone conversing has been great for the business of translation services. Interpreters everywhere have seen a great increase in marketability with so much conversation – continent to continent- going on.

This next phase of voice communication also looks to be interesting for the business of language interpretation. Voice to text and text back to voice is the next new trend in communication. Companies like Jott, which was recently acquired by Nuance, and other voice recognition software companies have made voice to text simple and reliable. Need to send an email? Speak it to your computer or mobile phone and it gets typed and sent.

Yap is another great package. It allows users to speak into their mobile phone and converts my spoken word into a text message. Since this is the only language my 16 year old son speaks, I find this program very convenient.

But, what happens when you need to send an email or other message to a colleague in Italy, whose English is poor?  Currently, if you’re sitting at your computer, you can speak the words in English, and then hit “translate” on a translation software program to translate it into Italian, before hitting send. Works fine when you’re at your desk. On the road, not so much.

So, translation services are about to see another increase in marketability – and exactly how it’s accomplished should be pretty interesting to watch. Technology has done a good job of simplifying voice to text – and back. Now if we can just get that in Italian, please.


  1. By far, your best post yet. I’m intrigued by the IVM (interactive voice messaging) space – the next step beyond traditional interactive voice response myself.

  2. Mr. Exec says:

    The Web 2.0 era has begun for enterprise voice communications. With the creation of standard protocols for VoIP sessions, the technology exists to create a “voice cloud” within an organization. Now that’s cool!

  3. React2 says:

    React2 is the brand new suite of speech and language therapy software that is breaking new ground in computer aided therapy.

  4. Coder1999 says:

    Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Nuance rock!

  5. SamIAM says:

    Too bad that the current speech-to-text programs are too large and require too much CPU power to be practical for the Pocket PC. I can’t wait though. Someday!

  6. Monkey1 says:

    People with disabilities can benefit from speech recognition programs. Speech recognition is especially useful for people who have difficulty using their hands, ranging from mild repetitive stress injuries to involved disabilities that preclude using conventional computer input devices. In fact, people who used the keyboard a lot and developed RSI became an urgent early market for speech recognition.

  7. Grumps says:

    In the health care domain, even in the wake of improving speech recognition technologies, MT’s have a long way before they become obsolete. I anticipate that with increased use of speech recognition technology, the services provided may be redistributed rather than replaced.

  8. Substantial efforts have been devoted in the last decade to the test and evaluation of speech recognition in fighter aircraft too

  9. cvvv says:

    I tested NaturallySpeaking before and about 20 percent of what I said was transcribed accurately, but the other party’s words rarely made sense when converted into text.

  10. A growing number of voice messaging services can transcribe a customer’s voice-mail messages into text e-mails, now that’s handy!

  11. Very interesting thread! Kudos to Ken for his forward thinking on this one.

  12. Jason H. says:

    I’m interested in understanding how your service offering is transforming to meet this next phase of voice communication, Ken?

    • Ken says:

      As you may know, a lot of the work in automated translation and speech recognition is being done for three-letter-acronym government agencies best left nameless. It’s one thing to fund that kind of activity from the bottomless pit of the taxpayer’s wallets and public debt, but another matter entirely to get people to pay for it. And speaking of debt service, who wants to pull the chair out from under the human interpretation service model anyway? I’m game, but some of the larger players in the business most certainly would not be. So in my opinion, its not a question of if, but when, and who, and how much. And since phone interpretation is so often a matter of life and death, the 64K questions is, “How do you make it safe? Have I been cryptic enough? Contact me directly at kclark [at] if you wish to discuss in more detail.

  13. cvvv says:

    Interesting Bostonpizzaman, do you happen to host a Canadian television show called “Dragon’s Den?”

  14. No, I’m not Jim Treliving. Just a guy that LOVES BP…

LiveZilla Live Chat Software