Only recently I posted an article about machine translations, highlighting the perils of relying on such automated tools without getting the completed translation looked over by a human. By and large, it seems that developers of automated translation software have a long way to go before they are able to create a product that would achieve such levels of linguistic excellence and accuracy so as to fully replace the work done by human translators. If they have not been able to do so just yet, it's not for lack of trying though. There are a number of translation tools out there able to translate written text with varying degrees of accuracy. But what about conveying the meaning of verbal communication or, in other words, interpreting?
As reported in an article by Katie Collins, published on the Wired UK website, Haifa-based startup Lexifone recently launched an automated phone-interpreting service, able to provide simultaneous interpretation of phone conversations. I must say, it does sound impressive. In fact, this could be a very exciting, groundbreaking development as far as automated language services are concerned. According to the article, they recently signed a deal with a major French telecoms company, which will offer the service to its subscribers.
But does this ambitious product have the potential to take the market by storm?
The first thing that I found striking about Lexifone is the fact that it is so cheap to use. Paying as little as £6 an hour seems like a bargain compared to the average hourly rate commanded by phone interpreters these days. Moreover, there is an option to pay £24 a month for unlimited use. In terms of price at least Lexifone definitely has a competitive advantage.
it also seems like a very user-friendly, easy service to use. All you need to do is dial in, provide the number you wish to call and off you go. You could call a client in Beijing or a supplier in Frankfurt and speak to them in English and they would reply in Chinese or German and you would understand each other. Sounds almost too good to be true.
This service is available in 10 languages only so far, so it's not for everyone, but they are reportedly working on adding a few others and I am sure they will soon.
All of this seems really good on paper, but the most important question here is 'How good is Lexifone really'? Does it offer high quality service and is it as good as a human interpreter? That is highly unlikely, but not impossible. I would love to read a few reviews left by people who actually used it. I certainly would not mind trying it out myself one day.