Imagine a world without language barriers.
The Babel Fish was a fictional character found in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The concept of being able to instantly translate between any language is a function provided by the Babel Fish.
“The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier, but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.”The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
Originally published in October of 1979, this was a real work of futurist thought at the time. But I’ve demonstrated Google’s conversational translation engine from the stage many times and the work Google has done to improve the capabilities in the last few years is nothing short of amazing, inspiring even.
Their latest update to their Google Translate app included another feature sure to wow. I tested it on the day it came out. I used a presentation I did in Lisbon, Portugal in 2017 as the sound subject. It seemed fitting to me. You can watch it in action in the video below.
Here is the translated text for your review.
en casa ahora mismo mis amigos y familiares están durmiendo y cuando se despierten, será una fiesta importante en los Estados Hoy es el día de Acción de Gracias que tradicionalmente celebramos el agradecimiento en mi Tratamos de celebrar el agradecimiento todos los días alrededor de nuestra Decimos estamos agradecidos si no rezamos, algunas familias rezan. Decimos que estoy agradecido, ¿de qué estamos agradecidos hoy? Hoy estoy agradecido de ser Elizabeth por primera He disfrutado de tu hermosa ciudad durante los últimos tres Estoy abrumado por lo hermoso que es este pueblo y agradecido de estar Estoy agradecido de haber sido presentado por mi buen amigo Fernando sin importar lo que haya dicho sobre mí. Pero también tengo un poco de miedo. No solo tengo miedo porque estoy parado frente a ti hablando en inglés, y no sé cuántos de ustedes pueden entender cada palabra que voy a Aunque estoy bastante seguro de que desde que no estoy en Estados Unidos, la mayoría de ustedes son mucho mejores en idiomas que nosotros. Tengo miedo porque por primera Tengo seis hijos. Cinco de ellos están aquí en la parte de atrás de la Nunca me han escuchado hablar. Temo más su juicio que el tuyo.The unedited Spanish translation from Google Live Transcribe
To get a sense of how close this is, I’ve had Google translate it from the Spanish it provided back to English. You can see that below. It’s certainly not perfect. Lisbon is translated Elizabeth, for example. That’s just not being trained to my voice. Even with the obvious errors, you’d have to be pretty jaded not to be impressed.
at home right now my friends and family are sleeping and when they wake up it will be a major holiday in the States Today is Thanksgiving that we traditionally celebrate gratitude in me We try to celebrate gratitude every day around us We say we are grateful if we don’t pray, some families pray. We say that I am grateful, what are we grateful for today? Today I am grateful to be Elizabeth for the first time I have enjoyed your beautiful city for the last three I am overwhelmed by how beautiful this town is and grateful to be I am grateful to have been introduced by my good friend Fernando no matter what he said about me. But I’m also a little scared. Not only am I scared because I’m standing in front of you speaking in English, and I don’t know how many of you can understand every word I’m going to. Although I’m pretty sure since I’m not in America, most of you are much better at languages. than us. I am afraid because for the first time I have six children. Five of them are here in the back of the They’ve never heard me speak. I fear his judgment more than yours.Back To English From The Google Live Transcribe Spanish
And that brings me back to the Babel Fish. Named after the Tower of Babel, from the biblical story that attempted to explain the existence of different languages. From Genesis 11:5-7, “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’”
A modern “Babel Fish” would reverse that mythical biblical curse. “Then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Imagine it. Imagine a world without language barriers.
For me at least, this no longer seems like the distant future. And personally, I can’t wait.