chapter  5
8 Pages

Speech translation’s marvellous (but misleading) marketing

WithJonathan Downie

Speech translation has a history of making a huge marketing and public relations splash. Google’s marketing of their own equivalent: the Pixel Buds with the instant translation function, is much less ground-breaking and more about food than sex. The difference between phrasebooks and speech translation leads to the next speech translation marketing message. While the marketing hype will always paint speech translation as perfect, reality always barges in fairly quickly. Just as linguistic difference is framed as a previously insurmountable “language barrier” by speech translation marketing, so the range of possible solutions to communicating with people who speak a different language is reduced beyond recognition. The realisation that technology is not sufficient to resolve linguistic and cultural difference leads to the final and much subtler misleading message offered by the promoters of speech translation. Speech translation devices aren’t yet subject to the kinds of advertising scrutiny as medical devices or even food.