Translation By Machine: A Bridge Across The Multicultural Gap
Language translation technology is needed to overcome the language barrier civilian law enforcement faces in increasingly multicultural U.S. cities, writes Fresno Police Department Lt. David Belluomini. He cites findings from the 2000 U.S. Census that nearly 47 million out of 262 million American residents ages 5 and up spoke a language other than English or in addition to English.
Experiments funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other government efforts have thus far yielded one-way text-to-speech and speech-to-speech devices, while automated two-way translation devices are projected as a future development.
The most ardent advocates for dynamic two-way translation could be the communities that stand to derive the biggest advantages from it, such as law enforcement, according to Belluomini. The odds are good in almost any U.S. city that an English-only police officer will deal with a non-English speaker or someone for whom English is a second language.
Belluomini organized a focus group of bilingual social workers, IT experts, and law enforcement professionals to discuss machine or computer communication’s social, technological, and practical implications; from the meeting came the conclusion that machine translation would initially be practiced slowly and cautiously, but become more common with the improvement of the technology and increased social readiness.
The group thought younger recipients would be more receptive to the technology, and that non-emergency applications were the best starting point for machine translation. Belluomini says, “As policing and other public-service agencies experiment with new forms of human interaction through the use of technology, the gates will be thrown open for improvement and innovation, making the use of two-way machine language translation communication a distinct possibility for law enforcement within the next five years.”
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Futurist (04/06) Vol. 40, No. 2, P. 56; Belluomini, David .