On the fly IM Translation - Strike One Against the Tower of Babel
by Steve Mallett
Related link: http://news.oreillynet.com/pub/n/CoalitionChatIM
And I thought Jabber was cool....
The Coalition forces in Iraq are using IM chat to speak and translate on the fly in Iraq. "...technology funded by the Office of Naval Research, among other DoD organizations, is helping to narrow that cultural gap by enabling U.S. and coalition forces to communicate more effectively with the Iraqis and among themselves. A 'coalition chat line' now being used at several U.S. and allied sites around Iraq enables commanders and operators who speak different languages to communicate rapidly and reliably, using the 'instant messaging' practices familiar to millions of teenagers. "
Very likely an idea that sounds better on paper.
It seems to be a meme in the US that machine translation is actually translation. In the rest of the world people mostly just scoff. While it works bearably (or even surpringsly) well within narrow confines placed on a sentence or two in a row, it's only useful to let you ballpark the subject of any substantial amount text and rapidly degrades as grammatical structures becomes complex or incomplete. It certainly beats trying to communicate with someone without the aid of any translation at all, but I'm sure these operators will have some very frustrated (and some rather hilarious) stories to tell.