Google Pixel Buds Strike Fear In The Hearts Of Professional Language Translators

A big challenge for people who travel abroad is one of communication. Many people only speak one language making it hard to communicate when you break free from your own country (and comfort zone). One of the coolest features of the newly announced Google Pixel Buds is that they can translate 40 languages on-the-fly. Such juggling of language between people typically requires professional translators.


Pixel Buds have the Google Translate software built right in and promise to translate languages just as if they are spoken in your native tongue. With a pair of earbuds selling for $159, should professional translators be worried? Business Insider asked that question to some professional translators, and it turns out most aren't, but a few are concerned.

The challenge will come in translating jargon and slang. For instance, I once knew a German exchange student who had a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that the word "bad" could mean something is bad (or not good) but could also mean something is very good. In a situation like this, Pixel Buds would simply translate what is said, while a professional translator could help people with the meaning of a word or jargon to help the conversation make sense.

Most travelers won't hire a translator for a vacation; this is where Google Pixel Buds will shine. Users might be a bit confused, but generally they will be able to understand what is being said.

"Any legit professional will tell you that no matter how much the technology evolves, there's simply no way for it to replace a translator or an interpreter due to several issues, the major ones being sentiency and abstraction," said João Correia, a professional Portuguese translator.

He continued, "Sure, the machine will have no trouble in conducting a generic, simple conversation like 'Hello, how are you?', 'Good Morning' or even 'I'm going out to buy some groceries', but I'd like to see what happens when an Anglophile uses it to communicate with a Japanese about oil rig implementation."

Not everyone in the industry feels the same though, some worry that machines will take their jobs at some point. Court reporter Ludmila Baker figures eventually the courts will adopt this sort of technology. She "welcome[s] new and amazing technology like this, even at the price of it destroying my profession. I'll have to find something else to do, just like millions of others have done through history."

She also thinks that even when the tech is ready, that it will be awhile before courts adopt it, adding, "I think the technology will be available way before the courts will be willing to use it. There are due process and constitutional rights that must be protected, and the laws will have to change before machines can do our jobs.

"As complex as human language is, and keeping in mind all the variables that affect interpretation (code switching, slang, etc), I still believe this technology will be good enough to replace us (and, eventually, better)."