Mobile Device Translations Get in the Game

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Darryl Houston-Smith of Pro-Hockey Weekly is an evangelist for speech technology in the world of sports. He uses speech technology to interview players around the world, consults on cross-language communication for global sports conferences, and promotes the use of language applications for sports teams and events.

As a professional sports journalist, interviewer, and radio host, Houston-Smith rubs shoulders with managers and players from sports such as ice hockey, soccer, and baseball. Whatever the sport, each team has language issues that can be overcome or improved through speech technology.

Sportscasters and announcers. As streaming sports online becomes the norm, more international viewers are tuning in to watch and hear events from various parts of the world. Primarily, these new fans want to receive the play-by-play in their native tongue. With today's speech technologies, the "voices of sports" can be streamed simultaneously in 35 languages as text-to-speech, heard as simultaneous interpretation, or displayed across the Internet as real-time automated subtitles.

Press conferences. Houston-Smith promotes on-demand simultaneous interpretation for major languages, with fillers for other languages using dictation applications to transcribe, then translate, a reporter's questions, and then absorb and translate the interviewee's answer. The interpreter can be present or heard via smartphone. The automated translations display as subtitles on mobile phones and tablets, or are heard as audiotext to speech or simultaneous interpretation, all with only a few seconds' delay.

Cross-language interviews. Sports personalities devote significant time to building reputations through the press. But with sports globalization, the art of interviewing has grown more complex. "What we see in international sports is that the games have gone global, but the approach to press coverage has remained static," Houston-Smith says. "The great players around the world do not share a common language. As an English-speaking reporter, in the past, my interviews were confined only to persons who spoke English, or...a smattering of English. 'Smattering' does not always make for the kind of article I was itching to write. However, the advent of good usable speech...introduced applications that permit interviewing across languages. Now I can capture more of the personality of the Finnish or Russian hockey players when they arrive in North America, and the result helps them connect more readily with their fan base."

New player assimilation. As players and freelancers migrate across continents, those from other countries and with other languages must be assimilated into a team. Today soccer champions from South America move to European teams. African players move to Baltic teams. Japanese and Chinese join American teams. The newest speech technologies offer support and cross-language automated translation to facilitate assimilation of new players, and to translate instructions, directions, and conversation, until the player acquires fluency in the team's language.

Fan participation and crowdsourcing. "An offshoot of sports globalization is the need for translation not only in one language but potentially in dozens. And the demand for languages does not build slowly over time; it is instantaneous. While one language is quite feasible to add, the languages of these new fans are not only numerous, but often so far from the team's own that the fan comments and blog text cannot be read, nor can fan recordings be understood," Houston-Smith says. "Professional translation into dozens of languages is cost-prohibitive and requires too long a turnaround, but today's technologies offer a small selection of applications for automated translation and—perhaps more importantly—the ability to crowdsource fan participation in the sports translation process. With fan participation, impassioned followers dive in, using their enthusiastic desire to support their favorite team by creating and improving translations beyond the lackluster results automation alone provides. The time may soon come when amateur international sportscasters translate sportscasts in near real time for their niche fan base as part of the sports team's social media marketing approach.

"These new language speech translation applications skip over the 'learn the language before you talk' stage and go directly to the ability to communicate," he adds. "Although not perfect...these software applications seem...destined to change the way we all plan our futures. We can now step into a global room where we would never have dared tread in the past."

Sue Ellen Reager is CEO of @International Services, a language and software solutions company that also performs translation, voice recording, and global system testing for speech and DTMF applications as well as media localization.

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