Simultaneous translation of lectures and speeches


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Abstract

With increasing globalization, communication across language and cultural boundaries is becoming an essential requirement of doing business, delivering education, and providing public services. Due to the considerable cost of human translation services, only a small fraction of text documents and an even smaller percentage of spoken encounters, such as international meetings and conferences, are translated, with most resorting to the use of a common language (e.g. English) or not taking place at all. Technology may provide a potentially revolutionary way out if real-time, domain-independent, simultaneous speech translation can be realized. In this paper, we present a simultaneous speech translation system based on statistical recognition and translation technology. We discuss the technology, various system improvements and propose mechanisms for user-friendly delivery of the result. Over extensive component and end-to-end system evaluations and comparisons with human translation performance, we conclude that machines can already deliver comprehensible simultaneous translation output. Moreover, while machine performance is affected by recognition errors (and thus can be improved), human performance is limited by the cognitive challenge of performing the task in real time.

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