Why real-time translation technologies are critical for communities
Today’s world is increasingly connected and diverse, and advances in technologies – like real-time translation – allow us to communicate and share important ideas with each other. As our translation tools improve, we can reach across language barriers, making translation accessible to not only workplaces, but to communities, schools, and individuals.
Before the internet became widely available, people used resources like English to Spanish translation dictionaries and other language texts to talk and write in other languages. Now, we have tools like Google Translate and text to speech apps that make translation even easier. The demand for real-time translation is only growing as international collaboration becomes more common.
In the US, language accessibility is so important that there are already education requirements in place to increase access for LEP and ELL students. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many organizations need to provide translated notices to help people request language assistance services. Regardless of whether these services exist to help immigrants, refugees, foreign exchange students, or the everyday user, organizations have turned to technology for translation solutions that can scale with their needs. This is even more important in the classroom, where student success depends on teachers and schools being able to communicate with individual learners, their parents, and the communities that support them. Without translation, ELL students and families struggle to even know what resources are available to them.
Access to technology improves every day, and the availability of translation tools increases with it. For example, various projects (like the USConnectedEd initiative in 2018) have given school districts the hardware, software, equipment, and financial resources to better integrate technology into the classroom. With more equitable access to these tools, translation technologies can now play a key role in personalizing learning and adapting to a variety of learning styles in a single classroom.
What does real-time translation mean?
Real-time translation happens while content is being delivered. It allows people to continuously and directly translate words into another language with minimal delays. Offering subtitles in different languages can also include the use of a prepared and/or pre-translated script, which gives more accurate results. However, real-time translation can be useful for events that might not have a prepared script, or when people are having conversations. To improve the quality of instantaneous translations, human editors can assist with the machine translation/transcription process.
How does real-time translation work? Earlier improvements in real-time translation transcribed audio into written text with text-to-speech (TTS) tools. Then, a different tool translated that text (usually word-for-word) into the target language. Today’s translation technology uses machine learning to improve the quality of translations, resulting in “smarter” machines that use artificial intelligence (AI) to preserve the meaning of the original speech.
At spf.io, the technologies we use can understand phrases and sentences, which gives the translation much better accuracy than word-for-word translations. Besides offering access to these tools at an affordable price, we also train volunteers and staff to use them. We teach people how to improve translations with small but significant changes – it’s easy to learn how with our help! For example, adding punctuation to text as it is transcribed helps greatly with translations, which can be very important when a speaker wants translations in multiple languages.
How translation helps students, teachers, parents, and communities
Students are more successful when parents and families support them. Unfortunately, language barriers can make this difficult, and hiring interpreters is expensive and requires advance notice. Tools like spf.io can translate in real time into more than one language, making it easier to support a diverse student population.
With translation technologies, schools can easily translate meetings, classes, and events on demand. Spf.io has an easy-to-use interface called Audience View that lets parents choose captions and subtitles in their own language. Audience View works in any browser, so people can use their phones or computers to access subtitles. If the meeting uses a projector, the speaker can even show the real-time translation on a screen at the front of the room.
Translation technology improves students’ learning experience. It can make families feel more included and welcome in their educational communities when they see words in their native tongue. Real-time translation also has the potential to help tutors and ELL students connect better. Additionally, since everyone has different learning styles, providing a visual will help some students and be critical for others (i.e. students who have hearing loss). Parents and family members can also benefit from captioning, whether they are ELL, have hearing loss, or need visual aids to help with better understanding.
Artificial intelligence in real-time translation
How can we best use artificial intelligence to improve translation? Although translation technology has improved greatly, many people still experience situations where speech-to-text results in misspellings or inaccurate transcription. Even if the transcript is accurate, machines may not translate the meaning of a word or phrase consistently or accurately enough. As AIs get trained to better recognize speech patterns, common sayings, and tricky translations, it’s important to include humans in this learning process.
At spf.io we’ve learned that including humans in the loop of captioning and subtitling greatly improves results with minimal effort. Since spf.io’s AI can quickly capture speech into text, the person overseeing the caption release (remote operator or RO) no longer needs to type out the entire caption. Instead, the RO edits the transcript and decides when to release sentences. By adding punctuation and correcting small mistakes like spelling, missing words, or incorrectly captioned phrases, an RO improves the quality of captions and subtitles greatly.
Many of the advances in real-time captioning and translation used to be available to big companies with large budgets, but now, the everyday user has access to tools like phone transcription apps and Google Translate. Even though access has improved, when organizations search for real-time translation platforms, they often find that English is the only source language offered. Finding resources that caption and translate Spanish, French, or Portuguese, for example, can be a huge challenge.
Spf.io seeks to change this. Our mission is to make every event accessible in any language. Our software was built to serve multilingual communities from day one. Although companies can easily hire a spf.io RO to finalize and release captions for large events, organizations also have the option to use their own staff and volunteers, instead. For event organizers that have enough lead time and human resources, choosing to train in-house personnel with spf.io’s how-to articles and videos can save money in the long run.
Spf.io’s real-time translation tools can be adapted for use with schools, governments, international communities, and more. Our interface gives users the option to add custom vocabulary and custom translations, adding to an “autoreplacement database” (ARDB) that can be used for multiple events. The more you use spf.io, the smarter it gets. Spf.io also specializes in multilingual online event setup: many of our customers come to us after trying out other tools that failed to work for their use. Learn about spf.io’s multilingual success stories with satisfied clients or contact us to get advice on your specific setup.
Applying advances in real-time translation
Chris, one of spf.io’s clients, uses our “projector view” to show multiple languages as subtitles on a screen during live events. Since he uses a bluetooth headset, he is free to roam around the room and interact with his audience. In a teaching environment, the ability to have the focus on students, as opposed to the technological tools, is critical. Students stay more focused when the presenter is engaged. Additionally, offering captions and multilingual subtitles can help teachers cater to different learning styles and abilities. For both online and in-person events, spf.io even offers a teleprompter option for speakers.
Note for presenters: read from a teleprompter controlled by your phone by using an iPad and telemprompter glass.
Spf.io’s unique approach of collaboration between human and AI means that we can handle difficult cases like speakers that have different accents. We’ve helped organizations with international members hold successful board meetings, community outreach sessions, and more. One Latin American conference wanted to hold a trilingual event where speakers presented in their native tongue – by using a mix of RO-assisted real-time translation and pretranscribed videos, spf.io was able to help make their multilingual, accessible conference a success.
Whether you’re looking to add real-time translation or captions to your educational event, classroom, or meeting, spf.io can help. Talk to us today to see how we can make your school accessible and multilingual!