The Instantaneous Universal Translator is Almost Here

Last week, I stumbled upon a fascinating video showcasing a cutting-edge translation product. Picture this: a technology that not only flawlessly translates spoken words in a video but also magically synchronizes the mouth movements of the original speaker with the translated voice. Sounds straight out of science fiction, doesn't it? But it's very much real.

This mind-bending product promises to bridge linguistic chasms in a way we've never seen before. Imagine watching a foreign-language film, and instead of clumsy subtitles or awkward dubbing, you witness the characters speaking fluently in your preferred language, their lips moving in perfect harmony with the translated dialogue. It's as if the language barrier, the one thing that has long separated us from the global beauty of cinema and online content, is finally being dismantled before our eyes.

This product will most likely put an end to the dubbing industry. Which is still a major industry in most of the world outside of the United States. It’s how the world watches foreign films.

Dubbing. A phenomenon that most Americans can't help but find utterly amusing. Picture this: you're deeply immersed in the unfolding drama of a foreign film, and then suddenly, the characters' voices don't quite match their expressions. It's like a jolt to the senses, one that swiftly yanks you out of that state of suspended disbelief and makes you aware you are watching a film. Disappointing.

In the world of American cinema, subtitled films have traditionally held a prominent place, seamlessly integrating foreign stories into the fabric of mainstream entertainment. Dubbing, however, has typically been reserved for certain genres, particularly vintage kung-fu movies.

The Instantaneous Global Translator is Close to Reality

I’m skeptical about the grandiose claims that AI will transform the entire world. However, one particular realm where AI, especially Large Language Models, appears to be poised for significant impact is language translation. The technological advancements in this field are drawing us closer to a new era of global communication. Already we have services like Google Translate or DeepL – they're already capable of producing remarkably accurate translations across numerous language pairs. Today, you can simply speak into your phone using Google Translate, patiently await its rendering of your words, and then hold the device up to your conversation partner so they can listen and respond.

While we currently experience a minor delay, envision a near-future where this pause is trimmed to a mere 5 seconds or even less. Now, couple this swift translation with the use of convenient earbuds, and you've got a recipe for seamlessly transcending language barriers during everyday social interactions.

Ever travel to a foreign destination and not know how to speak to the locals? Those days could be over now. Everyone may be able to just speak their language and you’ll hear your language through your earbuds. Is the world of the lingua franca over? Is this the fall of worldwide English? Maybe not, but it will certainly have some effect.

This is a civilizational moment here where technology can change things. We are already living in the age of mass travel, now are we going to be living with mass translation? Does that mean you’re going to be able to date people from other countries without even bothering to learn their language? What about business deals? What about mass access to religious texts?

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In a world where advanced global instantaneous translators are ubiquitous, we can anticipate a fundamental shift in the dynamics of communication and collaboration. Although it is difficult to see what the effects would be. Think of the internet today and what it was in 1999. Many people laughed at Bowie for saying it would change everything.

1) The World of Langue We Lost. Let’s look back at the ancestral language environment that we always lived in. How did it change in the 19th and 20th century? Are we returning to that world? Or going somewhere else?

2) The Good Future. The good outcome is the translator taking us back to a more lindy world. Or at least a modified version of it. A world of more diversity.

3) The Bad Future. I will explore the other possibility, an absolute catastrophic scenerio that could occur.

The World of Language We Lost

I recently paid a visit to an old-fashioned barber shop while on my trip to Chicago. Stepping inside, I was warmly welcomed by the barber, a second-generation Italian-American who had inherited the shop from his father. It was a charming place, filled with the delightful banter that often accompanies a haircut. Our conversation naturally drifted towards Italy, and that's when an intriguing linguistic revelation came to light.

As we chatted about his heritage, the barber revealed a fascinating tidbit: he struggled to understand one of his older relatives because they spoke Sicilian, not Italian. Intrigued, I innocently remarked, "Aren't they essentially the same language?" Little did I know that I was about to unravel a linguistic tale that echoed the bygone era when languages evolved more along regional lines than national boundaries.

You see, Sicilian, often referred to as a "dialect," is, in fact, more accurately described as an independent language. While it shares its Latin roots with other Romance languages, the distinctions in grammar, vocabulary, and syntax between Sicilian and "Standard Italian" are striking.

Sicily's linguistic diversity is far from being an anomaly in Italy; rather, it epitomizes the norm. This rich tapestry of linguistic diversity is by no means exclusive to Italy alone. Similar nuances exist in countries like France and beyond.

Where Did All The Languages Go?

The decline and extinction of languages reached a zenith during the era of nation-building in the 19th and 20th centuries. Several interconnected factors converged to accelerate the erosion of linguistic diversity across Europe and beyond during this transformative period. A central driving force in this linguistic shift was the pursuit of state-driven standardization. As nascent nation-states sought to forge cohesive national identities, they often opted for the standardization of a single "national" language. This standardized language became the linchpin of administration, education, and communication, rendering regional and minority languages marginalized in official discourse and formal education.

There are these hugely influential people who have lived in history that were responsible for the destruction of dozens of language that are unknown to regular people. Jules Ferry, for example. His education reforms wiped out centuries old linguistic communities in a matter of decades.

National education systems increasingly adopted the standardized national language as the medium of instruction. Consequently, generations of learners became more proficient in the national language while gradually losing fluency in their native tongues, further accelerating language decline.

Urbanization and industrialization served as the magnetic forces that lured populations away from the tranquil embrace of rural regions, where regional languages blossomed. The allure of economic opportunities nestled within bustling cities propelled this migration, leading to a gradual embrace of the prevailing national language.

As urban centers swelled, a subtle transformation took hold, gradually eroding the once-vibrant tapestry of linguistic diversity that thrived in these newly urbanized communities.

Finally, the advent of modern media and technology, an unstoppable tide that swept across society, added another layer to this linguistic evolution. From the printed word to the captivating waves of radio, the mesmerizing glow of television screens, and the vast digital realm of the internet, these platforms unabashedly championed the cause of dominant languages. Regrettably, this left speakers of minority languages with limited opportunities to nurture their native tongues within the dynamic confines of contemporary communication.

The Good Future

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