March 21st, 2017 | By Colleen Sisler
Communication in hospitality is key. If we are unable to communicate with our guests, how can we be good hosts and be sure we are meeting the needs of those who visit our establishments? With the absence of a “babel fish,” the marine universal translator of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame, to translate our speech or written material, what are we to do? Not everyone has the opportunity to learn every language of every person who may visit us. Fear not. Technology is on its way to save the day.
The most obvious translation tool at this moment is your computer. There are numerous websites devoted to translating phrases – Linguee, Fluency Now and Translators Cafe are but a few. There are just as many plugins we can use to translate web pages. Even our social media tools have links we can click to translate posts from other languages. But what about printed or spoken language? There are companies working on that, as we speak.
Google Translate, an app available for both Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, has added picture translation, along with its speech and handwritten translation, to its mobile app. While you are traveling, you can open the app, point the camera at a sign and the app will translate for you. It is also semi-useful for translating menus in your dining establishment. Currently, it is not perfect for larger printed pieces, but I expect it will improve over time. As for speech translation, simply choose the origin language and the destination language and speak to the person through the app.
As for services specifically designed for hospitality, Urban Translations, a digital menu software company, has brought their menu translation tool to hotels, restaurants, and even airlines. They recently partnered with Samsung to bring tablets to hotel rooms, restaurants and entertainment venues. In addition to translation services, the program provides analytics about what your guests are most interested in. In light of recent hacking incidents, this specific Samsung tablet has you covered. It will use defense-grade mobile security, which is much more secure than off-the-shelf tablets.
The Pilot, by Waverly Labs, may be the coolest of the translation gadgets to date. Due out this spring is an earpiece that translates speech in real time. The Pilot system includes two earbuds, one for you and the other for the person with whom you are speaking, a portable charger for the earbuds and a mobile app. Translation happens simultaneously as the two parties speak with each other. The Waverly Labs team admits that there is still a lag of a few seconds. However, they explain they are working diligently to reduce it and that no machine translation is perfect, but expect it to improve as more people use it, which makes the translation engine better.
As big as the world is, it is getting smaller every day with technology bridging the gaps that time and location put in front of us. When you have a chance, check out these translation tools to see how they may be of use in your neck of the woods.