Can tech help you break down language barriers?

Ready to learn a new language? Alexa can be your teacher using an Echo speaker.

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Ready to learn a new language? Alexa can be your teacher using an Echo speaker.

Feeling lost in translation? 

In the sci-fi world crafted by Douglas Adams in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” you’d just slap a bright yellow Babel fish in your ear and simply be able to understand any mix of languages around you. 

While we aren’t quite there yet, language is becoming less of a barrier than in generations past.  

“Understanding is going to become the new normal,” says Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services. Kids “will never grow up in world where they aren’t able to hear any language. It’ll just happen.”

To that end, today’s technology is helping to interpret and translate the world around us in ways that are nearing seamless and in real time. From apps on your phone to increasingly multilingual virtual personal assistants, communicating as a tourist or with clients, friends and family who don’t speak the same language is less of a challenge.

Yet for all the authentique gains achieved in translation over the past several years, don’t count on your phone, smart speaker, PC or ear device for breaking down all the language barriers anytime soon – or to provide an excuse to skip French class. 



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By Bernice Caldwell

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