Language Translation Tool:
Speech Recognition and Translation

A spoken language translation tool is a tool that translates spoken language either into text (speech-to-text translation) or into speech (speech-to-speech translation).

What it is for?

Spoken language translation is a new and advanced technology. However, it already has found its way into our life and proven to be useful in the following areas:

Foreign language learning

Computer-assisted pronunciation training systems can help to correct pronunciation and eliminate accent of foreign language learners. Thanks to an automatic speech recognition component embedded in these systems, they are able to understand the language learners' speech and provide feedback on the quality of this speech.

Language transcription

Multilingual automatic transcribers are able to record and transcribe meetings and interviews. The software recognizes speech and makes transcripts.

Language translation

- Applications for iPhones: you talk into iPhone in one language and the iPhone reproduces the translated spoken text in the other language

- Military translation devices designed to improve communications between the foreign military and the local population

- Add-ons with computers (in Japan). These applications produce speech-to-speech translation between Japanese and English.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking® is a market leader in speech recognition, and many of the spoken language translation tools are based on this software.

Kristin Precoda, Director of Speech Technology at SRI International, demonstrates a new speech language translation system. The system was originally designed to help the U.S. military to communicate with non-English speakers in Iraq. Now it is being adjusted for civilian use.
(Press the Play button in the player controls to play the video.)

How it works?

A speech-to-text language translation tool translates speech from a source language into a text in a target language. The tool basically consists of a microphone for receiving speech signals and converting them into electrical signals, a speech-recognition component for correlating the electronic signals with alphanumeric text, and a component for machine translation of alphanumeric text into a target language.

Speech-to-speech translation is a much more complex technology. Here, speech in a source language is translated into speech in a target language. This is how the process works:

Speech in source language

Automatic speech recognition and conversion into source text

Automatic translation of source text into target text

Generation of speech from target text

Speech in target language


They are obvious: When language professionals (foreign language teachers, translators, or interpreters) are in short supply or are too expensive to hire, these tools help in language learning or they mediate the conversation between people who speak different languages.


There's a lot of room for error. For a start, text produced by spoken language translation tools contains recognition errors because speech being recognized is not polished. It is conversational and contains slang, hesitations, incorrect word order and grammar, etc. In addition, punctuation is missing in the recognized text.

Another difficulty is that these tools cannot take into account extralinguistic forms of communication – tone, intonation, postural and facial manifestation of emotions - that complement and supplement the meaning of the words.

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