“I speak English” (trans. “All your base are belong to us”)
Imagine you’re a soldier in Baghdad, don’t speak Arabic and you must shout a command to a pack of angry-looking insurgents: “Drop your weapons!” You could fire warning shots, or take out a handheld computer and use a stylus to scroll through a list of preprogrammed phrases on a touchscreen and then flip the device around to show enemy combatants the command in Arabic.
According to BBC radio 4 ‘s ‘A World in Your Ear‘ (Tx 21.4.07) the US military has spent $15-20m/yr over the past five years on such voice recognition technologies – surely offering Arabic lessons to soldiers in Iraq would be more cost-effective? Er, no.
On this low-tech side of the pond, we all know that by repeating your English phrase slowly and loudly, Johnny Foreigner will magically acquire instant translation skills.
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