Preparation: Watch the following video clip presenting the Microsoft’s new Skype Translator:
Now read the following reaction of a journalist who could test the new app:
This week I’ve been using the preview version of Microsoft’s Skype Translator. And it’s breathtaking. It’s like science fiction has come to life. I don’t speak a word of Spanish – I took German at school instead – but with Skype Translator I was able to have a spoken conversation with a Spanish speaker as if I were in an episode of Star Trek. I spoke English. A moment later, an English language transcription appeared, along with a Spanish translation. Then a Spanish voice would read that translation. It took a moment to get used to the pacing of the conversation – the brief delay for the translation means that if you understand the language of the other person, there’s a temptation to respond immediately, without waiting for the voice to read the translation – but once this rhythm was learned, the conversation was fluent and continuous.
Peter Bright, arstecnica.com, 2014/18/12
Role play: Do you think the Skype Translator is impressive? Try do do some translating yourselves! Go together in groups of four. One of you has to try and sell the Skype Translator to a big car manufacturing company in Germany. Another one of you plays the part of her German counterpart – a person with lots of questions about the new technology. The other two students are the translators. One translates into English and the other into German. Take rounds and swap roles, so that everybody can speak some English.
Composition: Do you think there is still value in learning foreign languages – given that computer translators will get better and better over the next few years? In the following article you’ll find more information about the potential and the current limits of this technology: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/what-would-a-world-without-language-barriers-look-like/390081/
Tips and Tricks: The short text that students have to read for preparation offers a lot of useful chunks they can use for the conversations.