Breakthrough in translation hurdles

Himalayan News Service

Bhopal, January 16:

A group of Indian innovators has devised a cheap and user-friendly technological solution to the communication problems posed by the diversity of languages in the country and abroad. Past attempts to break the language barrier proved too costly to be implemented on a mass scale, reports Grassroots Features. But the new low-cost innovation could solve this impossible hurdle to communication and development.

Hemant Babu, who has worked on the project for two years, said this technology to increase linguistic tolerance works on the same principle as FM radio. Non-technical users, he assured, will be able to operate it with ease. For instance, at a conference where English speakers are addressing a Hindi-speaking audience, listeners will be provided with a pocket-sized radio set and headphones. With the aid of these, the audience can listen to simultaneous translations of the speeches by an interpreter, being transmitted over a low band frequency from a control room in the conference centre. The radio sets, which can be reused over a long period of time, cost between Rs 35 Indian Currency (IC) and Rs 120 IC. In late November, this simple method was successfully used at a three-day national convention in Bhopal, where a number of experts had gathered to discuss various issues related to the Union Carbide gas disaster.

Munawar Husain, a victim, said, “With the radio set we were able to ask questions directly to experts and understand their answers. For the first time I was able to express my views and interact with experts”. The Bhopal conference was attended by Babu and other representatives of the informal group that has developed this revolutionary aid to multi-lingual communication. The innovators, who are part of an international network of voluntary interpreters, activists and technicians called ‘Babels’, wish to disseminate their technology free of charge.

The translation equipment and technology used are part of a larger political process to break linguistic barriers across cultures and regions.