Another incremental step. The "science" of translating one human language to another was once thought a trivial task for computers, but it turned out more "art" was needed. Lots of text-to-text translators exist, which succeed to varying degrees.
A great example of that is the below. I saw the article about Kate's butt picture being published in a German tabloid newspaper today. Below is the headline.
I don't speak German but the Bing translator turns it into the below. For anyone that speaks German is that an accurate translation?
The other problem of course is there is a lot of nuance in speech. Take the word, 'cool,' in English. considerable context is needed sometimes to understand what the speaker is saying.
Danke für dieses
Thank you for this
ass horny weekend!
Bild - German newspaper
Yeah well.. it's a very literal translation
And this is the problem with online translations so far.. these programs do not understand syntax, grammar and the different meanings of words.
The german word "geil" (a colloquialism) means cool, awesome etc but it also means horny as in "He/she's horny and wants to have sex"
Programs do not take this into account and go for the most direct route without regard to context. In that regard i always know when i get emails from my overseas customers who are bad english speakers/writers and who constantly use Google translate.
Often enough i had to confirm multiple times by email to get a picture of what they want because the garbled mess that Google sometimes produces is wholy inadequate for business communication where real money is at stake when two people misunderstand each other due to the language barrier.
When programs reach the state where they can accurately distinguish between cool/cold and cool/awesome then we're on the right track.
How that would work in real time i don't know.. many languages have totally different grammar and sentence structure so how would a program know what you want to say so it will be able to translate without delay? It would have to be clairvoyant.
A Star Trek style universal translator will probably never work like it did in the show but i'd settle for a small delay until i finish the sentence for an accurate translation. it would not be fluid like a normal conversation but it should do the trick.