For thousands of years, there has only been one way for governments, businesses, individuals and international organisations to communicate when they don’t share a language: hiring interpreters.

But what if that were to change?

Launching today, Speechly is an artificial intelligence (AI) powered, real-time translation tool. Designed for any organisation which needs to communicate with people who cannot speak the same language, it aims to revolutionise language translation.

Why is this new approach needed, and how does Speechly work?

The problem with language translation today

In our ever more connected world, demand for interpreters is at an all time high. Professional interpreters provide invaluable services which solve problems for individuals, businesses and governments.

However, while in many situations interpreters could never be replaced by technology, our dependence on them has serious flaws:

  • Interpreter fees are high – and rising

Standard interpretation fees can be very high indeed. For instance, the UK government’s border force pays £48/hour for freelance interpreters Monday-Friday, and as much £72/hour on Sundays. Meanwhile the British police spend some £450,000 on interpreters to help interview foreign crime suspects every week.

  • Interpreting is slow

Sourcing professional interpreters can be time consuming – especially for less common languages where the only available freelancers are often ‘booked up’ for weeks in advance. Even when an interpreter can be found at short notice, they will still have to travel to the site where they are needed – and delays can be critical in more time-sensitive situations.

  • Interpreting resources are often wasted in low-value tasks

All too often, interpreters are called in to translate fairly mundane or unimportant discussions. Does it really make sense, for instance, to spend time and money on interpreters to resolve minor visa issues, or to establish that someone wasn’t even a witness to a crime?

Speechly was designed by language experts and technology specialists to overcome these common problems and revolutionise our approach to interpretation.

Read more – Business interpretation – how much does it really cost?

What is Speechly?

Speechly is a cloud-based application that enables real-time translation between 26 languages. It is configured to work with Jabra devices (a manufacturer of headsets and conference call speakers) and allows one-to-one conversations between two individuals wearing headsets or talking into a speaker in the same room.

The tool works by using Microsoft’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) services, a kind of artificial intelligence. Speechly recognises the language used by the different speakers involved in a conversation and then simultaneously translates between the languages.

The first person speaks in their language and this is relayed moments later into the second person’s tongue. The second person then responds in their own language and the first speaker will hear the answer in their language. Speechly can also record the conversation and provide a transcript.

Speechly requires an internet connection to work and, once set up, allows anyone to communicate between the 26 global languages supported. In many cases, this avoids the need to bring in expensive interpreters.

And it can be used by almost anyone who needs to do in-person communication with foreign language speakers. From border forces to emergency services, healthcare workers to NGO staff, businesses to conference planners, academic researchers to journalists, Speechly provides fast, effective and accurate interpretation.

Speechly can currently translate between any of the following 26 languages: Arabic​, Cantonese, Catalan​, Chinese Simplified​, Chinese Traditional​, Danish​, Dutch​, English​, Finnish​, French​, German​, Hindi​, Italian​, Japanese​, Korean​, Norwegian​, Polish​, Portuguese (Brazil)​, Portuguese (Portugal)​, Russian​, Spanish​, Swedish​, Tamil​, Telugu​, Thai​, Turkish.

Speechly in action

So how would Speechly work at your organisation? The following three stories show how different types of organisation could use Speechly – and show why it is often preferable to using an interpreter.

  1. Chen and the border guard

Chen is a Mandarin speaker who has just arrived at a UK airport as part of a cultural exchange. Unfortunately, a mix-up at the embassy means he has travelled on a student visa, which isn’t quite correct. Fortunately, a minor administrative procedure would resolve the issue, yet Chen cannot speak English and so the border guard cannot explain what he needs to do.

In the past, the border force would have called up an interpreter to resolve the situation – costing at least £48 – a high fee to resolve a minor issue.

Fortunately, the team is using Speechly. The border guard hands Chen a Jabra headset and explains what needs to be done in English. Chen hears the instruction in Mandarin and minutes later has completed the procedure and is walking out of the airport, pleased and impressed by the service received.

  1. Elena and the nurse

Elena is a Colombian tourist who is on her dream walking holiday in rural Japan. Unfortunately, she seems to have picked up a nasty skin condition but cannot work out how to treat it. She heads to a local clinic where she shows the nurse what’s wrong, yet cannot answer any questions.

In the past, the nurse would have had to call in a Spanish interpreter to discuss the problem. However, there are relatively few Spanish interpreters working on the island of Shikoku, so Elena would have to return to the clinic two days later when the first interpreter finally became available.

Fortunately, the health clinic has invested in Speechly. The nurse can now ask Elena about her medical history, find out where she’s been so far on her hike, and prescribe an ointment. In a few minutes the issue is resolved and Elena can get back to enjoying her once-in-a-lifetime trip.

  1. Hasan at the conference

Hasan is an influential Turkish agricultural economist who has been invited to speak at a rural development conference in southern India. Hasan can get by in English, which is a language he shares with many of his hosts. However, many of the local delegates – and indeed those most desperate to discuss the implications of his work – only speak Tamil.

In the past, it would have been hard to facilitate these discussions. Tamil speakers would have found it difficult to ask Hasan their questions, and informal conversations on the conference side-lines would have been near-impossible.

However, the university which organised the conference had chosen to use Speechly. Now, Hasan literally walks around the conference hall wearing a Jabra headset and can speak to everyone in his native Turkish – whether those individuals speak Hindi, Tamil, Telugu or English.

Join the language translation revolution with Speechly

Speechly is revolutionising how individuals, businesses, the public sector and international organisations communicate. If you are ready to drastically reduce your interpretation costs, provide a more responsive service and delight your customers, start using Speechly today.