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Nothing Lost in the Translation

NCJ Number
Date Published
3 pages
This article describes four types of language translation devices and technologies that could reduce law enforcement and corrections personnel's dependence on human translators in their communications with non-English-speaking individuals.
Until recently, the only way for law enforcement and corrections personnel to communicate with non-English-speaking individuals was through human interpreters. Currently, however, there are existing or imminent commercially available language translation devices that can often eliminate the need for a human translator. The Voice Response Translator (VRT) is a portable electronic translation device that emits short, prerecorded phrases in several languages. The user selects a language and speaks a trigger phrase in English into the VRT. The VRT uses voice recognition technology to determine which phrase to emit in response to the spoken command. The VRT has performed well in field tests. Another device, called CopTrans, employs a two-way translation software that allows users to speak, each in his/her own language, and then translate the words into a selected other language. CopTrans can be operated through a keyboard or hands-free spoken commands. A similar software, called SpeechTrans, uses input from spoken interviews to complete electronic forms automatically. Another device, called Phraselator, is a handheld, one-way, voice-to-voice translation system that translates English into one or more target languages. Using speech-recognition technology, it matches the spoken English phrase with a prerecorded phrase in the target language, which is played through a speaker on the device. In translating written materials, SYSTRAN Software offers desktop products, client/server systems, and Internet services that may be applicable to law enforcement and corrections in translating Web site content, documents, letters, e-mails, and other text into 36 languages.