Think about the world without the language barriers in which you can speak to overseas without the
necessity to care about the mother tongue of the interlocutor. This concept remits to the Babelfish from the Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Many efforts have been made by large companies such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft to bring this scenario to the reality.
IBM started a project in 2001, that was completed in 2004, called The Multilingual Automatic Speech-to-Speech Translator (MASTOR), “The system is the first Speech to Speech system that allows for bidirectional (English-Mandarin) free-form speech input and output“. More recently, Microsoft Research released a demo video about its realtime time translator telephone that works in English and German, the native languages of the two engineers responsible for this project. Google also is working in an Android application for realtime translation that could make any language Lingua Franca.
It is hard to think about accurate translations for the next few years since languages are so unique that you can’t translate something with its literal meaning. Aside the efforts, the average end user is not constantly talking overseas, and personally, this services could generate an invaluable portable translator when you’re on vacation.