This paper explores published articles from online resources (internet) that depict a probable solution to near real-time language translation in support of targeting, situational understanding, and/or information collection. As technology shrinks the distance between nationalities and cultures, language remains a barrier that still prevents a shared understanding between the pair. This paper will examine how emerging technology can be leveraged to address language barriers in urban and isolated areas where a translator may not be available.
Keywords: Babel-Fish (the first online translator)
Emerging Technology: Babel-Fish Earbud Translators
The purpose of this paper is to address a problem that most intelligence units face concerning targeting, situational understanding, and information collection. Most intelligence units have 35 series military occupational specialties (MOS) that either require a language or have the ability to learn a language at the Defense Language Institute (DLI), Monterey, California. Intelligence Soldiers in these MOS use their languages for various intelligence tasks to produce and disseminate timely, relevant, accurate, predictive, and tailored intelligence to decision-makers.
Cryptologic Linguists (35P) are responsible for identifying foreign communications using signals equipment. Their role is crucial as the nation’s defense depends largely on information that comes from foreign languages. Many Cryptologic Linguists are assigned to units who do not have the correct coded billet for their specific foreign language. An impact to mission command could be a degrade in timely reporting as reports would need to be transmitted to an inorganic unit for processing.
Human Intelligence Collectors (35M) are responsible for information collection operations. They provide Army personnel with information about the enemy force’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential battle areas. Their role is often dependent on the use of a foreign language. Human Intelligence Collectors are often deployed abroad to locations outside their respective foreign languages. An impact to mission command could be a reliance on interpreters to assist Human Intelligence Collectors and a degrade in timely reporting.
Interpreter/Translators (09L) are responsible for interpreting and preparing translations between English and a foreign language. These Soldiers are more likely to be assigned to an area abroad where their foreign language would be of benefit. However, they often struggle with varying dialects. An impact to mission command could be from interpreters misinterpreting intent and meaning from key-leader engagements and/or communicating with foreign allies.
Additionally, any Soldier abroad may require the use of a foreign language in order to accomplish their mission. Often, these Soldiers do not have the necessary language to do so. An impact to mission command again could be from misinterpreting intent and meaning from key-leader engagements, communicating with foreign allies, providing humanitarian assistance, etc.
The problem that is ever apparent is having the correct language for every mission. Units are now deployed to or support operations in various countries utilizing Soldiers who do not have the correct language for that region and/or country. Currently, there are no technological solutions within the Intelligence Warfighting Function (IWfF) to address this issue. However, with advances in technology this could be a problem of the past.
Babel-Fish Earbud Translators. Google and various smaller companies unveiled new products between fall 2017 and spring 2018 that could be adapted to address current language barriers Soldiers currently face abroad during their operations. These products consist of a set of Bluetooth earbuds that use babel-fish software that assists in translating between 15 to 40 different languages depending on the company. All of these products have a conversation feature, on both iOS and Android, and let two users speak as the software automatically translates the spoken languages and allows each user to respond to their counterpart. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are working behind the scenes in making the systems more intelligent by creating huge databases with possible word fragments to reduce processing time. Current issues with this technology consist of background noise interference, current language database, and conversational coloquisms. While these are apparent issues, software engineers are making advances in order to improve this product. This technology is still in its infancy and will require additional development until it can be used abroad in austere environments.
Analysis on the Problem. Military units with required language billets are not always filled with Soldiers possessing the correct language for that billet. Crytologic Linguists and Human Intelligence Collecters are prime examples of this. Additionally, interpreters run into dialect issues due to differences in slang or the pronunciation of words on mulitple occasions. Further, Soldiers throughout the world operating in various countries do not always have access to Soldiers or interpreters with the necessary language to assist them in their missions. Ultimately as intelligence professionals, we strive to improve intelligence support to situational awareness, information collection, and targeting. Often, intelligence support to these tasks require data translation. This translation is often slow and does not support timely decisions for a commander.
Babel-fish earbud translators could be used in future austere environments to assist 35 series Soldiers (35P and 35M) or interpreters translate data in near real-time on the battlefield without necessarily having the correct foreign language or dialect. Soldiers who require language skills to translate data into intelligence could use this device and/or software in these austere environments to translate that data in near real-time and disseminate that information in order to assist in intelligence support to targeting and situational awareness. Additionally, MOS 09L could utilize this device/software to assist in their role as a translator. Further, any Soldier could use this device/software to support their mission through intelligence support to information collection, targeting, and situational understanding. Ultimately, this device/software would speed up processing time for analysts as they would receive the reports from the field at a faster rate. Thus, commanders at all echelons could target the enemy faster, decreasing processing time between sensors and shooters. Additionally, this would assist in the overall situational understanding not just from an enemy perspective but also in regards to working with multinational partners. Voice data could then be translated in multiple languages assisting unit commanders at all echelons. Further, intelligence collectors could use this emerging technology to derive enemy intent at a quicker rate providing the commander necessary time to process the information and make decisions.
This paper explored published articles from online resources (internet) that depicted a possible solution to language barriers that Crytologic Linguists, Human Intelligence Collectors, interpreters, and Soldiers face every day throughout the world in various situations and countries. This challenge is often apparent in the IWfF where successful intelligence criteria requires timely, relevant, accurate, predictive, and tailored data. Data in its raw form is often delivered in a foreign language. When language capabilities are sparse, this data is transmitted to outside organizations for translation. This process is far too slow and requires a solution. The babel-fish earbud translator could be the Army’s solution to this problem.
Recommendations. The unit should reach out to the private sector, particuarly the companies who produce babel-fish earbud translators, including Google, Company, Company, and Etc for further information. Addtionally, the unit should request hardware and software demonstrations. The unit could submit an ONS for the best product determined from unit requirements and the previous hardware/software demonstration. Further, the unit IWfF should engage TCM-F with their requirements in order to elevate their needs to the Army.