One of the great things about running ELTjam HQ from a co-working space is the different people and businesses working alongside us. We were amazed the other week to find that, unbeknownst to us, fellow co-worker and entrepreneur Marcel Goya has been working away on LinguSocial, a platform for voice translation that could change everything.
Can you briefly explain what LinguSocial does?
LinguSocial is a platform that lets you do video and voice chats, voice calls to landlines and mobiles and instant messaging with real-time automatic translation from within your browser, landline or smartphone. People can choose between using machine translation for a very cheap price or having real interpreters. We are going to offer the following pricing tiers for the interpreting service:
- Voluntary (completely free)
- Beginner / Hobbyists
- Professionals (have to be certified)
Only non-profits and charities will be able to use the voluntary service. The interpreters can decide for themselves if they want to offer their services to them.
What’s your background in languages?
I don’t have a professional background but I speak two languages fluently and my wife’s family also speaks Spanish, which creates a language barrier because I don’t speak Spanish at all. I’ve been working as a developer all my life and that’s why I approach language barriers from a different perspective.
Why did you decide to build it?
The idea of building the platform grew out of the frustration I experienced by not being able to communicate with my parents-in-law. I always had to rely on my wife to act as an interpreter for us. At the time there was no product on the market that allowed you to have automatically translated video chats, so I built a prototype and tested it with my in-laws. The experience was absolutely incredible and I realised that this platform can change the way people access translation and interpretation services worldwide.
Who are your ideal customers and how do you expect them to use LinguSocial?
We have three target groups:
- Individuals / Digital nomads They can communicate with friends and learn a new language by doing machine-translated video chats, instant messaging etc. They can also do cheap international calls with their loved ones when they’re travelling abroad.
- B2B Businesses will likely use interpreters to communicate with other businesses around the world. They will probably do video chats or make voice calls to landlines & mobiles.
- Non-profits / Charities Organisations like the Red Cross can use our platform and get access to interpreters from all over the world who are willing to interpret voluntarily. They only have to pay the connection fee if they make outbound voice calls but the interpreting service will be free. This enables the organisation to handle local or global emergency situations more efficiently and the interpreters can do something good and also gain work experience.
The most used features will be the video chat and the outbound voice calls to landlines or mobiles. The interpreters are going to play a major role. We’re just giving them the tools to do a great job and provide the best possible service.
What are the customers currently doing to get around the language problem?
The general problem at the moment is that access to interpreters is mainly possible by using local agencies who work with a small pool of local interpreters. This is very expensive and also not very flexible when the customer needs to have access to a qualified interpreter within a short period of time. Because of that, large enterprises and government agencies tend to hire interpreters directly, so that they have constant access to interpreting services.
What aspects of communication does this system work well for? Are there any things that it can’t do well?
Making voice calls is the key feature of our platform because it allows our customers to simply call a telephone number anywhere in the world and talk to a person who doesn’t speak his/her language. Also doing video chats makes the experience much more personal. There are obviously limits with the machine translation technology. We are aware of them and we know that they’re not going to replace human interpreters soon. But we also think that our customers can use machine translation to have conversations in situations where the context doesn’t have to be 100% correct and it’s also low-cost.
Do you expect this technology and platform to become ubiquitous?
I hope so, because I think that this platform can help people from all over the world to make communication between them easier.
What language learning features are there in your platform?
With our platform people will be able to see and hear the translation of what they’ve said, no matter if they’re having a video chat, on a voice call or they’re instant messaging. They can also add their favourite translations to a phrasebook or get them sent via text message to their phones. This is handy when people are travelling abroad and when they have to communicate with locals.
Do you plan on adding any more learning features?
We’re planning to create a training centre for the interpreters when we start building the marketplace for them. We think that giving non-professional interpreters the best tools to provide a great service is going to benefit the interpreting industry as a whole.
What impact do you expect this tech to have on people’s desire to learn languages?
I’m sure that it will increase a lot, especially for people who might consider working as an interpreter but are put off by the low pay they receive from the agencies they’re working for.
How do interpreters feel about LinguSocial?
I don’t think machine translation will be replacing human interpreters anytime soon. I think it’s positive when people talk about this kind of stuff because it shows the importance of having professional interpreters. One of the main reasons for developing the platform was to liberate professional interpreters from working for agencies and receiving low pay and not being flexible with their working hours. With our platform they’ll be receiving 70% of the money we charge our clients and they can also work whenever and wherever they want. Marcel Goya is a 31 year old software developer and the founder of LinguSocial. Originally from Germany, he’s been living in London for the past 7 years. His wife is from Colombia and she is the reason for his interest in learning new languages.
What do you think?
Would people learn English (or any language) if the technology meant it was no longer necessary? Could having interpreters as readily available as Uber taxis mean more businesses would use the service instead of putting staff through long and costly language programs?