Earlier in October, Michael Arrington talked about the slow race to a translating phone. The product translates voice into another language and then speaks the translation to the listener. And Google is working on it.
It's indeed a very promising technology, as we can see on this demo. This actually would make intercultural communications more accessible. Michael Arrington goes even further saying that being able to pick up the phone and talk to someone without a common language would help make the world a smaller place.
The thing is that culture is deeply anchored into language. And talking with each other in a specific language means sharing cultural traits, not only mere chatting. Using a translating phone means talking in the same way you talk to friends from your country, although the two people aren't sharing same cultural values. At first sight I don't feel the culture dimension of the product.
Though today's globalization is about using foreign languages in order to create a relationship through a meaningful cultural connection. I don't think this technology is going to forge business relationships and friendships easier in the future. Experts estimate that the words we say barely represent 10% of human communication.
Let's say voice translation was the first part. What're we going to do when adding video and body language issues?
New social behaviours will appear anyway as the translating phone is coming in the following months.