Babel Fish

These days I'm trying to make a reservation for our summer holidays in Greece, which involves exchange of many e-mails with Greek apartment owners. What I've noticed this year is that their command of English has noticeably improved from the last year. But I suspect it's not Greeks taking additional English lessons, but Google improving its translation service. Namely, already in previous years I saw tell-tale signs of apartment owners communicating with me through Google translate, but it seems this trend only intensified lately. And it is not just written communication that is being mediated by Google translate. Last year while in Greece, I visited a rental agency. We first tried to arrange a deal using the 20 English words the owner understood, but then we resorted to Google translate as suggested by agency owner. I typed my request in English on his computer, he read the translated version and responded by writing in Greek, and after some back and forth we managed to arrange a deal.

Science fiction literature never deals with half-baked ideas. In fiction, video communication is instant and holographic, self-driving cars are fast and mean-looking, and babel fish is flawless and inconspicuous. But reality is sketchy and gradual, so it's hard to see that some science fiction concepts that only a decade ago seemed completely out of our reach are quickly becoming a reality.

And as far as babel fish is concerned, I just hope that Google translate will escape the premonition made by Douglas Adams

Meanwhile the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different cultures and races, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.

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