An electronic device that will instantly translate the spoken word will be invented within the next five years, according to a book published this week by the British Council. The Language Machine by Eric Atwell predicts future technological developments that could result in widespread redundancies in the language professions . Such technology could also reduce interest in learning English and threaten the overseas student market.
The British Council may be underestimating the consequences, however. The Babel fish - a creature that can translate any language into your mother tongue, as described by Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - "by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation".