Information Warfare: February 6, 2004

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When non-English speaking coalition troops began to arrive in Iraq in late 2003, they brought with them the need solve the language problem in communicating with the American troops that supplied many support services and some combat back up. While the new troops had some English speakers with them, they didn't have enough bi-lingual troops available a translator every time one was needed. The U.S. Navy has a solution, though, an Internet instant messaging (IM) and chat system that did automatic translations between many different languages. This system used the same technology you can find on many web sites that provide automatic translations. The only problem with these translations is that, using normal conversation, they will only translate about 70 percent of the text. But if you use simple "radio speak", you will get close to a hundred percent translation. "Radio speak" is the kind of simple (small vocabulary), short sentence format long used by the military for radio conversations. "Radio speak" evolved early in the history of military radio use because the equipment was crude by today's standards and the reception often poor. So by keeping the conversations simple, you were more likely to get through. The navy and civilian contractors installed the servers with the chat, IM and translation software on them in Iraq in late 2003. This made it a lot easier for the various contingents to communicate and the translation system has seen heavy use since then. Languages in the system were English, Spanish, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian. 

 


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