“Hearts and minds” has been used as a military technique since the Malayan Emergency – the idea being that if soldiers win the support of the local people, it will be easier for them to effect change.
But what if the people on the front line don’t speak the local language? They then become reliant on interpreters, which slows down the connection between people. This problem has been recognised by the US military, who have developed a simultaneous translation programme that runs on a smartphone.
Known as Transtac (short for “translation system for tactical use”), the app is currently being tested in Afghanistan, and can translate from English into Dari and Pashtu and vice versa. From the Guardian:
David McKim, an intelligence officer with the US army, said the system was in a six-month test phase, with just a handful of devices likely to see action in Paktika.
“The idea is to give soldiers the ability to communicate, even if it is just on a basic level, with the Afghan people when an interpreter isn’t available,” he said.
Hopefully this technology will help the armed forces in Afghanistan, and become widely available for other users also.