Star Trek’s Universal Translator Device, Not Just The Work of Science Fiction

Anyone who has ever watched an episode of Star Trek would no doubt have marveled at William Shatner’s Universal Translator device. The cult television show allowed its characters to communicate seamlessly with alien species using a simple device; it was devices and ideas like this that kept the sci-fi audience hooked.

Well, thanks to South African based software developer and translation expert Dwayne Bailey, the Universal Translator may no longer be the stuff of fiction.

Whilst still in its embryonic stage, by setting up in 2001, a non-profit organisation aimed at promoting free and open-source translation software, Dwayne has helped to break down the barrier between disparate African communities and computers.

“I saw a link between the need for African languages on computers and wondered why someone would have to learn English to use a computer” Bailey says. By increasing its capabilities and expertise, the work of the organisation has acted as the catalyst for the creation and launch of Microsoft products in local languages.

By promoting open-source software, and helping to convince technology giants like Microsoft that they had to cater for the needs of the global computer audience, Dwayne has ensured that non-English speakers are able to create and build their own unique online communities, focused on their own issues. By removing the language barriers traditionally built in to software, the organisation has played a pivotal role in allowing non-English speaking communities in Africa to realise the full potential of the online world.

There is however, a long way to go before we are able to emulate Captain Kirk and his crew traversing the Galaxy, facing no language barriers. Rather, with the help of organisations like, coupled with the assistance of experienced translation agencies and services, then the language barriers which were once impenetrable walls, are starting to crumble. Until these barriers are completely removed however, we can only marvel at the Star Trek universe, and just hope that one day we too will all have a Universal Translator device. Beam me up Scotty.

At Today Translations, we have a team of professional translators, interpreters and linguists with many years of cultural knowledge. Their fluency and linguistic knowledge is combined with cultural understanding to create accurate translations in over 160 languages. To discuss you translation requirements, please call us on +44 (0) 207 397 2770 , or email us at [email protected].