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SWBC Translation Experiments

swbc translation experiments

Check out my SWBC translation experiments. I have discovered we can use off-the-shelf smartphone translation apps to understand foreign language broadcasts.

So, I have been experimenting with approaches for near real time translation of foreign language broadcasts, with some real success. Since videos are worth a thousand words, take a look, and then I will explain more.

As you saw, it’s fairly easy to get your SDR connected to Microsoft Translator app running in an Android emulator. Everything is working in Windows 10. You can use the VB-Audio Cable to route shortwave audio to the microphone input in the app. Just make sure to configure the Blue Stacks 5 emulator to accept the virtual audio cable as its microphone input.

I did experiments with a few minutes of six different languages: Korean, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic. How well did these translations work? Fairly well, surprisingly. Korean was best, but all six provided enough English translation to at least understand the topic being broadcast.

I found the best translation mode to be “auto”. In this mode, the app listens for either language, and recognizes that is being said in bursts of a few sentences. Then, in addition to the text printout of both languages, a female voice reads you the translation.

For my initial SWBC translation experiments, I stuck with strong signals in the 31, 25 and 22 meter bands. In all cases, I tried to get at least 30-40 dB signal to noise ratio to give the translator a chance.

SWBC Translation Experiments – Try These Yourself

All of the software I used is free. Unlike the browser version of the translation tools, the Android apps do not appear to have limitations. One you have your Android Emulator running, you just log into PlayStore and install Google or Microsoft Translate.

You could do the same thing running a real cable from your radio to your smartphone. But this requires adapters to fit the TRRS microphone connector on your phone, as well as some attenuation and DC blocking. Your virtual audio cable within Windows 10 keeps everything simple with the proper levels.

I would love to hear about your results.


  1. Guy Atkins says:

    Excellent experiments, John! I’ve been using the Google Translate App directly through my smartphone’s microphone, but as you point out that is not the best way.

    I wasn’t aware of Android emulators, so I’ll give one of them a try along with VAC that I have installed.

    I was impressed with your results even with some noise present on the frequencies. My hope is to accomplish some reasonable translation of foreign medium wave signals during coastal DXpeditions. The Chinese mainland stations can be particularly strong and clear, asking with certain South Korean outlets like HLCA on 972.

  2. Mark Lucas says:

    Following your set up with BlueStacks and Microsoft Translator, I have all working well with SDRuno using Virtual Audio Cable that I already had installed. It seems to follow the audio better on Auto with spoken speech off and continues to run until there is a pause or when music starts. It does apparently timeout after a while. As you said, it’s not perfect but allows you to have a good understanding of the conversation. Although some translations are most amusing.

    I’ve also routed the browser audio to the translator and have used some web SDRs as well As a bonus it works with streaming content and YouTube videos.

    I’ve successfully translated Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic. I did notice not all the supported languages are available in Auto mode. I did translate Romanian but it’s not in Auto mode.

    I tried Google Translate but wasn’t able to make it work properly.

    Thanks much for all your hard work in our radio hobby !

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