Welcome back to another edition of Creative Linguistics.
If you’ve read our previous posts, you’ll know that we’ve analysed a few different topics already; from the creation of fictional languages, to a consideration of both widely spoken & endangered languages as well.
While the topics themselves may have been different, these articles have all centred on a central theme: progression and development, and we’ve been linking this to the work we do too.
If you consider this in terms of a story, you could say we’ve already looked at the beginning and middle. With that behind us, there’s only one place left to look for the conclusion of our little trilogy.
We won’t be covering “the end” exactly; that would be a bit dramatic and, of course, languages aren’t going away any time soon!
Instead, we want to look ahead at what the future may hold.
We’ll consider a few things in relation to this topic, but mainly focus on how language—and in particular, the language service industry—has been (and will be) influenced by future technologies.
As we tinker with Artificial Intelligence (AI), play around with Virtual Reality (VR), and produce faster computers with each passing year, it’s safe to say that we’re seeing fantastic technological advancements being developed. In fact, it’s now perhaps harder to find something that’s not being influenced by technology!
Join us as we take a look at where this industry—and our agency’s involvement in it—may be headed in the near future.
We can’t deny that language and communication have been at the forefront of a technological revolution.
Not only have the methods of communication become more advanced; with mobile & tablet technology allowing all sorts of creative ways to engage with one another; but combined with our near-constant connection to the internet, all sorts of opportunities are readily available. Now, people can easily connect the world over, all from the palm of their hands.
The language service industry is no stranger to these changes either. We’ve seen a number of major developments influence the industry in recent years (though more on that shortly) and we’re positive this trend will continue into the future.
However; for us at DA Languages Ltd, we’ve already seen how technology can benefit the services that we deliver.
Our agency has been embracing these changes for the better.
An example of this can be seen within the last two years. Including 2016 and ’17, we’ve now twice been considered for the NHS in the North West’s Innovation Award. These awards come from their annual Excellence in Supply Awards which celebrate collaboration between the NHS and a variety of businesses, agencies, and trusts.
For us, our nomination has centred on the DA Link Online Portal and recently, our new online Training Centre. The DA Link Portal is available (free) to all registered linguists, clients, and is used by our internal staff too. With it, we manage almost everything within our business on a daily basis; from Translations to Interpretings, Recruitment to Resources, and more! The Training Centre is also a free service and available to all approved linguists. It provides interactive guidance and training for them to access.
DA Link is integral to the management of our services (and so too our linguist’s & client’s management of their bookings). It was designed to be straightforward and simple to use. Since its launch in 2014, we’ve continued to tweak it for optimal efficiency; it’s adaptable to suit our client’s needs.
As a result of this innovation, we’re able to focus on other aspects of our agency. This includes building better working relationships, and delivering quality care to the clients and linguists whom we work with.
Our success in this area is evident, not just from the consideration of the Innovation Award, but also from the two other category nominations we’ve received! Patient Experience and Acute Medical. You can find out more here, but watch this space to find out the results after the 19th October! In the meantime, you can also take a look elsewhere on the site to see our client testimonials and feedback.
While it’s important for us to pay attention to changes affecting our industry and implement our own changes too, it doesn’t hurt to look a little further afield.
We can’t help but wonder at the potential technologies that may affect our future.
One particular realm of interest is Artificial Intelligence; commonly referred to as AI. You’ll likely have seen all sorts of news reports in recent years, with AI’s competing against humans in stylised “battles” for superiority; from games of chess, to translation speed tests too!
On most occasions, humanity has come out on top, but there have been upsets too; thankfully, only to our personal pride, so we’ve little cause to worry about a Terminator scale uprising!
The upsets do point to some interesting developments however, and AI is becoming an increasingly intriguing topic regarding its potential applications.
For instance, the BBC recently reported on AI that is being developed to aid in Law, particularly where argument and reasoning are concerned. These types of judgements are inherently human, so you’d be forgiven for writing off machines as being too calculating and cold to understand the nuances of emotion needed when making a critical judgement. However, the report indicates:
“We are building software that recognises when people use arguments based on witness testimony, and can then critique them, pointing out the ways in which witnesses may be biased or unreliable”.
The article offers an interesting insight into the reasons why AI can be useful in this area. Perhaps the calculative side would be of more use to us than we think? Overall though, it highlights the difficulty of making an AI work as accurately as we desire. Historically speaking, AI’s – and their influential ‘Assistant’ counterparts in our mobile phones – can often run into problems when dealing with more complex tasks.
Using personal assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, or Amazon’s Alexa/Echo certainly have their merits, but absolute accuracy is undoubtedly an issue. You may have heard the story where, in the USA, a news anchor quoted a speech command live on-air; this resulted in hundreds of devices inadvertently ordering doll-houses for surprised, unsuspecting owners.
This sort of voice command technology is being refined however, and it’s important to note there are often safeguards that can prevent errors like the one above. However, it’s also important to note how far we’ve come: particularly as we focus on developing AI, or other intelligent programming, that can assist in completing increasingly complex tasks, like Translation.
Speed, Accuracy and Machine Translation
It’s no secret that Translation requires skill. It takes years of training, experience, and any translator will tell you that it’s a process of continually honing and improving their abilities.
However, Translations are also in incredibly high demand. We’ve talked before about how the world is a global community, but as communicating becomes easier the need to translate and interpret increases too.
One thing we’ve noted in particular, is the demand for speed.
As demand goes up, maintaining quality becomes a bigger part of the challenge, but it’s not impossible to overcome. This is where technology can be useful. For Translation, that means utilising software, generally known as Machine Translation (MT). This software can be used in tandem with a Translator.
MT software builds-up a database of words and phrases that can be easily integrated into a text. The software will scan the document you want translated and transfer in the appropriate translations. This is done at a significantly faster rate than a human translator. For lengthy documents, the benefits speak for themselves.
MT software also “learns” from each completed job, essentially making it “smarter”. Such software requires an immense about of data though and that’s not as easy to come by as you might expect. In cases where a language is less common (and so less complete on a database) an MT’s results can be imperfect; however, it’s still a useful time saving tool for a translator to use.
While it’s certainly useful, trust us when we say that speed does not guarantee quality (or, indeed, accuracy). In this respect, human intervention is still undeniably superior, but that’s not to say both methods won’t sometimes lead to humorous results.
This is why we talk about ‘balance’ and utilising technology when it’s necessary.
The benefits are clear, but you have to watch out for the pitfalls too.
Don’t just take my word for it though; you can read our ‘In the Spotlight’ interviews from two of our own Translators: Iwona and Carmen. They shed some additional light on the subject, but you can also read our “Machine Translation: What you need to know” blog, too! There’s also a brief segment available from renowned linguist John McWhorter.
Progressing into the Future
Our aim is to continue integrating and utilising quality technology for our services into the future. As the world changes, we recognise that innovation is essential to our success.
However; ultimately, it’s also about balance.
While we’re certainly eager to innovate, we want to reassure you that we won’t be losing that all-important personal touch; not now, not ever!
You can trust in our teams of co-ordinators, staff, and management, to speak with you! We’ll be happy to discuss your options and how we can help.
Thank you for reading another Creative Linguistics feature; we hope you enjoyed it! You can look forward to another edition coming out in early November, with plenty more coming in the future.
If you’ve any queries about the topics discussed, feel free to reach out to Marketing via firstname.lastname@example.org, or Contact Us for other queries!
For linguists who’ve worked with us, we’ll be featuring this article, along with a few others, in October’s edition of The DA Languages Monthly Report, so stay tuned!