Is our public safety being put at risk because of a lack of language and training understanding?

In 1996 my journey began, quite literally actually. I started driving long distance haulage and going to night school to improve my German. This was because to get where I needed to be, I had to attain the top 2% in Maths, German and English. This, in essence, was the start of my real love of languages and all because I wanted to complete my degree in IT Sales and Marketing, in Germany, in German. The pre-requisites for starting this “fully funded from the union” retraining program was pretty tough to swallow at first. However, when I came to start the course, it became abundantly clear as to why.

I completed my consolidated 5-year course in just short of 3 years and was awarded the highest ever marked paper in the whole of Germany for my paper on “Selling KVM switches to the German market, from England, using a distributor network”.  (99%)

I attribute a large portion of this success to my German and English tutor during this period of my life, as she was so passionate about the subject matter of language it was impossible to not absorb it by osmosis, never mind anything else. And this passion now runs through me today.

Had it not been for the fact that these pre-requisites were strictly adhered to, I would not have been able to be taught to such a high level in a language that wasn’t my mother tongue. Being able to impart knowledge on another, as any coach, teacher or professor will testify, is not an easy job. Having to do this when the person receiving that knowledge is also limited by their lack of language within which it is being taught, makes it near impossible.

So on to my question of the day! Is our public safety being put at risk because of a lack of language and training understanding?

I ask this for a number of reasons, not least of which because of my very own personal experience; which I believe places me in a very unique position of authority.

  1. Companies, organisations, schools, universities, sports clubs, hospitals, small business, in fact, every organisation who could be in contact with the general public, in whatever means, are mandated to deliver health and safety training to all of their staff.
  2. Not all of the staff in these companies/ organisations are native speakers of the companies’ corporate language.
  3. Financial cuts to both public and private sector companies/ organisations.
  4. Brexit
  5. Trump
  6. Polarised political views
  7. And I could continue!

It is quite alarming, when I’m talking to potential prospects about their language requirements for their corporate e-learning material, how many say “well they should speak [INSERT LANGUAGE] because they live in this country” or “It would cost us far too much to do this in all [INSERT QUANTITY] languages of the people we employ”, or something else along those lines. Yet they are all willing to take on these employees because of their work ethic and their acceptance to work at a lower pay grade than most of the domestic low-cost workers in that country. Not only is this practice putting the lives and welfare of these workers at risk, but all that of the general public too. How can they expect an employee, who does not have the corporate language of that company as their mother tongue, to be able to be schooled on Health & Safety?

So in these times of e-learning, where it is now being used consistently for cost saving purposes as well as ease of deployment on a global scale, wouldn’t it be “SAFER” for all involved, if the most critical of training is at least conducted in the mother tongue of the scholar?

Should we charge to quote?

I’m currently thinking of ways of taking ourselves out of the continued, “Also-Rans” situation when a potential client just uses (abuses) us to fulfil their “3-quote” due diligence requirement.

Preamble:

Over the last 18 months, I’ve had a potential client request a number of quotations. Each time they have been left open as a “maybe but not just yet” – First off this tells me that I’ve not done my job right (or in theory anyway), which in its own right is a bit of a worry, as I’ve been doing this job for long enough to know when, and when not, to quote. Secondly, when I did a little bit of digging the other day, I noticed that 2 of the jobs we quoted for have been completed but even when armed with this knowledge I was informed by my contact there that they were still on hold. Curious to say the least. Finally, another request came in for a quote and I’d pretty much had enough of being made to look a fool. Not only does this affect my KPIs but it also, far more importantly, takes me away from working with other potentials who are far more likely to respect the work I do for them and honour me with an answer either way. So this time I pushed back and I’ve heard nothing since.

Why does quoting cost so much?

In its most simple form, there are approximately 4 people involved in preparing an accurate new quote for a new prospect. There is a tech team, a projects team, a finance team and a sales team. We’re very thorough in our approach and this reaps rewards later in the process so it is generally considered time well spent, provided that they say yes at some point of course. It is all part of the client acquisition process and it is also the reason why it forms part of our KPIs. Depending on the magnitude of the request, this can become a quite lengthy process too and involve almost double the number of personnel. Consequently, this process has a real monetary value associated with it, one which we offer for free as part of our service. For the most part, this later becomes a much simpler process, once the client is on-boarded, and the cost of quoting is then reduced.

When a client, therefore, repeatedly goes through the same initial process time and time again, without ordering, this can become an issue. To resolve this issue,  on this occasion, I did something that I’ve not had to do before in this industry. I charged for the quote, well I told them that I would be doing at least, they consequently said that they didn’t want it and I’ve, unsurprisingly, not heard from them since.

So here’s my question! Do you believe that you should charge for quotations, and at what point in the client acquisition process do you make that decision?

Or, do you believe that they should always be factored into the cost of sale?

 

Integrity

Here in the UK, it is the day of our general election and this latest “buzz word” has become one of the most over-, and misused, words during a dirty and personal campaign. One where honesty and morals were certainly not on the top of everyone’s agenda. Not surprisingly then, upon hearing someone tell you how honest and moral they are, your initial reaction is one of mistrust. Politicians certainly have a lot to answer for!

But is it just politicians who are to blame? No, is the short answer. They are the ones who are “en vogue” right now but just a short step back in time provides us with evidence of other “supposable” reputable groups of people doing the exact same thing. Bankers, the Police, Lawyers, Priests, Kings, Queens, celebrities, in fact, the list goes on and on and all of whom have somehow been entangled in some reputation damaging scandal that has resulted in mistrust. We’ve created a whole new generation of scepticism.

In my industry, as a language service provider, we too have had our fair share of scandal and bad press. You don’t have to do too much Googling to uncover some highly amusing bad translations, warring factions within a company causing irreparable damage to it and its ultimate demise, and stories of rabbits becoming accredited court interpreters. Is there any wonder then, when a sales person, who also carries with them a professional stigma too, approaches somebody about being able to help them with their language needs that they get a very frosty response? It is, quite frankly, a difficult one to overcome. Especially as within this industry there is a very strong human bias in the final delivery of the service. Linguists, Project Managers, File Technicians, Vendor Management Teams, Salespeople and then all the usual company administration teams, all mean that, at some point, mistakes are inevitable. Therefore a strong emphasis on how you, as a company and a salesperson, deal with these human errors is something that can truly distinguish you from your peers.

It is herein that the word integrity is of real value! Do you have an integrity DNA strand in your professional and personal lifeline?

In a world where social media places your life on public display, it can be very easy for somebody to take a look at what you’re saying and doing almost 24/7. In fact, when somebody doesn’t have a social media presence, they are often seen as “wanting to hide something”. So here’s the rub, whenever you’re online, be that on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or wherever, you have to be aware that this is going to become your digital DNA, both as a person and as a company. If integrity doesn’t shine through here, then you might as well have a 1-star review on Amazon.

The power of communication and what this means for Article 50

So last week I wrote about the dimensions of communication and I was flattered by the response I received. But the biggest impact by far was that only a day or two after first releasing the post that I was hit with the epiphany about what it is we provide in the language industry.

Synopsis:

Over a number of years now I’ve been asking myself what it is I actually do that helps others. Don’t get me wrong I know that I help people and businesses but what is it exactly that they get from me? After writing my, to date, best blog of the year last week I had an epiphany. Whatever way you want to frame it, the answer to long term question has been answered and the answer is pretty simple, but still very profound. I help people communicate in such a manner that they build trust with people who do not speak their language.

With the submission, today, of Article 50 there is never a more important time in our country’s recent history where communication in multiple languages is going to be of utmost importance. And building new foundations of trust are absolutely paramount.

The power of communication

Throughout our entire lives, we’re influenced by our environment and those who communicate within it. It is initially how we gain the knowledge of our first language, but it goes far deeper than that. Our political viewpoints, our life lessons, our futures all begin with how we are communicated to and from where; making things extremely complicated when we get older if our views later differ from those of whom we uphold the greatest amount of respect. When this happens it demonstrates a level of adult development beyond that of the majority (72%), as they have begun their transition into Postconventional Understanding.

If you find the time to read the paper on Ego Development Theory by Susanne Cook-Greuter you’ll gain significant insight into this fascinating area of behavioural science. In short, those who can “break the mould” and begin thinking individually, and further, are the ones who have a significantly more grounded understanding of how important communication really is and rather than impose this upon others, they are more likely to listen and question their own views in order to further their own understanding and development.

Volume of noise

As we here in the UK enter into the next phase of our country’s history, there is going to be a huge amount of rhetoric from both divides rebuking and counter claiming the other sides “body of Truth”. Sadly for us to be able to hear the real discussions we have to filter out all this noise and begin to look for those individuals who demonstrate a far greater propensity to listen and review than they do posturing as “know it alls”. It is often said that the ones to be more mindful of are the quietest in the room and this is very sound advice. All of that said, Article 50 has now been instigated and there is going to be some significant shouting to filter out over the coming 2 years but we, the United Kingdom, need to also become the most attentive listeners throughout this period.

Communication channels

Throughout the Article 50 process, we’re going to be engaged in negotiations with countries who’s primary language is NOT English. (Oh yeah, that old chestnut!!) Well yes, in fact, older than you may think. Religious or not what was written in the 1 Corinthians 14: 10-12 is probably more important on this, 29th March 2017 than ever before.

Quote: “Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.”

We HAVE to ensure that over the next 24 months our message is clear, concise and in a language that the receiving party understands. This does not just mean the translated text it means the context of what we are saying needs to be expressed within that text. The people we are negotiating with, need to believe us, trust us and moreover have a positive emotional connection with us. If the information we provide them with does not convey these messages then our future, and that of our children and grandchildren will be in serious jeopardy.

Conclusion

To keep this short I will say this, never has the importance of my job seemed so significant. And never before has an epiphany of that importance arrived in such a timely manner. Accurate communication creates trust, and trust is what builds long-term relationships.

TGL-2017

Within what dimension is AI communication?

Before I start I have to warn you that this blog is going to be a little longer than you’re used to from me!

Synopsis:

AI is a new buzz word amongst a number of my peers in the language industry and it spans across a variety of other industry sectors too. It has been given an elevated profile in recent months with the introduction of NMT (Neural Machine Translation) by Microsoft and Google. This, in simplistic terms, is machine translation in a large neural network trained by deep structured learning techniques. The results are producing some “human-like” translated content, even if the source of the original content is not entirely accurate. They believe that the accuracy will follow over time, and I don’t doubt that it will get better, but these results could have a more sinister impact in today’s modern communication absorption than on face value. I blogged about this previously. Since writing that piece I’ve been privileged to speak with some highly read individuals on the subject matter of AI, one such person was Marc Cohn who is the VP of Network Strategy at The Linux Foundation, and this has opened up my thoughts to a whole new take on why humans and human contact is so much more important when communicating.

The dimensions of communication:

In order to put this into context, I have broken up the way we communicate and given them dimensions.

Frist Dimension – The written word:

The written word is extremely powerful, as the saying goes “the pen is mightier than the sword” but it lacks in so much in depth and colour. Some of the best authors in the world can evoke these images but each one of those images is personal to you and your own journey to the point in time at which you read the words. How many times have you returned to a book, re-read it, and then seen it in a different way? The point is; we create the texture of what we are consuming from the written word based on our beliefs, state of mind, the speed we’ve read it and numerous other, outside and inside, influences. We’ve no doubt all experienced the social media Keyboard Warriors who then suddenly went silent after something was explained to them over the phone.

Second Dimension – The spoken word:

That leads me quite seamlessly into the second dimension, the spoken word. Our choice of vocabulary, our intonation, our breathing, our volume levels all add another level of understanding to the communication. Unlike the written word, when spoken we can express a simple word like “really” to be one of surprise or one of distrust.  A simple tut after hearing a long explanation as to where you were last night, speaks volumes and evokes feelings in both the respondent as with the receiver not possible without wordy exclamation or emoticons.

Third Dimension – Pictures or images:

The reason so many of us use emoticons is because we need to portrait a feeling visually in accompaniment to the written word. “A picture paints a thousand words” is very true and by coupling the written word together with images or emoticons, we can deliver a richer more lifelike message to the recipient but lacking once again the intonation of the spoken word.

Fourth Dimension – Video and Film:

One of the marketing successes of this generation is creating video content which goes viral. Merging the spoken word with moving images evokes a whole new level engagement with the recipient’s emotions and when done right can create an internet success almost overnight. Sadly it can also be used to evoke emotions such as existential angst, anger and other such ugly feelings resulting in fruitful recruiting grounds for those in society with different moral beliefs than the majority of us.

Fifth Dimension – Live music:

When moving into the direct communication from one human being to another there is nothing more powerful than live music. Thought provoking, beautiful poetry arranged skillfully with musical accompaniment and delivered live on stage is about as intimate as it can get in one-way communication. Yes, there’s an argument that the artist delivering this also get’s their feedback from the reaction of the audience making it a two-way communication of sorts, but this is limited to the message being given and does not diverge greatly from the original message. Obviously, this is very subjective and again the recurring theme of the present moment comes back.

Sixth Dimensions – Group meetings:

Meetings all tend to have some form of agenda, otherwise what is the point of having a meeting right? So when these happen there is generally some steer as to where the conversation is going to go. In a business meeting with more than 3 or 4 people present, it is good practice to have a chair of the meeting and with greater numbers, especially when it comes to negotiations, observers are a must. The communication here is usually divided into pack communication and if there are more than 2 packs they can get very loud and disjointed resulting in them becoming difficult to chair. Rules and guidelines of how to conduct oneself at these meetings will add another level of constraint and complexity to the event and in these cases, a single person needs to provide the authority and purvey over the order of the meeting. – The speaker in the house of commons is a prime example of somebody taking on this role. This communication level is rarely very intimate and emotions are usually evoked by pack mentality and belonging.

Seventh Dimension – Face to Face, or One on One

Before I being this final one, I would like to say that all the dimensions listed do not extend outside of the physical realm. I am aware that there is an etheric level of communications that stretches far beyond the limitations of our physical one, but this is neither the time or place to expand on that. There are also others with far greater knowledge and experience in that field, who can guide you through those if you have the desire to understand more.

Face to Face contact adds the final layer to our cake. Not only do we have the optical stimuli such as eye contact, hand gestures and other body movements, we also have all our other senses, smell, touch, and that all important gut feeling (and yes, this does stretch into the etheric). The power of being in the same room as another human being and being able to converse with one another freely is second to none. Engaging with all 5 (or 6) of the senses immerses one in the full spectrum of available emotions and is by far the most revered form of communication available to any sales professional.

Why AI will never replace human beings in sales:

Taking the above into consideration, it is quite easy to see why AI will not be able to replace sales professionals, but only if both parties value human contact. If you’re a sales person hiding behind social media and emails then you either need to up your game or leave the profession. It really is that simple! AI will certainly become good at recognising some written emotions, and most likely good enough to evoke a purchasing decision in a purely transactional sale such as the purchase of most things you find on Amazon, but it won’t be able to create the content needed to steer people down a purchasing decision that goes beyond that. And it certainly is not good enough to produce the levels of emotions created by books like the Haemin Sunim’s “The things you see only when you slow down”. Similarly, back to my industry, the content created by human linguists in marketing and such like will be extremely difficult to reproduce by the likes of NMT.

Where do you conduct most of your communication?

So far AI has managed to encroach into one or two dimensions of communication making it a fairly flat and mundane form, but they are certainly working on others. However, due to the complexity of the physical realm alone, it will be a long time before they can move it away from this flat communication field. It is in this communication field where I see a large portion of my peers hanging out too and consequently where a large amount of scaremongering content is being produced. This volume of content is clouding the overall reality in my view. There is so much noise about unprecedented job losses through to machines taking over the world with an Orwellian precision that it is often all too easy to just sit back and believe it. Yes, AI can determine your emotion by what you post on your Facebook page, but this is ultimately down to you. So be honest how often are your true emotions revealed on your Facebook page? Right now there are only a select few who know your innermost thought, in fact probably only 1 if you don’t believe, and two or more if you do believe.

So in a business world you ultimately have to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do my clients what to engage with me?
  • How do I communicate with them right now?
  • In which dimension do I produce most of my content?
  • Can I move clients from one dimension to another?
  • Are my clients wanting to move to another dimension?
  • Does what I provide need a deeper and richer understanding?

In summary, there is a lot of good coming from AI and over the years that follow it will only get better. Yes, there are going to be some job losses, as there were in the industrial revolution, but there will also be new opportunities too. However, despite the quickening of the pace of innovation, things will not change overnight and we will all have the time to adjust, who would have thought 10 year’s ago you’d be reading this on a mobile phone (statistically that’s what 60% of you will be doing), but again there’s nothing wrong with that. But here’s the thing,

So here’s the thing, AI technology is here to stay! It is being used in all manner of ways but the one area I don’t believe it will ever take over is real and in-depth communication.

 

Wake up and smell the coffee

Every day I have a cup of coffee in fact on the odd occasion I’ll have two, however, the way I indulge in my coffee experience has changed significantly over time.

When I first began to drink this wonderful brown liquid it was way back in the late 70s early 80s and, as with most of us here on this island, it was a cup of instant coffee granules mixed with sugar, milk and water straight out of a boiling kettle. The result was a cup of hot brown stuff that, at the time, tasted pretty good. Today though it has become a work of art!

V60 with wet coffee filters, 21g of freshly ground artisan roasted coffee beans, and 300ml of water poured very slowly (approximately 2 to 3 minutes) over the grounds at a temperature between 92 and 94 degrees centigrade. Not a gramme of sugar in sight and when adding it to my trusty coffee thermos I heat up 100ml of full-fat milk and pour that in first.

All this provides me with a total of 350ml of a wonderful tasting, silky smooth caffeine delight to enjoy throughout my morning’s work and I can honestly say that I savour every drop. – (350 ml because about 50ml remains soaked up by the coffee grounds)

The journey I’ve travelled to get to this point is interesting, and the cups, or at times buckets, consumed have been considerable. But what is clear is that this journey is one that I am still travelling upon and though I am completely satisfied with the results I have today, who’s to say that tomorrow there won’t be another twist or turn in the story which could introduce me to another new technique or process delivering an equally outstanding taste experience difference as with the instant to today.

This is certainly true in the world of localisation too. In order to be on top of your game in this industry, you need to be able to embrace and adapt to change, provided it results in a better outcome for the end client. Of course, there are going to be those clients where the “instant” fix will be all they need or indeed want, but that may very well be because they haven’t sampled the full V60 version yet.

So I would like to set you a challenge today. When was the last time you took a look at your translation or localisation process? When did you last review your desired outcomes? Are you living in the new age or are you still stuck in the 80s? If you want to drop me a line with your contact number to talk about this I’ll schedule a call with you. You never know you might actually be surprised at what you can achieve beyond your current cup of instant.

Just as true today as it was 4 years ago

A little under 4 Year’s ago I posted a blog about people’s search activity and when I read it today I thought that it would be a great idea to re-post it, as the content is just as valid, if not more so, as it was back then. Instead I’ve copied the content into a new post so that I could add an interesting little footnote.

MAY- 2013

I recently read a post by Barry Schwarzt that highlighted a decision which Google made to drop a service that they said was rarely used and this action got me thinking about why this might be.

Very simply put the service enabled users to type in search criteria in a their native (source) language and then use a drop down tab to choose a different language to search in.  Google would then use its own Google translate MT engine to fulfil the search request in that language and produce the results, again using Google translate, in the original source language .

It was particularly useful if you were searching for legislation changes in foreign countries, market leading influencers in industry sectors in foreign countries and invaluable when researching companies or individuals in foreign countries.

Now some of you may be asking “what’s the big deal? I only ever search in my own language anyway” well that’s the point.  Google has evaluated this service and decided that its usage is so negligible that maintaining it as a service is not worth it.  In other words “People only search in their native language!”

So why is this?

  • Is it because people don’t trust Google translate? There are enough horror stories around to suggest that this could be one of the reasons.
  • Is it because people didn’t even know the service existed? Another very plausible possibility; I certainly only found out about it through accident and I would consider myself fairly tech savvy.
  • Or is because we humans are just too frightened of making a mistake and therefore adding another potential failure variable into our search for answers is just a variable too far?

My personal belief is that it is predominantly just human nature and that we are predisposed to take the easy, or tried and tested, option.  If we haven’t been shown how to use something or don’t understand how to use something then we just won’t do it, which leads me nicely on to why over 72% of internet users only visit sites in their native language and why over 52% will not buy ANYTHING from a website which is not in their native language and only 30% will buy something if the Ts&Cs are in their native language.

Consider the following:

You are walking down the high street and there are two shops both advertising the same thing in the shop window.  Shop 1 is selling this item at a price which is 10% more than Shop 2. The problem is Shop 2 is selling a Dunstabzugshaube and all the specifications are in German.  Shop 1, however is selling an Oven Extractor Fan with the specifications in English, now which one would you buy???

Transfer this simple logic to a website and suddenly even finding the shop becomes a major task if you don’t speak that language.

February 2017

With the next 2 billion internet users to come online not having English as their primary, or even secondary, language the time to start opening up your shop window to a new audience has never been more critical. If you want to learn how to do this effectively and in line with your budget then just get in touch I’ll be happy to listen.

TGL

A new world of risk within Europe

Over the last 20 years businesses in Europe have become very comfortable, with corporate risk being established as low and indeed very low in some countries. Most of the middle and senior management teams over the last 20 years have rarely had to make decisions that could seriously impact their company when choosing a European export destination and as a consequence have opted for this easy track and become risk complacent. However with a new wave of politics sweeping across the globe this is no longer the case and our safe havens of Europe have taken on a shaky existence.
I am myself a victim of this. Believe it or not, because most of my income can be deemed as coming from a non-sterling source (more specifically the Euro) all the main mortgage lenders here in the UK won’t include this income in the “safe and regular finances” category and as a consequence we currently can’t get a new mortgage. All this despite paying full UK taxes as a UK registered company.
Bizarrely, for those who have not been keeping up to speed with the happenings across the globe, the safe havens of outward investment and export communities are no longer where you would think they would be. Typically the UK has looked to Germany, France, Holland, Ireland, the USA etc as their safe export locations. This recent shift in politics has warped this so much that investors and risk analysts alike now have a preference towards the Middle East, Far East, South America and Africa- (Mozambique and Nigeria to name but two).

So what does this mean for you?

Increasingly the financial stability of the West is being seen as “unstable to severely unstable” depending on which risk factors you include, but what is clear is that “business as usual” no longer applies. 20 years of risk adversity and a distinct lack of risk assessment expertise (the type where you don’t push in a bunch of data into a software program and repeat that well know satirical phrase “computer says no!”) all means that a large persuasion of modern companies are struggling to make decisions and this is killing both productivity as well as company growth. Being able to review a situation and all the data involved and then making a “gut instinct” choice of direction, instead of relying solely on a software package is going to be a step backwards in some people’s eyes. But in reality it is going to be a breath of fresh air to those of us who both know and still believe that it is people who do business and not computers. Good old fashioned common sense is going to make a glorious comeback over the coming months and so if your intuition and instinct has been dumbed down by technology then you may need to just start fine tuning it again as the road ahead is going to need it.

So here’s my first 3 questions:

  • Have you reviewed your risk exposure?
  • Have you opened yourself up to explore new export markets yet?
  • Are all the eggs you have in a newly labelled “unstable basket”?
Exporting can significantly improve your business growth and bottom line profit but knowing where to start and who to speak to about it can be almost as challenging as exporting itself. So if you want to understand more about how to reach outside of the European comfort zone then get in touch.
TGL

English is our lingua franca

It has always been somewhat of a mainstay objection which I come across when talking to potential clients about their need for linguistic services, that English is the company’s lingua franca and therefore all their training and internal documentation is done in English.

How shocking then to see that in one such industry sector (Aviation) that over a 1000 deaths can be attributed to miscommunication between native speaking English air-traffic controllers and non-native speaking pilots. Read more here

It was a Harvard Business Report which highlighted this to me in an article last November Upon a more detailed scrutiny of the data there’s actually an alarming amount of non-conscious (I hope at least) arrogance running through the whole idea that everyone in business speaks English. My hat, however, is most deservedly doffed to the German trade unions, who’s country fair quite highly in the list of proficient English speakers in the workplace, but who insist that delivery of company learning the material to their German workforces is in German regardless of the level of their English competency.

In fact when I made the decision to study in Germany way back in the mid 90s I was told that before I could embark upon that journey in my chosen subject matter I would have to attain a mark that was within the top 2% in Germany in German, Mathematics and English ; and to do this I personally had to go to night school for nearly 4 years. Fortunately, my many sleepless nights were worth it and I managed to get the prerequisite grades required. This level of minimum requirements felt pretty harsh at the time, but I was being re-trained by, and entirely funded by, the Union so they weren’t going to just let anyone do it.

All of this is quite eye-opening but what I found most interesting about the results from the Harvard study was not just the lack of English competency across the board, but the alarmingly low scores in the industry sectors where I repeatedly hear the objection that English is the lingua franca of that industry.

I can personally see that, in light of the recent politic shifts, a new wave of language standards are on the horizon; with many countries from across the globe taking on the German principles that in order to do business with them, although you may be able to conduct every meeting in English, when it comes down to documentation and finalising of the contracts then they will want it  all in their own language, bitte!

Now we don’t want any miscommunication now do we?

TGL

The new Machine translation kid on the block

So here’s a quick overview of NMT. If you’ve not heard of it then it might be a good idea to get a little more familiar with it as this is likely to come up in conversations quite a lot over the coming months.

A handy little overview can be found here

And for what it’s worth here’s my take on it.

Neural Machine Translation has been reported to be so good that native speakers can barely tell the difference between that and human translation… Well that’s the headline we’re reading all over the web right now. Fortunately for our industry this is, once again, a very murky window into reality.

If you ask native speakers, as they have done in this study, to review a completed translated text in their own language they will award it merit upon how easy it is to read, both grammatically and contextually. However without having visibility and being able to understand the source text this is a flat and singular viewpoint 2D if you’d like.

Upon deeper investigation this is where the serious flaw of this new art of machine translation lies. In fact it is more dangerous than you can imagine. Let me elaborate.

The translated text is highly inaccurate when compared to the source text, so much so that regular Google MT translated text is significantly more accurate. As we all know the accuracy of Google MT translated material is already decreasing through their own admission of “Garbage in, Garbage out”. So the main issue here with NMT is, unlike regular Statistical Machine Translation, that the way it is written it is conceived to be true; even though it can be a wholly inaccurate account of the source material. Think misleading information from the gutter press. You take a single statement out of context and build a story around it that sounds believable but in reality is devoid of almost all truth.

As it stands right now, this is where NMT sits. It is in the long line of attempts to automate a human process that really cannot be done, particularly if accuracy and accountability are your end goals.

Yes there are very legitimate and viable uses of MT and a number of companies have them. By using a hybrid of human and machine it can eliminate a huge amount of unnecessary overheads, but here’s the heads up. Please be wary of the claims to NMT; it isn’t there yet and for all the good intentions it is not likely to be for some considerable time.

TGL