The Future of Language Translation

By United Language Group

According to a recent post by Common Sense Advisory the top 10 languages that reign online today are: English, Chinese (Simplified), Spanish, German, Japanese, French, Arabic, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, and Korean. Demand for these languages continues to grow, as does the use of Italian (11th on CSA Research’s list of the top 100 languages) and Polish (17th).

Fast forward to the middle of the century and Fair Languages predicts that the top spoken languages are going to be:

  • Chinese
  • Spanish
  • English
  • Hindi-Urdu
  • Arabic

What does this mean for companies looking at the long game and planning for the future? Do we need to worry about what languages people will be using in 2050? Won’t technology do all the translation for us automatically by then? Perhaps.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, technology policy expert Alec Ross predicted that while machine translation still falls short in accuracy, functionality and delivery, that won’t be the case for long. Ross believes that within the next decade “the machines will grow exponentially more accurate and be able to parse the smallest detail” and “accelerate the world’s growing interconnectedness.”

On the other side of the argument, language professor and translator David Arbesú, wrote in a recent article for New Republic that “language contains nuances that are impossible for computers to ever learn how to interpret.”

We don’t have a crystal ball, so we can’t predict the future. But, we’re keeping a watchful eye on the development of machine translation technology so we can continue to bring you best-in-class solutions to meet your needs.

In the meantime, we believe both Human Translation and Machine Translation have their place. We work with our clients to understand their specific needs, so we can provide the best solution for them. For a large foreign language data set in a cross-border eDiscovery matter, machine translation is often the best way to get a gist of large amounts of data and meet court deadlines without blowing the budget. On the other hand, localizing an interactive marketing video about a new product or feature likely requires a seasoned translator who understands the brand, the technology and the local culture to capture the nuance correctly.

What does this mean to you as a buyer of translation services?

  • Verify that you’re not missing any popular languages that would allow you to appeal to a broader client base. We can help.
  • Know your options and work with your translation provider to ensure that you’re using the correct approach for your particular projects. How do I know what the right approach is?

Have questions? We’d love to help. Contact us today.

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