Is Technology Killing English as a Lingua-Franca?

by Kyle Paice
1 Minute Read

The proliferation of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tools have professionals everywhere nervy about the future utility of their skill set. And when you take a peek at some of the exciting advances in these fields, it’s hard not to ask yourself “will I be replaced by a robot?”

There are plenty of other blogs you can read if you’re interested in the coming regime of automaton overlords, but here, we’re more interested in the future of language. Specifically, are new language technologies phasing out the likelihood of people learning languages beyond their mother tongue? And will advances in these technologies cut out the need to learn English as a “lingua-franca”, or go-between language between two individuals of differing native languages?

In short. no.

These topics were explored at length in BBC’s four-part series, “From Language to Algorithm”. Rather than spell a doomsday sentence for translators and polyglots, language experts paint an optimistic future of more access to the knowledge economy, empowerment and greater efficiency for translators, and widespread access to crucial information (like purchasing a railway ticket electronically), even amongst illiterate populations.

But how far are we really from “babel fish” technology? Does communicating in English, even without learning it, breakdown the barrier to entering many jobs? And has English technology enabled communication in other languages, without necessarily replacing itself? Well, you’ll just have to tune in to find out. Stream part 1 of the series below.

The Future of Language Work: Business Perspectives

2 Minute Read

It’s not an everyday occurrence that translators and technology professionals come together and discuss the state of the language industry, but that’s exactly what happened last month in Santa Clara, CA. The event, The Future of Language Work: Enterprise, Technology, and Translation Professional Perspectives, was hosted by translation startup, Lilt, and featured two panelist discussions on topics ranging from language technology advancements to the effect of globalization on translation demand. While the first panelist discussion focused on the past, present and future of translation technology, the second panelist discussion turned to look at how technology is affecting language work. The panel, moderated by Katie Botkin, Managing Editor of Multilingual Magazine, included panelists David Snider, Globalization Architect at LinkedIn, Anna Schlegel, Sr. Director of Globalization Programs and Information Strategy at NetApp, Jost Zetzsche, Localization Consultant and Writer at the International Writers’ Group and Max Troyer, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Translation & Localization Management at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

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Technology for Interactive MT

2 Minute Read

This article describes the technology behind Lilt’s interactive translation suggestions. The details were first published in an academic conference paper, Models and Inference for Prefix-Constrained Machine Translation. Machine translation systems can translate whole sentences or documents, but they can also be used to finish translations that were started by a person — a form of autocomplete at the sentence level. In the computational linguistics literature, predicting the rest of a sentence is called prefix-constrainedmachine translation. The prefix of a sentence is the portion authored by a translator. A suffix is suggested by the machine to complete the translation. These suggestions are proposed interactively to translators after each word they type. Translators can accept all or part of the proposed suffix with a single keystroke, saving time by automating the most predictable parts of the translation process.

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