According to Ethnologue, 7,099 languages are currently spoken in the world. About 6% of languages have over one million speakers, but these few account for approximately 94% of world population! Twenty-three languages are spoken by over half the world’s people, and nearly two-thirds of languages hail from Africa and Asia.
Technology is evolving and WiFi is becoming more accessible, transforming objects and practices we take for granted and creating new ones, which in turn grow and create new needs, new applications, and new capabilities to answer those needs. The information you might have had to go to a professional for or track down in a book is now available at your fingertips through how-to phone apps, video tutorials, and info-centric message boards.
What do these observations have in common? They are global and can reach anybody very quickly! But what is the best way to reach everybody? In their own language. And the answer to that is the power of translation services.
While our capabilities expand, our world grows smaller, and our culture becomes more globalized. Information technology must become more refined and localized to meet the demands of nations advancing into the present and future. Immigrant populations are rising and cities are becoming ever more cosmopolitan. Translation services and communication technology must keep up with the media available and be ready to meet evolving language demands in regions around the world.
Vine, a video-sharing platform, enjoyed a burst of popularity but is now defunct, in its place Snapchat has risen in popularity. Instagram is exploding, Twitter is global, and many different ways of accessing and searching the Internet are available across nations. More examples of entities endeavoring to meet the need for multilingual services are news sites and TV stations like the BBC and Al Jazeera, video sites like DailyMotion, Vimeo, and Internet giant YouTube. Pangeanic reports that the most-translated information site is Wikipedia, with 287 languages to its credit. The next most-translated is Apple, in the realm of commerce with 130 translations. Recently, according to Mentalfloss, one of the most popular TV shows in Russia was a Brazilian soap opera, Tropikanka, drawing an average of 25 million viewers. It is clear that any government or business that is not moving in a multicultural, multilingual direction is in dire risk of allowing itself to fall behind.
How can companies accomplish a strong global presence? How can brands translate and localize their message so that it resonates with the global market? Strategies abound, and professional translation services in the form of a translation agency and professional translators are ready to make global communication goals a reality, whether in-house or outsourced.
It is notable that many of the information and entertainment technology mentioned is driven by user content contribution and refinement, such as YouTube and Wikipedia. This is invaluable, as the cost is minimal to nonexistent, and users add content in their native language, with local grammar and personal expression. Start-ups can employ their fanbase to advance their content through crowdsourcing. When there is no time nor fanbase to draw from, machine translation can be used to their advantage, to translate on the fly and not for higher profile marketing endeavors like your website or billboard. A word of caution, use it for quick emails or to understand the meaning of a letter, not for crucial documents or important marketing and communication. Many machine translation applications exist, and numerous services have these machine applications built in. However, they are far from perfect or adequate for all usages. You need to select the right solution and approach to your needs, and overall be careful about the use of automated solutions, without the revision of the professional translator or a native professional translator.
In areas such as medical, legal, and government fields, or relevant permanent communication, there is no substitute for the human element- the judgment and interpretation possible only through the human mind is crucial in selecting the right translation. After all, translation is an art that takes time, research, experience and knowledge.
Even though artificial intelligence has made significant advancements, it still cannot make 100% perfect decisions when evaluating content, so it often introduces errors or mistranslations. Especially when it comes to regional dialect, technical terminology, the proper order of words and incorporating the proper tone, a human translator or interpreter is crucial. Again, professional translation services and interpreters are available when machine translation technology is not the right or appropriate match.
Newspapers, magazines, books, manuals, video, crowdsourcing, commerce in-person or online, TV, films, radio, GPS, phone service, instant chat, text messages, console or online video games, phone apps, podcasts, and more, all have their place in global commerce and communication, and all must be attended to so that they may speak to all. Translation of documents and content, whether by machine or professional translator from a translation company, has never been more important in our history. We must rise to the challenge each scenario presents, and see it not as a hurdle but as a gift, not as an expense but an opportunity for the meeting of human minds across cultures, languages, miles, and abilities.