What is the answer to the question that many of us are beginning to ask: In what language will our digital future be?
Most of the technologies we now use are by default in English.
The Internet is built-in English, it started with it and continues with it. Digitalization is a big part of our lives, especially when the world is in the throes of a pandemic and constantly needs to make radical decisions. However, even without a pandemic, the digital future fluctuates sharply between a utopia in which well-connected citizens understand and openly defend their rights and a dystopia in which a handful of people dictate the life outcomes of an unconnected and deliberately misguided majority.
The language used will be critical in determining which version of the future we end up with. Obviously, most digital technologies today are designed for English-speaking users. According to the Statista website, over a billion people speak English as their first or second language, with hundreds of millions more speaking it as a third or fourth language.
Indeed, most of us use both English and our mother language equally. The platforms we rely on to keep us connected in this digital age are not ready for our multilingual truths: we live in many languages, and limiting our ability to communicate effectively limits our ability to fully participate in our digital future.
The dilemma is that the digital future in which many can only participate in translation is inherently unequal and unfair. The technological future in which financial terms are translated, and digital rights terms and their meanings in English, support the idea that particularly African communities are valuable only as markets and not as places where people live and love. We need to empower people to use technology in their preferred language.
What ingredients are needed to develop language technology?
Forbes notes that while there is no better alternative to natural human translation, companies seeking globalization harness the power of technology to make their services more accessible to a broader customer base. Automatic translation services have revolutionized the industry, enabling it to reach a more comprehensive range of language groups quickly.
But what is needed if we want to develop language technologies?
There are several essential ingredients for this. Language resources are the raw data needed to create, improve and evaluate natural language processing tools. Learning algorithms based on the principles of artificial intelligence, such as artificial neural networks, and adapted to the specifics of our languages, analyze and model these language resources.
Learning language models can be used with various applications, which are still being discovered. There are today substantial efforts to preserve rare and dying languages, but most of us are multilingual in a less dramatic manner. Our languages are not in danger of extinction, but they risk being left behind by the unspoken principle that technological progress must serve the never-ending quest for efficiency and standardization.
The most obvious solutions, such as eTranslation, can dilute the hegemony of the English language in the digital market. They ensure the availability of language technology for global public administrations and small and medium-sized enterprises. Many governments encourage and support the development and deployment of language tools. For these purposes, a software development company is often hired to help provide among others, named entity recognition, summarization, automatic segmentation, sentiment analysis, and speech transcription services.
It is an obvious desire for our language to be used in the digital future, and we want to be able to shape the technologies that fit us. And so, creating a space for us to live online with as much linguistic complexity as we want, is an act of resistance. We must continue to assert our right to determine the language of our digital future.
Author’s bio: Anastasiia Lastovetska is a technology writer at MLSDev, a software development company that builds web and mobile app solutions from scratch. She researches the technology sector to create content about app development, UX/UI design, tech, and business consulting.
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