How Ai Translation Could Unseat English As The Lingua Franca Of The Business World

from Fast Company

Anyone who has traveled to a country where the language spoken is not their native one knows that not conversing fluently (or at all) can turn even a VIP into a second-class citizen. Einstein himself would have struggled to express his intelligence in, say, Farsi. In one of my favorite episodes of Modern Family, Sofia Vergara’s character Gloria says in frustration, “You don’t know how smart I am in Spanish!” Even fluent speakers can face bias if they have an accent because of certain underlying perceptions that your language skills are correlated with your intelligence.

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Posted in Business, Future Thinking, Ideas, International and tagged , , .


  1. As the article clearly explained, there is no doubt that as of now or in recent years that English is the lingua franca of the world of business. Pretty much all major companies operate through communications through the English language. For a personal example, my cousin who is from Mexico and works for Panasonic, and he travelled to Japan on a business trip. There he talked to the higher ups in the company all in English. His English is not the best, and neither is theirs, but it has been totally adopted as the business language of the world. Human beings’ minds are very good at processing information, and I would say faster than any computer ever made. However, the computer outstretches us when it comes to memory. That’s why most people cannot have mastery of more than 2-3 languages, but computers AI can have mastery of almost all major languages of the world. AI making it to where we can all communicate in our native tongues is a true game changer. I think for most Americans that want to compete which people of different countries; this is a large blow. One thing that Americans had going for them was that they are now native speakers in the lingua franca of the world so they will always have a linguistic advantage over any foreigner in the business world. However, this advantage could become pretty irrelevant. Now talented people from all over the world may have the edge over privileged less cultured Americans. Translating technologies can now let anyone do work as effectively as possible in their own language. I believe that if this plays out this could have great economic impact on all major economies. For any job that can be done remotely companies are now incentivized to only hire workers from countries that they can pay the lowest possible wages to their employees. It will be definitely interesting to see how this all plays out in the near future; to see if possibly less inclined Americans can find a way to compete with elite foreign competition of other countries who will no longer be at a linguistic disadvantage.

  2. This article talks about how artificial intelligence technology can help eliminate the issue of language inequality in an economical sense. The author talks about how the development of advanced softwares can help businesses communicate with customers that speak various languages and have different cultures better than they have before. This in turn will help customers accomplish more and get what they are looking for more often. Overall, I think the author did a great job at describing how artificial intelligence technology could help benefit economies. However, I also wished he talked about what negative effects this could have for people moving forward.
    First of all, this advancement can lead to the removal of certain jobs from various economies. For example, the author refers to telemarketing frequently in this article. If artificial intelligence technology is this good at helping give information to people with all different languages, what is the point in hiring people who are only fluent in one or two languages? From the perspective of a business, it makes more sense to pay more money upfront for the constantly advancing artificial intelligence technology as the return on investment is likely to be great. Moving forward, they will not need to pay for workers and can reallocate a portion of their funds to help fix other issues with the companies. It is easy to see several different businesses doing this as well. This decrease in labor will increase the unemployment rate and help decrease the gross domestic products of many countries around the world. Another thing I thought of is that because of this issue, I could see modernized cases like National Labor Relations Board vs. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation occurring by companies downsizing because the technology does the jobs just as well as the humans. I could see people trying to argue in court that the way they were fired was unfair and I could also see cases like this occurring from companies trying to shut down unions. However, those people will not have nearly as good of a case as the defendants in the National Labor Relations Board vs. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation because this downsizing does not have anything to do with commerce which was one of the biggest reasons the defendants won their case.

  3. I have always wondered how remarkable it would be to own a set of real-time translator earbuds. I grew up in Queens, New York, the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world. Queens, the linguistic melting spot, has an estimated 136 spoken languages so I would always hear so many different languages being spoken around me. There were many non-English speakers in my area and communication could be difficult at times; That was where the translator earbuds would have come in handy. The complacency to expect around seven billion or so people in the world to simply learn or understand English is ignorant and has very negative effects. I figured over time with the advancement of technology, alternative communication methods would be widely available.
    It’s a relief to learn that the business world is working to become more inclusive in terms of communication with people in countries that do not limit themselves to learning English. AI-centered multilingual machine translation models are in the works to offset language inequality. Thanks to speedy, increasingly accurate translation software technology, a customer service agent who speaks English can reply to an email or chat to a Chinese customer, in Chinese. This convenience can benefit businesses in a multitude of ways including an advantage over its competitors that lack this differentiation. The opportunity for a firm to expand its reach into various global markets would be much more achievable when that language barrier is eliminated. Opening up the business to new customer bases that were formerly out of reach, creates the opportunity to make contact with a much wider audience and attract their attention.
    A 2020 study from Common Sense Advisory showed that 40% of customers will not buy products from companies that don’t support their language. If I personally were looking to buy a snack in France, I would certainly want to know what ingredients are in it. For those who have food allergies or even religious dietary restrictions, not being able to comprehend the information being presented on the packaging deters purchases. Having that inclusivity makes consumers feel acknowledged and appreciative. Providing users with quality communication in their native language will foster respect and preference of services over someone else’s. Businesses that fail to remedy the idea of English-language supremacy miss out on prospective consumers and ultimately, lower their profits. They also risk being left behind by their competitors. Firms should drop the idea of English-centrism and work to incorporate this smart, AI-driven translation to become customer-centric.

  4. Currently, the English language is on the top of the list when it comes to global affairs. In most countries, English is on the top of the list for languages that should be learned. It has been this way for a long time now. When thinking about the advancements, outlets, and lifestyles that are assigned with America and the United Kingdom, it’s a no brainer why English is so desirable. With this said, a change may be on the way. Instead of learning English, learning how to use a translating software might be the new focus. The article brings up a concept that I understood but never thought more about. Being a native English speaker, I take my ability to converse fluently in America for granted. Other people who aren’t native English speakers but who learn the language will forever be at a disadvantage. A heavy accent could be the thing that determines if you get a job or not. A software that translates English to whatever language needed would be extremely helpful to those who need it. With that said, how good of an idea is it? Learning the native language is for long term convivence. If I learn English while living in America, I’m less as a foreigner and more of citizen. It makes your life, and the lives of people around you a lot easier. In my opinion, this change of focus is not necessary. Diversity is at its highest in the states. Steering people away from learning English will undoubtedly have a negative effect on their success while being here. Having a translator that makes reading easier for them is a good thing of course, I’m just afraid that the push for it could lead to a shift in focus. Instead of bringing people together, the change could further separate us. Once again, being a native English speaker, my views on the situation are obviously different than someone who speaks another language. Looking at it from a national and economic perspective, it just does not seem like a good idea at all. This will be an interesting topic to follow throughout the next couple of years.

  5. The topic discussed in this article, “How AI translation could unseat English as the lingua franca of the business world,” is extremely important and frankly something that everybody should be thinking about. We live in a world where technological advances are happening constantly around us, and specifically artificial intelligence capabilities are expanding exponentially every day. This article points out that English, over time, has become the common language of the business world and acts as a bridge language between countries around the world for trade, or any business-related transaction. However, just because English is considered the lingua franca of the world, that obviously doesn’t mean that it is convenient for those who are not native speakers to adjust. Vasco Pedro, the author of the article, mentioned, “Even fluent speakers can face bias if they have an accent because of certain underlying perceptions that your language skills are correlated with your intelligence” (Pedro). Clearly, it is an inappropriate and inaccurate judgment for someone to base another person’s intelligence on their level of fluency in a language – but it still happens unfortunately. AI-powered translation technology has the ability to bridge the gaps between people who speak different languages and would benefit everyone from a business perspective – and a logical perspective.
    Of course, as the article mentioned, it is a possibility that a person could learn another language in order to conduct business in other parts of the world. However, this is time-consuming, inconvenient, and is a primary example of why AI technology should become a more prominent component in the translation industry. Pedro highlighted that in the last year alone, “we saw major breakthroughs in AI-centered language models, from Facebook’s M2M-100 translation model to Google’s MT5 and OpenAI’s GPT-3” (Pedro). He then went on to say that we will eventually have a common multilingual machine translation model. Personally, this concept is one that I have thought about since I was a little kid. I think the idea of a live translation system that could be used to let any two people, no matter the spoken language barrier to communicate, is absolutely amazing. Language inequality has always been an obstacle for global diversity and inclusion in business. If there were to be a creation of a global translation system, business would have the potential to run significantly more smoothly and eliminate numerous issues that we are currently burdened with.
    I think this system, if successful, would also help diminish the harmful ways of thinking that many people in the United States have with thinking that English is somehow “superior” to other languages or that you don’t belong in this country if you do not speak English. That idea has always been ignorant in my mind and a terribly dangerous concept to believe. This country was built on the concept of a “melting pot” or rather a “salad bowl,” where people’s differences are celebrated and not used as a means of division. For that reason, I think this AI-powered translation system is an innovative way to improve the world as we know it and is absolutely a step in the right direction.

  6. Currently, in the world, the majority of the huge businesses speak English. So I feel that if there were to be a universal language that language would end up being English. Also, the most spoken language across the globe/world is the language English. In addition, these other languages are not as advanced as the article showed, the article stated before that they sent a simple question in Portuguese to a few Portuguese customer service departments and they responded by saying as if they were speaking a different language. In my opinion, I believe that getting everyone to speak a universal language, that it is on the determination of the people wanting to learn these languages. While yes, it is very hard to learn a second language it is very possible throughout time. Nowadays there are apps you can download that help people learn new languages such as Duolingo. But, English is the language that most people can learn for free in other countries. In conclusion, the language that should be spoken universally throughout the business world should be English because it is the most spoken language, the most advanced language, and it is free to learn for people outside of the United States.

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