Annett Polaszewski-Plath is CEO at Interprefy, the remote interpreting solution that helps people connect anywhere in their own language.
The remote work revolution has allowed organizations to look beyond their geographical boundaries and expand into previously untapped markets. Because of this, a sudden realization has swept across the business world: there’s a whole pool of exciting talent out there currently unexplored. But while skilled professionals can be found across industries and in all corners of the globe, there’s a glaring challenge that I’ve seen stop organizations from hiring new talent: language barriers.
Whether you’re on holiday trying to decipher a restaurant menu or you’re working within a multi-lingual organization, language barriers can be difficult to overcome. And business is no exception. In fact, business settings only increase the scrutiny and potential embarrassment of not being able to accurately follow a conversation.
The language of business is often said to be English, and it’s true that many global conglomerates like Airbus, Renault, Samsung and Microsoft in Beijing communicate in this fashion. But as someone who works with remote interpreting solutions and who has employees spread across 27 different countries, I have found specific ways that companies can incorporate real-time language solutions into their communications and business models.
Why aren’t businesses exploring new languages?
While I believe the shortages across industries — from technology and cybersecurity to manufacturing and construction —could be filled if businesses tap into skilled resources outside of their resident country, they often stop short when it comes to hiring these kinds of employees because they don’t speak the native language of that business.
Taking countries in Europe for example, up to 75% of some populations only know one language, and this is especially prevalent in English-speaking countries. I think employers are within their right to not hire someone because they don’t speak the chosen language fluently, but it is also possible to facilitate a more open communication policy with the right help.
How can companies adapt and tap into this new talent pool?
The obvious problem with hiring non-native speakers is that it’s not always feasible to have a professional translator to be on-hand in every business meeting or conversation. Faced with this situation, real-time services driven through AI are an option to help remove the language barriers in global businesses.
In the same way, Siri or Amazon Echo picks up your voice, a real-time translation tool listens to words being spoken, identifies the language and goes about translating it into either spoken word or written text. The technology already boasts an accuracy rate anywhere from 60%-90%. This can be compared to the accuracy of Siri (83%) and Alexa (80%) answering questions correctly. Many products on the market today are already able to help businesses facilitate translations, and companies like Microsoft are weaving real-time interpretation inside many of their products, providing developers with APIs to foster further development of these technologies. As AI translation evolves, both the fluency and speed of translations will continue to improve.
But while AI translation services with 60%-95% accuracy might be sufficient for some small business meetings, professional conference interpreters will continue to be required for global events and conferences. The issue is that even a higher accuracy rating isn’t enough for professional settings to ensure that miscommunication, confusion and embarrassment don’t occur.
Every language has its specific nuances and cultural references that machines have trouble fully understanding or articulating. Humans will always have a place in this regard, more so in today’s world with a shortage of skilled interpreters.
In the past year and a half, we have seen global conferences go from face-to-face to online. It’s in this exact way that real-time interpretation tools can help turn language barriers into means of opportunity for growth and collaboration across international borders. Other areas where this technology can be used is town hall-style meetings, which, during the pandemic, have increased in popularity, taking place over virtual web conferencing tools.
From a hiring point of view, talent pools no longer have to be based in certain cities or regions but can include people from anywhere as long as they have the right skill set. Incorporating real-time interpretation software into your business doesn’t have to mean moving heaven and Earth, and they can be either auxiliary or central to your business.
Tips for businesses to consider for real-time translation services.
When looking to set up real-time interpretation services for your business, you first need to make sure any technology integrates with your current choice of video conferencing software. If it’s a standalone web-based or mobile app, will there be training or a demo provided?
Although less of an issue on modern machines, hardware requirements will also have to be met, so make sure to check the specifications of devices before investing. Also, consider the audio quality and background noise of your environment as these will also affect the ability of the translation service.
The other key consideration is which languages the provider can offer you. If you’re a multinational corporation, you’ll need much larger resources to provide translation services to teams across several locations, which will also affect costs.
Budget is therefore a key part of this, so be sure to prioritize the needs of certain team members first, especially for those that are struggling with language barriers and may be in need of interpretation services.
Going global doesn’t have to cost the Earth.
Businesses already have a hard enough time trying to find the right talent in their home country, so why not open the talent floodgates to a wider talent pool and reap the rewards? In an increasingly multicultural and globally connected world, hiring an employee who is not only fluent in a different language but skilled in a specialist role can be an invaluable addition to the workforce.
Being able to hire the best talent, no matter their geographical location, will not only be of benefit to businesses in the long-term but will include the advantages of working with a diverse team full of different backgrounds, cultures and experiences.