Working from Home: a Veteran’s Guide to Surviving the Covid-19 Emergency

Moving Home

I have been working from home for some 16 years now. Indeed, I feel I could lay claim to be a working from home pioneer. For me, it became a necessity when a child popped into the serene life of my wife and myself. My wife, being a college lecturer did not have an option to move her office to home. That left me to work out a system whereby I could do it. All those years ago the ‘home office’ was a rarely used model. Remember, for many an internet connection was a dialup process; Skype was a product recently launched and used by geeks like me with an interest in VOIP. Furthermore, WhatsApp, Viber etc. was were ideas germinating in the brains of some geniuses, somewhere. When I told my colleagues what I was planning I got a lot of ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ responses. For some it looked like I was pulling off a masterstroke. Thankfully, my boss had the same vision as me. He trusted me and knew that there was no technical reason for me not to work from a ‘home office’. He put faith in me, and I set myself the target of not letting him down. And so, it began and so it continues.

Setting a New Work Culture

From the start I set my own protocols to guide me to success in this new, laissez faire world. I want to share these with you as many of you have now been forced into the same environment and had to hit the ground running.

One thing I would recommend is having your own dedicated space. Artists will tell you that the beauty of a studio is that they can step away from their work when the juices stop flowing and can just as easily step back into it and pick up where they left off when the inspiration kicks in again. It’s the same with a home office. There’s nothing more disheartening than having disassemble and reassemble a workspace every day. I was fortunate in that I was able to dedicate a whole box room to it. It was complete with desk, telephone, fax and printer. Everything an office-bound worker needs. That meant I could get up at the end of the day and pull the door closed behind me. My trip home was a simple walk down the stairs. I only entered the office room to work. Mentally, it may as well have been the office I had left many miles away.

Home office3

Impose a Self-Discipline

To reinforce this mindset, I found it important that when I got up every morning I would shower, shave and put on formal working clothes. Now that didn’t mean I put on a suit and tie, but by the same token I didn’t pull on sweatpants and a tee-shirt. The temptation is strong to slip into loose, causal sports clothes, or worse, simply stay in your pyjamas. I don’t recommend that approach as part of going to work is getting psychologically into the mood for a shift in your day from one of rest and leisure to that of energetic pursuance of your work objectives. Dressing appropriately demarcates between the two stages of your day. Believe me, it does work.

One other advantage of following a proper dress code is the fact you will be ready at any time to take a Skype call from a customer, your boss or another work colleague. It is important that you look fresh, clean and professional. Remember, if you are talking to a customer you to them represent the company’s ethos. If the customer encounters someone who looks like the have just stepped out of the gym it will plant the seeds of doubt in their brain.

Work Office Hours

Remember that you are part of a larger team. A cog in a well-oiled independent machine full of similar cogs. Working set office hours makes sure that important symbiotic relationship that exists within teams is not interrupted. The team thrives on knowing that every member is where they should be when they should be. These days a message is only a nano-second away at any one time. If you decide to work hours that suit only you then you are removing a very important cog from the machine. We all have experienced the frustration of somewhat not be available to answer an important question, or to sign off an important requisition, or someone to look at a bug so that the build can be kept on schedule. Being remote from your team does not mean you can act removed from the team.

The obverse side of this coin is the danger that you become a workaholic. That is not a good thing for either you or the company. A clued -in boss will look warily at a workaholic and identify that person as a possible future glitch in the system. A benign boss will step in and tell that colleague to slow down and to take care of themselves. If overtime work is required then the team will step up to the challenges as a unit, and step down again when the objective is achieved. Workaholics inevitably burnout. It always happens. The body and especially the brain need regular rest periods. I suffered from burnout on one occasions many years ago. I was out of work for a month. No-one gained from my over enthusiastic approach to work.

So, as you purposefully ‘go to work’ in the morning so too must you purposefully ‘go home’ in the evening. And don’t be tempted to sneak back to your desk later to look at an email or write a line or two of code. That is the slippery slope to your life becoming one of working with an occasional rest. Your brain needs a rest. You function better when you get regular rest. A brain-dead worker is no use to anyone.

Tell Friends to ‘Go Away’

One thing I learned very early in my life as a home office pioneer was the tendency of friends to assume that because you were at home they could call in for a chat and a cup of coffee. That cup of coffee became an hour-long break. It is an unwelcome interruption at a time when mentally you should be immersed in some work task. Think of it this way – how often do friends drop into an office to have a chat and a coffee with you? Never, I’d wager. So, you need to politely explain this to your friends. They will understand. It simply just doesn’t occur to some people that working from home is exactly the same thing as working from an office. Only the location is different. The good news is there is no need to be a total recluse, that is not healthy either. There’s no harm in taking a break and leaving the house to go off for a coffee somewhere. It is needed. It is healthy. In fact, it is recommended. You as a professional can best judge when that should happen. As long as you let your colleagues know where you are. These days having a smart phone at hand is enough to keep you in the loop.

It is also important you take a lunch break. I don’t mean a coke and sandwich at the desk. Get up, leave the office and go and have lunch somewhere else. Fresh air and different surroundings allow you to relax, it lets the brain have some welcomed down time and allows you meet other people. You will feel recharged after it. Just try and stick as close to the routine you would follow in an office environment.

Finally, talk regularly to your colleagues by Skype, WhatsApp etc. It removes the sense of isolation. Workspace is a synergetic environment. Trying to recreate that spirit of interaction is a challenge, but one that is much easier to overcome these days with the availability of so many means of instant communications. Make a purpose of facetiming someone every day. Hold team meetings online using Skype or something similar. Open your day with a quick Skype call and a coffee to one of your colleagues. It all helps bond the remote team. And now and again send your boss a funny emoji, but not too often!

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT.com

How to Leverage AI for Competitive Multilingual Customer Service

The Trend

We will probably never know who handled the first customer service inquiry, but we do know who accelerated the growth of that service and that was Alexander Graham Bell when in 1876 he invented the telephone. No longer did a disgruntled customer have to jump into his carriage and travel back to the shop that sold him the defective goods. Thanks to Bell, the customer had immediate access to someone far away to reach out to.

That was the origin of the now taken for granted Customer Service (CS) model. Over the years, as telecoms invented new and cheaper ways to contact manufacturers, the industry has grown and evolved into a highly sophisticated element of any company. And these days it is clearly the one, and often the first, part of a company to adapt Artificial Intelligence as the go to solution.

In 2018 the Salesforce’s Chief Digital Evangelist, Vala Afshar predicted that: “The line-of-business that is most likely to embrace AI first will be the customer service – typically the most process oriented and technology savvy organization within most companies.” (Source: https://emerj.com/)

And time has proven him prescient as more and more companies have discovered the value of an AI-driven customer service model. According to a report by Oracle, 78% of companies surveyed claimed to have implemented or are planning to implement AI in the customer service department by 2020.

AI CS

According to a recent PWC survey, 77% of customers expect their problem to be solved immediately upon contacting customer service. What’s more, many customers interact with brands digitally – not occasionally, but exclusively. That means that technology is more central to the customer journey than ever before. Just as it has become easier for customers to get in touch with companies, it is becoming more challenging for companies to upscale to service this growing demand. This challenge of scale and timing are two tasks that AI can meet head on and win. The sophistication of the latest CS technology design guides users to relevant touchpoints along the pathway to a solution. The technology also has the added advantage of being able to capture a plethora of data and customer sentiment that companies can use to further refine their CX model.

The Language Challenge

However, with the success in CS technological sophistication comes a challenge: many companies rightly see their market as one spanning the globe, and with that reality comes the question of native language communication. They now find they are expected to deal with multiple markets and in the vernacular of those markets. In today’s world, most customers expect instant contact and in their native language. Thankfully, AI-enhanced machine translation is now available at a quality level that can help companies meet these customer demands. Machine translation technology can deliver an excellent multilingual service, and one that prevents human agents being overwhelmed by customer demands.

The adaption of AI-enhanced MT means that progressive companies that deploy this technology are able to shift their hiring focus from that requiring scarce language expert candidates to one where they can hire agents with a technology expertise and augment their skills with language technology. This fusion of human and machine model empowers companies to deliver a top-quality, language-specific and rapid customer service response. Fred Arens – Director, Gamer Support, Keywords Studios had this to say about the importance of such a model: “Actioning multilingual tickets improves user experience and the quality of our support services”.

Conclusion

Thanks to Alexander Graham Bell, customer service is a reality and is something that has snowballed in size since that first CS call. It is now predicted that the use of AI-enhanced customer service will increase by 143% by 2021. The reality of such a challenge cannot be ignored. The fact is most companies cannot afford to supply unlimited multilingual human agents working 24X7. That is why so many have turned to AI as an essential complementary aid to enable customer services to become more efficient. Customer service technology, when assisted by the abilities of machine translation, can provide a 24×7 multilingual solution. Customers are serviced in their native language in real time by MT-supplied translations.

Using MT technology tools like FAQs can be quickly updated, further reducing the need for agent interaction. In addition, the intelligence fed in through AI-driven technology provides a wealth of data that can also be quickly and cheaply translated into other languages so that head office can parse it to glean the information needed to improve their business intelligence. The ability to do this with speed can often give a company an edge over their competitors.

Multiple surveys have demonstrated that most customers are willing to spend more money on products if they are confident of a good customer service backup. As a result, for forward seeing companies an AI-driven, multilingual customer service model makes sense. As more product channels and markets emerge for these companies, additional scalability and language challenges will be needed. These challenges will test the flexibility and efficiency of Customer Service Centres. It can only be met by employing a robust, scalable, multilingual AI solution. And thankfully, that solution does now exist.

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT.com

Artificial Intelligence in Business – “The Future is Already Here”

William Gibson, a Canadian Science Fiction writer and the inventor of the term ‘cyberspace’ before the internet existed, has said of Artificial Intelligence: “The future is already here. It is just not widely distributed.” That quotation captures the essence of where we stand today on the cusp of a major explosion in the use of artificial intelligence. An explosion that will create the dynamic for many businesses to reinvent themselves, lifting themselves to a whole new level of productivity, product development and market penetration.

In many ways we are seeing the proliferation of AI in our own lives. It has slowly and subtly been making its presence felt it all aspects of what we do and how we do it. Anyone who has a ‘virtual assistant’ like an Amazon Echo or a Google Assistant, or uses Siri on their phone is already enjoying the power of AI. Today it is quite common for people to control home automation devices and media playback via voice, and manage other basic tasks such as email, to-do lists, and calendars with verbal commands. Some of these can even be done from a remote location. People turn on lights, adjust their heating systems, view callers to their house via video from afar. No longer is this the stuff of science fiction where many of us would have first encountered the concepts. That future is already here.

There is a saying that anything that can be digitised can be monitored. And that is the premise that underlies the development of many of the latest AI inventions. Nowhere is this seen more as in the development of businesses. This development falls under the acronym of IOT – the internet of things. IOT refers to any ‘thing’ that is digitised and connected via the Cloud. Obviously, the home gadgets such as the Amazon Echo fall into this category, but so too do such things as cargo ships, container lorries, product shipments, medical devices, lost mobile phones just to name a few.

An example of a company successfully deploying AI in business is the huge retailer Walmart. They have become a pioneer in the use of AI. They have partnered with SAP and now widely use SAP’s product called HANA. This product allows Walmart to hoover up statistics from across its huge network of 11,000 outlets servicing 250 million customers annually. The collection of this data in real time using AI, enables their backroom team to spot trends, monitor stock changes, identify possible areas of difficulty in logistics, compare outlet performances and make real time adjustments where needed. Walmart claims its system allows them to process half a billion data records per second.

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And indeed, the fuel to the AI engine is data. What the Cloud, high speed networks and powerful cost-efficient front ends have provided is the infrastructure needed to make the AI revolution a reality for many businesses. Add to this the ability to digitise almost anything and you get an idea of the power AI is bringing to the world of industry. An American company called Domo Inc spotted a desire in the market to better control and exploit the potential of such data collection. The company, which specialises in business intelligence tools and data visualisation, invented a cloud-based ‘Dashboard’ product that allows companies to pull data from multiple sources such Facebook, Salesforce, Shopify, accounting packages, company mobile phones and laptops and to render this information in real time on a Dashboard. The information is collected, collated and sorted in seconds and provides top management with an insight into market movements and customer sentiments, it generates reports, flags trends and slices and dices the data to whatever level management need to help them in their decision making. It also has a powerful predictive analytical function, an AI ability more and more companies are seeing as a powerful and necessary tool.

Anyone who has worked in sales can identify with the heart break involved between getting a customer to move from showing interest in buying a product to actually closing a deal. The churn and stagnation in the sales funnel is something many companies see as a weakness in their selling process. To address this challenge some companies have turned to products such as Apptus. That company provides what it calls “middle office” solutions, utilising artificial intelligence to optimise various financial and commercial functions, such as quote-to-cash, revenue management, and e-commerce management. Amongst other things the software allows is the identification of a customer’s intentions to buy and then works to close the sale. It also interprets the data mined to pinpoint a customer’s preferences and maps and predicts buying behaviour. Its success is underlined by the fact that it has now been integrated with many of the leading sales platforms, such as Salesforce.

The benefits and growth in AI can also be seen in the field of healthcare. A common use of AI in healthcare can be seen in the area of implantable devices. These devices, such as pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) are now digitised and allow practitioners to monitor a patient’s real time health. Data gathered by the devices is relayed to a central server where it can be monitored, and issues identified, and possible problems detected. The practitioner can also see if a device is performing below par, or even if it needs its battery replaced. The digitisation has transformed them from being dumb, reactive devices to smart, predictive mini machines.

AI programs have also been developed and applied to practices such as diagnostic processes, treatment protocol development, drug development, personalised medicine, and patient monitoring and care. Additionally, hospitals are looking to AI to support operational challenges such as cost savings, and management of staffing and workforce logistics. Software companies have identified healthcare as a growing market for AI and are developing predictive analytics solutions to help healthcare professionals manage patient needs, improve accuracy in diagnosis and better predict the efficacy of treatment plans.

So, AI is on the move across a swathe of industries, that cannot be denied. Yet the future that is now here is not yet being adopted by many companies. According to a 2017 www.bcg.com survey only 23% of companies had begun using AI in some capacity. At the low end of use were those who used chatbots. Those who were showing a more determined uptake were companies who had hired data scientists and had nominated CEO-driven AI programs. Those earlier adopters are having the successes others are missing. According to www.zooinfo.comearly adopters have achieved significant benefits – including efficiencies, cost reductions, improved customer experiences and a revenue growth.”

Making the move into AI is for many industry leaders is a no brainer. Yet, according to www.bcg.com… the gap between ambition and execution is large at most companies. Three-quarters of executives believe that AI will enable their companies to move into new businesses. And almost 85% believe AI will allow their companies to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage.”

Yet, for some executives it is seen as a challenge too far. However, one executive talking to www.bcg.com advised: “I don’t think that every frontline manager needs to understand the difference between deep and shallow learning within a neural network. But I think a basic understanding that—through the use of analytics and by leveraging data—we do have techniques that will produce better and more accurate results and decisions than gut instinct is important.

AI is on the rise. Its use is ubiquitous at many levels of business and society. It is clear, the future is here to stay.

(Many of the company examples given above are based on http://www.bcg.com reports).

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT.com

Companies Who Snooze Will Lose as A.I. Changes the Game

“There is a global accord that A.I. technologies have the potential to revolutionise production and contribute to addressing global challenges.” (Economic Impacts of A.I. – European Parliamentary Research Service).

Outside my house as I write this there is a team of workmen laying fibre optic cable connecting every house in my neighbourhood to a high-speed broadband service. The city (pop. 100,000) has plans to connect every house over the next few months. It is a jointly funded program involving the government owned electricity company and a private telecommunications provider. This got me thinking about how much the 4th Industrial Revolution is making progress across the land (for more on the 4th Industrial Revolution see: http://ow.ly/LOdV30qh4Dq).

When the first industrial revolution happened in the 100 years leading up to the middle of the 19th century, driven by the invention of steam power and new technology that could harness that power, how many people realised their world was undergoing a radical restructuring? Swept away by this revolution where the cottage industries and labour-intensive production techniques of the past, to be replaced by the “Dark Satanic” factories of Dickensian lore of machine-driven production.

Well, our generation is in the throes of an equally transformative revolution. This time it is being driven by the emergence of a maturing and dynamic artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology. For the first time in human history A.I. is allowing mankind to create machines with “human-like cognitive processes”. (Source: EU’s EPRS report, http://ow.ly/mWRn30qh5WI).

This ability is bringing about a transformation in our technical infrastructure, changing the means of production and fostering the invention of many more end-user products. It was not so long ago that the Internet of Things (IoT) was a vague term in our lexicon, but IoT products are proliferating at an unbelievable rate. All driven by our new A.I. abilities. Examples of these IoT products are: smart surveillance, automated transportation, smarter energy management systems, water distribution, urban security and environmental monitoring. A new technological eco-system is being created around us and it will continue to expand.

AI

Companies across the globe have identified the phenomenal growth in A.I.-related technologies and many are adapting. Other companies are struggling to understand how they can best harness themselves to this revolution. The fiercest competition for mastery of this change is taking place in two world regions, the USA and Asia. Lagging behind, warns the EPRS report, is the EU. As a consequence, efforts are underway in the EU to find ways of exploiting the potential of the new technological opportunities for its region and its citizens.

The global expansion of A.I. can be tracked by looking at the increase in the number of registered A.I. patents. There has been a noticeable upsurge in the registration of such patents. This upsurge in patents is now eclipsing the number of theoretical papers being written. The movement is from the theoretical to the practical. (WIPO 2019) The problem, from the EU’s point of view, is that only 12% of such patents are coming from its region. The EU sees it as an imperative that it helps foster an environment that incentivises companies to pursue this avenue of growth.

The majority of studies on the economic impact of A.I. emphasise that adoption of the technological can be significant. The consulting company Accenture, in a study of 12 economies, estimate that by 2035 those economies will double their growth rates through the use of A.I. This will happen because, they say:

  • It will lead to a strong increase in labour productivity (40%) due to A.I. technologies enabling efficiencies.
  • It will create a new ‘virtual workforce’ – also known as ‘intelligent automation’. This is technology that will have the ability to solve problems and learn from the experience of those solutions (for more on Deep Learning see my blog: http://ow.ly/ytsZ30qh5jC).
  • The drive for innovation will spread across new sectors leading to new inventions, new products, new markets and new revenue streams.

(See: Why Artificial Intelligence is the Future of Growth http://ow.ly/Xc8L30qh5kR).

The fuel for many A.I. innovations is the exploitation of ‘Big Data’ sources. According to IBM, there exists today 2.7 zettabytes of data online. A zettabyte is 1 billion terabytes. The growth of online business data is said to double every 1.2 years! (Source: Users Bring Real Value to Big Data Machine Translation, Wired). The volume of data available to industry today is mind-boggling. It is said that Facebook alone has in storage 250 billion images. It also has the data content of 2.5 trillion posts. Add to that one source of data that stored by other social media companies alone and the figure goes off the charts.

The data owned by private companies and government institutions is an incredible fount of knowledge on our world. Big Data is said to be valuable when it has volume (see above), it has variety (every subject matter under the sun now exists in data form) and it has velocity (the cloud and fibre optic solved that challenge). The consultants PWC say that there is now a virtuous circle of data, a perpetual loop, where new products create new consumers which creates new data giving better insights for the creation of new products – and on it goes.

As I noted earlier, the EU is determined to drive A.I. and the resultant economic gains over the next decade from this technology will increase. A McKinsey Global Institute report estimates that 70% of companies will adopt at least one form of A.I. and just under 50% of companies will adopt a panoply of A.I. technologies. The report predicts that by 2035 this adoption of A.I. will manifest itself in a $13 trillion boost to the EU’s economy.

One of the challenges the exploitation of Big Data sources presents is that of language. Needless to say, these repositories of information exist in multiple languages. For many companies this is the equivalent to having to decrypt a code in order to access a goldmine. However, A.I. has given companies the solution to this challenge in the form of Neural Machine Translation Networks (NMT). Machine translation now provides the way for companies to translate huge volumes of texts at very high speeds and at an affordable cost. NMT is also creating the means by which almost real-time translations can be provided for. This provides the means for companies to converse with end users and to learn the cultural nuances and sentiments of individual markets.

KantanMT’s KantanSkynet, a recent A.I. innovative technology, equips companies with both NMT married to a global of team of translators – a virtual workforce – that can supply 24/7 access to real-time translation services. This fusing of A.I. technology with expert human translators has created a potent solution to today’s language challenge. (To read more about KantanSkynet see my blog: http://ow.ly/yoPH30qh5Oz)

The 4th Industrial Revolution is happening all around us. It is pulling society in the definite direction of growth and massive change.  It is a reality that should not be ignored by any business with an eye on innovation, expansion and longevity. Every company should be looking at the opportunities being created by A.I. Let there be no doubt, the front runners in this race will get a start that will leave them as market leaders in the years to come. They will get a jump on their counterparts who are slower to adapt. A.I. is not going away. It is true to say that it is a case of “if you snooze you lose”. You’ve been warned. (See my blog on Big Data http://ow.ly/bRfw30qh5ou).

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT

Now’s the time to go with the flow – the MT tide is not for turning

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is in full flight and the changes it will bring will include a paradigm shift in the translation and localisation industry. The most obvious change already being affected is the widespread introduction of neural machine translation. This is a transformation that started off slowly just four years ago but has now developed a speed of change that is obliging the industry to run just to keep up. As with the introduction the CAT tools in the 1990s – Trados and Catalyst being the pioneering engines of that change – the translators who are essential to our industry are both sceptical and worried that they soon will be displaced by machines.

However, as it was with CAT technology, I have no doubt the doubters will be won over as they realise that they are not being displace but rather the configuration of the production line is evolving and that they will continue to be an essential part of the process. Production roles will evolve over time and translators will have to adapt to the new technologies to compete.  But let me state a simple fact, without the professional translators the business of translation would die. They will never be replaced.

Surf board

The new evolving paradigm is being driven by the rise of technology such as KantanSkynet. This ground-breaking technology is a complementary post-editing platform for KantanMT. By leveraging this sophisticated, yet easy-to-use cloud-based platform, KantanMT clients can deliver automated translation solutions. For it to work it needs the input of a global community of professional translators. The technology employs AI to determine the quality of translated texts and automatically routes low-quality texts to professional translators for improvements. These enhanced translations are then re-integrated into the translation engine. It is a symbiotic process that leads to high quality translation engines.

And what is clear, the kernel of this hybrid technology is the marrying of human skills with technological prowess. Without the translators the technology would not function. What is driving the evolution of such hybrid solutions is the increasing demand for the translation of huge swathes of data. Today it is estimated that Big Data provides 2.5 quintillion bytes of information per day. Now, if you are like me, you’ll will never have heard of the measure quintillion it is 1 million billion bytes. In old money, that’s a lot of floppy disks! The demand is in itself enabled by the exponential growth in computing power and the affordability of these high-powered machines. The emergence of the unlimited storage capacity of the cloud, coupled with the fibre optic communications highway and you have all of the elements needed to drive change in the industry. Just like King Canute, famed for failing to order the incoming tide to cease, fail too will translators who ignore the drive of this new technology.

There is an upside for translators, under the KantanSkyNet workflow model, downtime will become a thing of the past. Let me explain, if a translator is travelling by train, they can logon to the KantanSkynet platform and work for the duration of that journey. That’s money earned while travelling. If they are between large projects, as is often the case, they can fill that time by logging on and working on a KantanSkynet project. The projects will vary in size and so a translator need only commit to work that suits the free time they have.

The bottom line is translators can now earn money anytime, anywhere simply by logging on to KantanSkynet and use their mobile device to undertake work that improves machine-translated texts. The fusion of human and machine is happening. It is a mutually advantageous relationship. It is also the way of the future. Get onboard and work the partnership.

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT

KantanSkynet Gives a Strong Human Touch To Its Already Powerful NMT Solution

I believe the argument about the merits of whether to employ machine translation has finally been won. In the 10 short years since Google kicked off machine translation for real, its evolution from SMT through to NMT has been dogged by the argument that machines cannot translate to a sufficiently high standard to become a viable solution. Translators themselves pushed back strongly rightly feeling their superb skills were being taken for granted. This line of argument pitted the machine against the human translator. It presupposed a zero-sum solution. But as I will explain later, we have already moved beyond that binary argument and the good news is – everyone’s a winner with the new translation paradigm being promoted by KantanMT.

Two major dynamics changed the world in which translation companies now compete – the Cloud and Big Data. When these two factors were married with advanced, high speed technologies and the internet it became a no-brainer that the boundaries of our translation world would become a lot wider, and the challenge that widening boundary would present was how to manage the huge volumes of work, across the range of languages that would come with it.

I have spoken in other blogs of how global companies literally look to the world as their market. And they are not wrong to do so.  In 2019, online sales are predicted to hit $3.53 trillion and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to $6.54 trillion dollars in 2022 (Source: https://econsultancy.com/ ). It would foolish for any large company to ignore the realties now offered by the global market.

Human touch

Much of the demand is being driven by newly emerging markets. Asia, for example, is now seen as a slowly awakening powerhouse ready to grow into a major e-market. Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning tools are allowing retailers to leverage a wealth of consumer data from these markets so that the can best position themselves to win large chunks of the sales. In order to position themselves in a market-friendly way, these companies understand that communicating in the language of the customer is essential. This is the landscape in which translation companies are now selling. Companies want multiple languages, large volumes of words and data translated and a lot of time they want it yesterday.

The only solution to this challenge is machine translation. Only MT can handle the huge volumes at the speed required. Which then leads us to the quality dilemma. And there is no doubt that MT alone cannot always provide enough quality (though at times it can – but that’s another debate). Google themselves have admitted that: “Google Says Google Translate Can’t Replace Human Translators”. (Source: https://www.propublica.org/) This quality argument has been accepted by most, if not all MT companies, to ignore it would be myopic. So, the debate is now underway as to how we “humanise and soften” MT output. Of course, post-editing is a service that is already offered and has its rightful place within the L10n workflow. However, a new paradigm has emerged aimed at infusing MT with a more human quality translation output.

Just last month KantanMT.com launched its new product, which is called KantanSkynet (see my last blog https://kantanmtblog.com/2019/08/15/kantanKantanSkynet-to-rain-down-opportunities-for-linguists-worldwide/). The product is described as a “Human-Powered Machine Translation Platform”. KantanSkynet is a global crowd-sourcing translation platform which seeks to integrate human translation skills with Kantan’s neutral machine translation technology. By combining the two, KantanSkynet aims through an ongoing, relentless process to build and augment a human translation quality into the KantanMT NMT engines.

KantanMT launch a very successful recruitment process beginning last August to recruit language experts in all corners of the globe. This highly qualified panel will form the community of language experts who will be paid to undertake the human translation of texts deemed of low quality by the NMT. Once translated by the human translator the texts are fed back in to the NMT system and the quality of the engine is improved accordingly.

So today, instead of sitting in an office in Dublin, London or Amsterdam a translator can be virtually anywhere and still be available for work on KantanSkynet. Ironically, while in-house translation technology has become sophisticated, translators have reverted to working in something of a 19th century cottage industry work model. That is the model that suits so many of them. Most translators choose to work from home. In today’s technological era they have the connectivity they need to work from almost any place and at any time. With today’s seemingly ubiquitous WIFI, no translator is restricted to where and when the translate.

And this is the online community that is now working with KantanMT to help humanise and soften NMT output. It is the essence of KantanSkynet to combine the speed and low cost of machine translation with a layer of human expertise powered by a “global community” of professional translators. So, using this model, KantanMT can offer the scale needed to translate huge volumes of data to a higher quality standard. And working through its KantanSkynet crowd-sourcing solution the native quality translations that many customers require is now an integral feature of KantanMT’s workflow.

Over time, the quality of translations will grow exponentially. This symbiotic solution of human translators working in tandem with high tech machinery is surely the paradigm that will be followed by many others long into the future of our industry.

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT

Preventing the Unravelling of the World’s Rich Tapestry of Languages

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela

With those two simple sentences one of the 20th century’s greatest icons summed up the power of language. Mandela understood that in speaking a person’s indigenous language you not only communicated from the brain but also from the heart. Mandela believed that is important for the world to rescue, maintain and help nurture the vast array of indigenous languages of this great planet of ours.

The General Assembly of the United Nations with UNESCO declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL). The purpose of the project is to promote awareness of the critical risks indigenous languages face, and to underline and promote their continued importance as “vehicles of culture, knowledge systems and ways of life”. These languages, activists would contend, are not mere repositories of words, grammar and lexicons but are indeed the foundations and cultural roots of many diverse peoples.

These indigenous languages play a critical role in empowering their communities. The use of their native tongue gives them a level playing field. It can, for instance, facilitate equitable democratic participation in their countries’ economic, cultural and political life. It is the means of making them inclusive of the body politic and drawing them into the heart their country’s system. It gives them hope and a stake in the future of their society.

IYIL2019_visual_4_en

Indigenous languages make up the majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and, like all languages, they are as the UN argues “depositories and vehicles of culture, knowledge, values and identity”. The UN also maintains that the loss of any of these languages would be a deprivation for humanity, and a disempowerment for the communities specifically dependent on these languages. According to the New York Times of the estimated 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, linguists say, nearly half are in danger of extinction and are likely to disappear in this century. In fact, they are now falling out of use at a rate of about one every two weeks,

According to UNESCO, a language is endangered when parents are no longer teaching it to their children, and it is no longer being used in everyday life. (Source: “Dying languages: scientists fret as one disappears every 14 days“, https://www.thestar.com) A language is considered nearly extinct when it is spoken by only a few elderly native speakers. Languages with a mainly oral tradition have more chance of extinction than those with a written tradition.

What are the numbers behind indigenous languages?

  • 7,000 languages spoken worldwide
  • 370 million indigenous people in the world
  • 90 countries with indigenous communities
  • 5,000 different indigenous cultures
  • 2680 languages in danger of extinction

According to UNESCO the Aims of the IYIL are:

  1. Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation.
  2. Creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices with regards to indigenous languages.
  3. Integration of indigenous languages into standard setting.
  4. Empowerment through capacity building.
  5. Growth and development through elaboration of new knowledge.

It is through language that we communicate with the world. Language helps us define our identity, articulate our history and culture, and store our traditions. Indigenous language empowers people to defend their human rights and gives them the wherewithal to participate in an equitable way with all aspects of their society. In doing so, they give people a stake in, and a sense of ownership of, their society.

Through language, people preserve their community’s history, customs and traditions, folk memory, distinctive ways of thinking, meaning and expression.  Language is also used to construct their shared future. Language is pivotal in the areas of human rights protection, good governance, peace building, reconciliation, and sustainable development. (Source: https://en.iyil2019.org/role-of-language/)

A person’s right to use his or her chosen language is a prerequisite for freedom of thought, opinion and expression, access to education and information, employment, building inclusive societies, and other values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many of us take it for granted that we can conduct our lives in our native languages without any constraints or prejudice.  But this is not the case for everyone.

Of the almost 7,000 existing languages, the majority have been created and are spoken by indigenous peoples who represent the greater part of the world’s cultural diversity. Yet many of these languages are disappearing at an alarming rate, as the communities speaking them are confronted with cultural prejudice, linguistic assimilation, enforced relocation, educational disadvantage, poverty, illiteracy, migration and other forms of discrimination and human rights violations.

Given the complex systems of knowledge and culture developed and accumulated by these local languages over thousands of year, their disappearance would amount to losing a trove of cultural treasure.  It would deprive us of the rich diversity they add to our world and the ecological, economic and sociocultural contribution they make. More importantly, their loss would have a huge negative impact on the indigenous cultures concerned.

It is for this reason and others that the United Nations chose to dedicate a whole year to indigenous languages, to encourage urgent action to preserve, revitalise and promote them. Let’s hope it is a successful year.

This blog is based on information supplied by the project’s official site:

https://en.iyil2019.org/about#about-1

Where information on related events and what you can do to help can be found.

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT.