Is artificial intelligence (AI) a viable alternative for content localization? [Interview]

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Automation. It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it makes industries more efficient which means goods and services can be delivered faster and cheaper. On the other hand, who can afford goods and services when you’ve lost your job to a machine that doesn’t need food, pay, or time off?

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Fortunately, I work in the creative sector, which means my job is perfectly safe. After all, robots can’t write. Right?

It’s not like machines understand the nuance of language and culture needed to create marketing content localized to a specific target market.

Or… do they?

To test my hypothesis I decided to interview Jonathan Koyot . Jonathan is a business development manager for a multinational firm that employs artificial intelligence to translate and localize content across a wide range of industries and geographies.

Here’s what he had to say.

Let’s start with why is it important for companies to localize their content?

Before localization actually started becoming a buzzword, it was considered unimportant for much too long — and many companies did not bother concerning themselves with it until the damage was already done. In today’s scenario, businesses are coming face to face with the diverse cultures of the world as home ground markets are reaching saturation and they are driven into cross-border expansion.

Having said that, the language barrier is the only significant obstacle in the path of any business. Essentially, adopting localization would mean crushing the barriers to growth.

There is no denying then that business with the local feel and a global reach will have the greatest impact vis-à-vis its competition. Thus, its imperative for businesses to consider content localization.

Finally, to put it all in a perspective….I’d like to complete my answer with a quote from Nelson Mandela:

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.”

If you speak to a man in his language that goes to his heart.

How would you describe the difference between translation and localization?

Everyone has their own preferred definitions for translation and localization. However, these terms are effectively interchangeable. In general, translation allows your users to understand your content whereas, Localization is the entire process of adapting a product or content to a specific market. The process more deals with aspects like graphics, formatting, date & time, phone numbers etc.

What do you see as the role of AI in localizing content?

Cognitive computing technologies such as AI are continually evolving. I think ML (Machine Learning) and other tools are already becoming specially suited for translation and localization. AI has brought about dramatic improvements in terms of efficiency, and, I think it is already poised to transform the content localization in a big way.

Cognitive computing can drive a significant value for localization in a broad sense. My thought is that at some point, AI will certainly make the process of content localization almost real time.

Do you think AI will someday replace human writers in creating/translating content?

Yes, of course…I’d like to fancy that! At present, AI is capable to outperform humans at certain tasks based on the short/long-term memory. But, it is widely believed that AI would outperform humans at many cognitive tasks in the days to come. Superseding human-level intelligence though…is still a question!

Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

There might be many negative connotations for AI, but AI is not necessarily negative. Businesses around the world who are leading AI adopters & are greatly benefiting have a different story to tell.

***

Thank you, Jonathan. But I’m not sure I completely agree.

After all, language is hardly the only barrier to effective cross-cultural communication. And in addition to graphics and formatting, you must consider dialect and local culture when localizing your content.

AI is continually improving and it certainly can make a human’s job easier. I would think that employing AI to quickly translate your content, then having a local copywriter review it to ensure the message is still a good fit for your target audience would give you the best of both worlds.

 

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