Generative AI tools have arrived, quite loudly, onto center stage, and in my opinion, this is not just part of another tech hype cycle. Rather, they deserve our eager applause. What excites me the most about these new shining stars capturing the attention of so many people lately is that I firmly believe they will make global communication better for everyone in the long run. Here are six reasons I think anyone working at, or for, any company that needs to communicate with people around the world should be optimistic about this particular moment of transition, and what it means for the broader content universe.
- It’s time to put poor source content quality to an end.
Source quality is the lynchpin of enabling global communication. It’s something every localization professional wishes they could influence, in order to make global communication better for brands and businesses. For so many years, localization teams have dreamed of being able to get their hands on the source content to optimize it for localization. What we all wouldn’t give to make source content more understandable, more concise, less jargon-filled, free of grammar and spelling errors, and generally, more helpful to the reader.
Why? Because when we take that content into 20 languages, we also multiply many other things by a factor of 20: the errors, the confusion, the ambiguity, the imprecision. In a world in which we have become far too tolerant of “garbage in, garbage out,” we finally have a chance to clean up and pre-process the source content, turning it into something we might actually feel deserves to be brought into 20 languages in the first place.
- More content generally leads to more translation.
Right now, many source content creators are experimenting with generative AI tools in order to optimize, refine, and publish more content in English than they ever thought possible. As they are doing so, they’re applying tools that clean up grammar and style, remove redundancy, and communicate more plainly and clearly than many writers do naturally, without an editing process in place.
When companies create more content, this usually leads to (at some point or another), customers or internal teams in businesses requesting that a portion of this content be translated into other languages. While many AI tools are offering many languages, they are usually doing so via connectors to known machine translation engines. This means that translation is often happening automatically, at scale.
- More translation helps create a more nuanced understanding of quality.
Interestingly, as automated translation has become more widespread, many end users and customers are flagging their feedback that machine translation isn’t always sufficient to meet their needs. As such, even the strongest advocates of machine translation technologies have to start creating differentiated workflows in order to provide customers with the quality they really expect.
Consider this. Given that we now live in a world in which any customer can get a “basic” translation for free using an online browser plug-in, their expectation is that companies wanting to sell to them will need to do a much better job than what they can get themselves out of the box. They will expect companies to raise the bar even higher, customizing translations with their own company-specific terminology and improving and enriching those auto-generated translations. Also, companies will start to get more savvy at measuring quality and listening to customer input, so they can apply machine translation where it makes sense, but customize further where their customers really demand a higher level of quality.
- More content will help the very best source content rise to the top.
One thing that thrills me is the chance for brands to stand out and be differentiated within the coming content tsunami by not only the quality of their content, but by their distinctive, unique brand voice. Content obviously needs more than just a strong, identifiable, and endearing brand voice to rise to the top. But let’s face it. Content that’s written in a signature style, by a talented writer, is always more enjoyable to read, no matter what it says.
Content that brings people joy while entertaining or educating them about a topic tends to get shared more often. Content that gets more shares online gets more reach. Content that gets more reach is usually ranked higher by search algorithms and thus more traffic. And the virtuous cycle continues. This is why I believe one of the best investments companies can make right now is in style guides, glossaries, and other content-related assets in their source language, to ensure this style can cascade into other languages too, as they gear up to capitalize on the changes these AI tools will introduce over time.
- Renewed focus on quality will enable greater customization.
If we allow AI tools to help content creators along in their process, we free up the humans to do more additive, high-value work. While we know from experience in the localization profession that it can take decades for these types of technologies to become fully operationalized and reach their full potential, we can remain hopeful that these tools will ultimately be enablers of content quality as things play out over time.
Indeed, I’m excited about the potential these tools have to help us to carry out what will soon be basic prompts like, “Rewrite this for an audience with a 2nd grade reading level,” or “Convert this text to a less formal style,” or “Remove any industry jargon from this paragraph,” or “Apply plain language best practices to this text.”
The opportunities for customization are huge with these technologies, and in fact, they open up the possibility for a lot of personalization. Imagine custom style guides that can take your company’s own brand voice and style guidelines and convert any and all text into that style, in just a matter of seconds. As for the dreaded “copy and paste” commands we humans used to have to carry out every time we caught a capitalization error, or a branded term changed, may those rest in peace forever and be parts of our memory, so that future generations can do these things with one click, or a simple prompt that is one sentence long.
- High-quality communication can happen faster than ever before.
The thing that all of us should be most eager to see happen isn’t just that more content will be available online, to more people, and that it will be higher quality, and available in more languages than ever. That’s great, but that isn’t the real value of this next wave of AI tools, in my opinion. The true value is in the speed. The acceleration factor is what we should all pay the most attention to.
Consider the fact that many brands have had style guides and glossaries in place for decades. Many companies have had human editors for generations too. But never at any point in the past could the average person with internet access get access to a human editor who could clean up their content in real time, translate it into another language nearly instantly, and move messages back and forth between people in the blink of an eye. The acceleration factor that these content tools enable, more than anything else, is what I really believe will help us make progress and move us forward, making global communication better for everyone.
The February issue of MultiLingual magazine will have a special focus on AI, MT, and the future of language technology. Subscribe now and receive the issue in your mailbox after it prints.