Although it is already mid-January, I would still like to wish everyone a very good 2008! It definitely looks to be an interesting year.
Back to blogging, after a very long pause. The reason was my major geographical transition: after 8 very nice years in Boston, we returned to the bi-lingual Finland and the very multi-lingual European union last autumn. The time required for a trans-Atlantic move is not to be underestimated!
Leonor’s interview with Director General Lonnroth about the languages in the EU is an excellent description of the world on this side of the Atlantic. On a very personal note, I love tuning to YLE Mondo radio every time I am driving; a local station broadcasting news from several different countries. I even get the NPR! I listen to German, French, Spanish, and Italian news, and at the same time notice the differences there are not just in the language, but also in the content. Even more fun is to listen to news from Australia and South Africa, which really change the world perspective. A good reminder that from Africa or Australia, many things do look different than from the US or from Europe. How lovely it would be to understand what they say in Chinese, Japanese or Arabic, to name just a few languages!
Anyways, things are finally starting to find their places in their new home, so I am back to blogging. We had a wonderful Gilbane conference in Boston at the end of November; it got so many ideas going in my head, especially about the social aspects of content, search, collaboration – and of course language. The question “Where are languages in social media” was asked in the conference, and the first answer was on the lines of: gee, that is a tough thing to solve. True – and yet I am convinced that we will begin to see very new types of tools and solutions. It was interesting to note that several examples were given on how in corporations social media enabled people find a language speaker inside the organization. “Through our collaboration tool, we found someone who speaks Japanes and can check our translations.” “We realized someone in our German office could translate the materials we needed.” Language skills become yet another skill to be shared in communities.
Another interesting point was that MT and its usefulness came up. With the amount of user-generated information exploding, there is no chance to human-translate everything. Could this be the real coming of age of MT?
I spoke with one multilingual service provider who said that they have started receiving requests for checking user-generated content in corporate community sites. Interesting. I would guess that need for automated checking of “bad words” increases as more content on corporate sites comes not from employees but from anyone in the web. Enterprise searches have to be multilingual, but there is always room to improve.
As Leonor pointed out: collaboration yields knowledge. That knowledge is multilingual.