The Importance of Language Translation Technology

Communicating with people that speak a different language is always going to present challenges. But, in business, overcoming language barriers at work has become a necessity. This is more relevant than ever as the UK faces a skills shortage across all industries, teamed with an increase in remote working. Over the past two years there has been a seismic shift in the way businesses operate, communicate and recruit and breaking down language barriers plays a crucial role in that.

Working Remotely But Staying Close

More than half (54%) of businesses in the information and communication industry said they were using, or intended to use, increased homeworking as part of a permanent business model in early April 2022. This, coupled with the fact that one in four workers in the UK information and communication industry were born outside of the UK, and have English as an additional language, will present issues around communication – particularly when it’s conducted over video.

Outside of the typical connectivity issues and muted, unmuted Zoom call problems, communicating with remote teams and colleagues is made even more difficult without effective language translation technology support.

Likewise, in face-to-face situations there is a real need for interpreters and technological solutions to ensure all workers understand their briefs day-to-day, their job roles and have proper access to training, health and safety and promotional opportunities.

For businesses to be as effective, diverse and inclusive as they can be, language translation technology must be an investment consideration. The issue isn’t going to change as the superdiversity of the school system here shows. With around 20% of pupils – the next generation of talent – speaking English as an additional language this is only going to become a greater challenge so businesses must act now.

The Lost in Translation Effect

At Pocketalk we understand the challenges that come with communication barriers and the effect it can have on a business’ output and an employees’ wellbeing. We’ve worked with organisations in a variety of different sectors including healthcare, education, logistics and manufacturing.

From our experience, we understand that for many, not being able to communicate in the same language can lead to a lack of confidence, difficulty building rapport with colleagues, customers and other stakeholders while also increasing health and safety risks if processes aren’t properly understood.

Cultural differences can also play a key role in how we communicate. For example some cultures are known for punctuality whereas others may take a more relaxed approach to timekeeping. It’s important to manage that and extinguish and potential conflicts in the workplace. It’s worth doing some research on the cultures of staff and stakeholders and recognise and react to them in the business environment.

Addressing the Skills Shortage

Introducing language translation technological solutions can also help UK businesses address the skills shortage.

This is relevant across all industries but in the IT sector, there is currently a large variety of roles that are included in the UK government’s skilled worker shortage occupation’ list. High-demand roles include IT business analysts, architects and systems designers, programmers and software developers, plus web designers and developers.

To overcome the shortage, the roles are being made eligible for UK working visas as the IT industry needs to attract more high-skilled foreign workers, who already make up a large chunk of
the workforce.

The issue with this is, many current and future IT professionals don’t speak English as their
first language and as already mentioned earlier, the effect of language barriers in the workplace can contribute significantly to inefficiency, stifle collaboration and lower productivity. Also, of all industries, IT and telecoms professionals are most likely to work from home full- time, which again presents those issues for remote workers feeling frustrated and isolated. Greater adoption of digital technology
to overcome these language barriers must be considered. On the flip side, of course, the cost of doing that can’t be ignored. Implementing certain tools can be costly and take time – which businesses don’t necessarily have.

Investing in Language Translation Technology – Can You Not Afford to?

Being able to conduct meetings and converse in multiple languages is a huge advantage for business in the UK. Many rely on free translation software apps or other text translators, but these just don’t support the natural flow of a conversation. The other option is drafting in a colleague who can translate but this can take up precious time and you’re often limited as to what languages can be spoken. Using technological support such as an audio language translator like Pocketalk, participants can speak directly into the translator and it repeats the phrase in your chosen language, making it ideal for video and conference calls.

When selecting an audio translator choose one that offers a high-quality noise cancelling microphone and powerful speakers as it helps minimise any sound or technical issues. It’s also crucial that it can do multiple languages, ours can do 82, which means that it offers more inclusivity for minorities.

In an ideal world both parties would have an audio translator to speed up the conversation however it still works well if just one person has one.

The Technology Based Solutions For Consideration

There are various technology- based translation solutions available that help to overcome language barriers, each with their own pros and cons. Here are three of the most common:

  • Free translation software apps: offers instant translation but there are issues with the accuracy. It doesn’t offer a high standard across all languages and it’s often those who speak minority languages that are most impacted by the disconnect. Also, they often don’t always consider regional dialects and slang.
  • LanguageLine: an American company headquartered in California. This service offers phone translations, however, waiting for a translator to answer the call when consumer facing can take time and come with a hefty cost, neither of which may be practical for many businesses as they build back from the past two years.
  • Digital translation devices: Pocketalk can instantly translate 82 languages both in audio and text making it clear for the users what is being asked or said. These stand-alone devices harness software that allows for greater accuracy and covers more regional differences too. These devices improve communication and reduce the need for human interpreter costs. Anyone can use these devices, which fosters better inter-team conversations and customer relationships.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to language translation in business, but it is something that must be considered for all businesses. It will be hugely encouraging for overseas workers to understand that UK businesses are open and looking for solutions to help them thrive and succeed.

Joe Miller

General Manager of the Americas and Europe. Pocketalk.

Rise of the machines.

Ahsan Zafeer • 26th November 2022

Ahsan Zafeer covers topics related to tech and digital marketing and tweets @AhsanZafeer. Here he explains people’s fears as to why machines are taking over their jobs.