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February 15, 2024 - 6 minutes

AI's Role in Multilingual Communication: Breaking Language Barriers

Discover how AI tools are working to enhance global communication.

Ironhack - Changing The Future of Tech Education

Artificial Intelligence

You’re probably quite aware that the number one barrier that people think of when they reflect on cultural differences is languages–and there’s a good reason why. If the simple ability of a person to communicate is complicated by language barriers, it’s hard to even get the most basic language across. And while the world is becoming more global and more and more people are bilingual or at least able to communicate the basics in a foreign language (or two!), the tech sector has seen an incredible opportunity for growth in the field of multilingual communication. 

In this article, we’ll explore the barriers that diverse languages pose and how tech is working to ensure that everyone, regardless of their native tongue or language ability, can access the same resources and use tech to break down language barriers. 

First, however, it’s key to understand what language barriers are, where they come from (hint: it’s not just people speaking different languages!), and the reason why artificial intelligence technology is so focused on removing them as much as possible. 

Language Barriers: What Are They?

As you probably know, language barriers refer to the communication issues that arise when two people speak different languages and try to communicate; however, they’re not limited to just different languages. People with different accents, dialects, language disabilities, and more can also experience language barriers when communicating with others who, on paper, speak their same language. 

As one of the seven main barriers to communication, language barriers can significantly impede someone’s ability to do lots of things; from accessing basic public services like healthcare or education or simply making social connections, “solving” language barriers has long been an idealistic goal. 

Tech has been on the forefront, thanks to artificial intelligence, of fostering cross-cultural interactions, even when language barriers exist. And as we mentioned before, there are quite a few things to keep in mind here: 

  • Language: here, we’re discussing the actual words that are spoken and the meaning portrayed by each which, if there isn’t some level of understanding between the people or groups trying to communicate, poses quite the barrier. 

  • Proficiency: especially in today’s global world, there are lots of people who are learning a language or diving into the basics, meaning accents and varying fluency levels can also contribute to misunderstandings. 

  • Technical: even if you’re speaking to someone who knows the same language, you could easily face a technical language barrier, which means you have differing levels of expertise or knowledge about a specific area, which can lead to confusion later on.  

  • Cultural: not all language is spoken and in lots of cultures, physical movements or greetings such as hugs or handshakes are just as important as spoken words. Understanding what body language can convey is crucial to respectfully and properly communicating with someone from a different culture.  

  • Physical: people who have hearing loss or speech impediments, such as stuttering, may struggle with communication barriers if they’re not able to easily understand their conversation partner, and vice versa. 

Now that you understand the different kinds of language barriers that exist, let’s dive further into the importance of multilingual communication and why up and coming tech professionals should prioritize it in their future projects: 

  • Accessible communication between cultures facilitates development and growth: the more we know, the better we are and with an easier way to communicate with others, which allows you to learn more and create more global products that fit the needs of more people. 

  • More personalized and catered services contribute to a more loyal audience: users want to feel appreciated and special and with a better understanding of your users and their needs and wants, you’ll be better prepared to improve customer loyalty. 

  • Quality cross-cultural communication expands your range of qualified candidates: with more available professionals to fill your needs, you’ll be able to choose the one that best fits your role without having to worry about communication problems. 

Artificial Intelligence for Language Learning

Before we dive right into how artificial intelligence has contributed to advancement in multilingual communication, it’s important to clarify one point: we are not and probably never will reach a point where seamless communication between two people who speak different languages happens, but we can take steps towards helping facilitate a better understanding through tech. 

Why is this? Well, languages are incredibly complex; to put it simply, think about the multiple meanings that just one word can have or how sarcasm or irony influences the way you understand what a person is saying in your own language. Even though computers are advancing rapidly, there’s still a lot of room for misunderstanding or confusion due to the sensitive nature of understanding the true meaning behind words. 

The recent rise in artificial intelligence technology has led to a resurgence in language models that are designed just for this: but how do they work? Let’s explore. 

Language models in artificial intelligence 

Just like in the majority of AI tools, language models rely on pattern recognition and vast amounts of data to train the tool to recognize and then translate the language into the most accurate version possible. Through the use of incredibly advanced machine learning algorithms, we can connect further with people who speak different languages and make real-time, multilingual communication a reality. 

As advancement in artificial intelligence language models continues, we can expect to see even more accurate results and a deeper understanding of social customs, nuances, dialects, accents, and the other delicate aspects of language that make multilingual communication so challenging. 

Breaking language barriers with artificial intelligence 

We’re just at the beginning of discovering what we can do with artificial intelligence and we’ve already seen quite a few incredible advancements; let’s explore a few areas with a bit more detail. 

AI language assistance in healthcare 

Healthcare and medical services are one of the main focus areas when it comes to establishing accurate and reliable translation services; patients need to be able to communicate freely with their provider and if there’s a language barrier, this person’s treatment could be compromised. With the help of AI tools, however, doctors are able to quickly translate previous reports/files and get a full patient history, in addition to communicating directly with the patient themselves through voice translation. 

Whether the patient is simply visiting from abroad or doesn’t speak the local language, this will revolutionize the treatment they’re able to receive. 

AI language assistance in education 

Depending on your native tongue, you may have found there’s a lack of materials in a certain area, limiting what you can learn or teach yourself; here, AI technology has had two incredible effects: 

  • On one hand, translation tools that are skilled at identifying patterns and trends and correctly translating the message to another language can expand the amount of resources and information that people who speak a different language can access.

  • AI has also revolutionized the language learning process, helping identify problem areas in specific language combinations and learning from the user’s progress and mistakes to create a more personalized and helpful learning plan for the user. 

AI language assistance in social services 

For services that demand a wide range of languages readily available, keeping translators or interpreters on hand isn’t always a realistic option. Governments who deal with a number of different languages regularly can benefit from artificial intelligence technology, moving away from requiring in-person services and freeing up human time for more demanding tasks. 

The Future of AI in Multilingual Communication 

As artificial intelligence in multilingual communication is just beginning to take off, there’s still a lot of work to be done and room for improvement. However, as it becomes more widespread and accurate, we can expect to see more language barriers broken down and even broader cultural exchange, which will have nothing but positive benefits on both the tech industry and society as a whole. 

Moving forward, artificial intelligence tools focused on language will expand to take into consideration the other factors of language that we mentioned above, such as body language, dialects, or speech impediments that are also essential to achieving a language model that is truly global and accessible to all.

At Ironhack, we know that language barriers have limited access to tech tools or basic services in the past, and that’s why we’re focused on teaching the next generation of techies the necessary tools they need to kickstart their career in tech and start to make a real difference in the world. 

Our newest bootcamp in Data Science and Machine Learning is designed for this: to teach you how to analyze large amounts of data and work with advanced machine learning algorithms to facilitate cross-cultural communication. 

Does this sound like the right path for you? Jobs in artificial intelligence are popping up all over the place and those who possess knowledge of the newest tools are in high-demand and luckily for you, our bootcamp syllabi are cultivated precisely around what the market needs, setting you up for success.

We can’t wait to see you in class!

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