Why work on improving your English when your computer can translate everything for you? In fact, with computer translations, do we even need to use English?
The technology for computerised simultaneous translation is well advanced now. We are able to speak into a machine in one language and the machine will complete the translation and speak for us in another language. As the technology gets better, there is a strong argument that English will no longer be needed as a common, global language or ‘lingua franca’.
However, there are still some problems with this solution. Firstly, we must have confidence in the translation software and its ability to translate a lot of languages - there are well over seven thousand languages spoken in the world today, so that’s a huge amount of confidence.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I feel that communication with another person via a computer takes away part of the personal, human connection that relationships are based upon. People like to do business with other people based on trust and a certain personal connection.
In the book Zero to One (Crown Business 2014 USA), Peter Thiel writes: ‘People have intentionality—we form plans and make decisions in complicated situations. We’re less good at making sense of enormous amounts of data. Computers are exactly the opposite: they excel at efficient data processing, but they struggle to make basic judgments that would be simple for any human.’
When doing business with other people, we are making judgements based on our communication with those people. We are not processing large amounts of data. I am convinced that our ability to communicate personally with our business partners will always be an important part of our business relationships. Computers can help us to learn how to do this ourselves but I don’t think they are a good replacement for human contact.
As a result, when use of computer-based translators becomes more widespread, I think there will be two new categories of business people: those who need them and those who don’t.