Technology, Translation and Teaching: The Perfect Storm


By Barry S. Olsen

Published: 13 June 2013


We are living in a time of increased opportunity, competition, competence and communication.


Welcome! I’m rolling out the cyber-welcome mat to anyone interested in multilingual communication, technology or interpreter and translator training. The idea of my very own blog has been growing and maturing in my mind for more than five years now. I have toyed with the idea on numerous occasions and written many posts and articles over the years for professional publications and blogs like the ATA Chronicle, the NAJIT BlogAIIC Communicate! and of course, the InterpretAmerica Blog, but for various reasons the time just wasn’t right to start blogging regularly.


Now that has changed because, as far as I can tell, there is a perfect storm brewing on the horizon. It’s a combination of three important topics that I care immensely about —multilingual communication, education and technology. At the intersection of the three is an area so rich with possibility, so ripe for change and so rife with fear and hand wringing that digital disruption is inevitable. In fact, it is already taking place.


In this equation, the enabler—or instigator, depending on how you feel about it—is technology, namely cloud computing and the digitalization of almost everything. All the buzzwords and acronyms in language services, communications and education stem from it (think, MOOCs, statistical machine translation, BYODUC&CVRI, crowdsourcing and such). The world’s burgeoning digital infrastructure is empowering and providing opportunities to talented individuals around the globe allowing them to obtain education and compete globally, this is especially true for tech-savvy language professionals and teachers.


At the risk of sounding too grandiose, I think we are living through a watershed moment for humanity. Education, translation and interpreting are important parts of it. However, the irony in all this is that many colleagues fear being replaced or relegated to a cubicle or call center by technology, when in reality, competent, capable language professionals with 21st-century skills are needed like never before, and training programs the world over will have to adapt to new market realities to prepare them adequately for these new technology-infused language jobs.


We are living in a time of increased opportunity, increased competition, increased competence and increased multilingual communication, all enabled by the smart use of technology. When I realized this, I knew the time had come for this blog. 

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