May 11, 2017

Context is king: Overcoming the language barrier

Courtesy of Magicatwork

While the use of Natural Language Processing technology is invaluable, social media giants may still have some fine-tuning to do

Ayelet NoffAs Bill Gates famously said, “context is king.” This saying is now more relevant than ever before since we live in such a global world that is predominantly connected through social media. We can now connect with people in some of the world’s most remote locations in real time, and understand the languages they speak by tapping the power of social media.

These days, even the concept of six degrees of separation has changed — as we now live in a world with only four degrees of separation, a direct result of social media’s growing presence in every part of the world.

However, is language still a barrier we must overcome? Are we living in a world that is only semi-globalized because we cannot truly connect with someone who speaks another language? The answer is no.

Even if you don’t speak the same language as your social followers, some social media sites have introduced users to Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology in order to enable users to read posts in other languages. This contributes to creating a more global and connected marketplace of ideas, and both Facebook and Instagram now offer NLP translations for posts written in languages previously identified as ones users do not understand.

Here’s the catch:

While the intention is good, the technology itself doesn’t always provide the most accurate translations for words and phrases with double meanings, or words that just don’t translate well into other languages. You can see from this real-life example that translations vary in understandability:


Translated from Portuguese

While the context of this post is mostly there, the overall accuracy of the translation and words left untranslated sticks out like sore thumb.

Don’t worry, there’s a solution

This is where translation and language learning apps like Reverso Context come in handy. Reverso takes commonly misunderstood words and phrases and translates them by providing context through famous movies, television shows and official documents (full disclosure: Reverso is a Blonde 2.0 client).

For social media managers or those working in the field of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), apps like Reverso Context can be invaluable, as its many applications are endless. Disgruntled customers complaining on Facebook, or even connecting with core audiences on a more personal level in their native language, are just two ways to implement a more context-driven technology.

Facebook, Instagram and other notable sites have made valiant efforts in adapting to globalization. The companies have done this through adding technology that allows users to gain insight from some of the world’s greatest thinkers and world leaders. However, since social media communication is instantaneous, we must place heavy value on accuracy and context over merely assuming what someone wanted to say.

In the end, effective communication is the key to a healthy (social media) relationship. Effective communication could also mean the difference between opening up Pandora’s Box, leading to a major disagreement, or fully understanding the context of what was said and lead to a productive, insightful conversation via social media.Ayelet Noff is a partner in and founder and Co-CEO of Blonde 2.0, an award winning digital PR agency with branches in Boston and Tel Aviv. Contact Ayelet via The Blonde 2.0 website , email, or follow her on Twitter and Google Plus.

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