It's all foreign to me

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If you could wake up and be able to speak any foreign language, what would you pick? It might seem like an unrealistic question but technology could make it possible.

By Alison Gardner, account executive and international PR specialist 


This month, BBC Click released a video of Matthew Amroliwala,  a newsreader who can only speak English, speaking fluent Spanish, Mandarin and Hindi.  Fluently learning another language in just a few minutes sounds impossible — because it is.

The newsreader appeared to become instantly fluent thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) software developed by London based start-up Synthesia. The software maps the facial movements of people speaking their respective languages and then manipulates the lips of the newsreader on camera to match another language of choice.

Synthesia developed the software to improve dubbing and remove the language barrier from video content. This will allow creators ranging from small scale YouTubers to high-end film producers to bring out more sophisticated content and reach a larger audience. However, it is not clear to what extent the technology will be able to help multinational businesses.

Communication issues

Businesses could also use the AI approach to spread their message if they do not have the language skills in-house. However, you should be careful to make sure your key messages come across well no matter what language is being used.

For example, it might seem simple to translate a slogan but it might not translate directly. For example, Parker Pen used to have the slogan — It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you. When translated into Mexican Spanish, the team found the verb embarazar, which looks like embarrass but has another, quite different, meaning. The brand put out the final ad that said — It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.

Nelson Mandela once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” In multinational business, culture is as important as language and campaigns should be tailored to match the cultural values of the target countries.

Our multilingual team has the cultural expertise to suit your PR campaign. We fluently speak eight languages, so you don’t need AI to get your point across. For more information about how our international PR services can help your next global campaign, give me a call on +44 (0)1785 225 416 or e-mail me at alison@stonejunction.co.uk. 

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