Spanish is the second most commonly used language in the United States. More and more we are seeing advertisements, television commercials, channels and products aimed at the Spanish speaking population. In larger cities such as NYC, San Francisco and others we even see text in Chinese or Japanese, targeting those native speakers. The world is becoming more and more globalized and as such our military and professional personnel need to become more adept at interacting in different languages.
English speaking nations have historically lagged behind other nations in our ability to communicate in different languages, largely because the widespread use of English throughout the world has made it “unnecessary”. However the recent engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan and others combat areas have made the use of Interpreters and multilingual personnel a very high priority.
Additionally the rise of other nations in the global economic landscape, such as China, Korea and more recently a rebirth of Russia, have given more priority to the need for a multilingual employer base. If not to state the obvious, speaking Spanish is also a priority, as it is by far the second most commonly used language in the United States today.
All this adds up to a need to integrate multilingual communication both in the personnel as well as the technology of our military. For instance, the concept of software localization is of rising importance. It involves taking a given software, website or other technical implementations and making it suitable for use in different locales. Most military grade software has this capability built in, and it is now being expanded to cover civilian, professional and personal software implementations as well.
High tech interpretation software has also been assisted in this progression towards a multilingual environment. IN fact this is so commonplace now that many of the software implementations needed to translate and interpret other languages on the fly are available to the common public and through common mobile apps. The rise of “Siri” and other voice activated search engines have made the interpretation of human speech (and transcription of voice to text) a very common thing. This then can feed the text into a translation engine (similar to Google Translate) and provide a impressive result of on-the-fly interpretation.
Of course these are always somewhat imperfect, even with the incredibly impressive results we have seen from consumer level translation software, the best results come from human beings. Perhaps at some point in the future we will see software and AI approach the same level of detail as we see with human interpreters and transcribers, but we shall have to wait and see for it.
It is for this reason that interpreters are a common and integral part of the personnel of combat missions on foreign lands. Software cannot be relied upon in high pressure situations. However in lower pressure, time insensitive situations, a software solution can provide extremely impressive results.