As we near the end of the year, it’s clear that 2023 has been the year of the large language model. Its best representative, ChatGPT, among other generative AI tools, has piqued the interest of many business professionals. Companies are leveraging AI to dismantle bottlenecks and scale services to new heights. Amidst the buzz, a significant amount of progress has been made around the application of AI in the translation and localization space.
During times of disruption, accurate data from various stakeholders is crucial for making informed business decisions; while general information is readily available, specific insights about market segments and key players are often difficult to obtain. Boostlingo’s new State of AI in Language Services report sheds light on a crucial yet smaller segment of the language services market: on-demand remote interpretation. This specialized niche, less spotlighted than other language services, is undergoing its own AI transformation. Our report outlines trends, offering fresh insights into the uneven impact of AI on interpretation and the language services market as a whole.
We recently asked over 250 language service providers and on-demand remote interpreters about their current usage, perception, and future expectations of Artificial Intelligence in language services. Here’s what we found:
AI is enhancing interpreter performance
The integration of AI tools, both mainstream and specialized, has been a game-changer for the on-demand remote interpreters who have implemented them – 85% shared that AI has improved the quality of services they deliver. Here’s a closer look into their experiences:
Enhanced Vocabulary and Term Lookup: AI tools help interpreters who frequently encounter unfamiliar terms. One interpreter shared how terminology management tools aid in finding new terms during live interpretation sessions, helping them save time and improve service quality. Another shared how using ChatGPT as an interpreter assistant allowed them to quickly react to new words. This was also applied when looking up idioms or slang, providing quick access to translations or explanations.
Note-Taking, Understanding Accents, and Validation: The use of AI live captions has been particularly beneficial for interpreters when dealing with long speeches. An interpreter shared that they were able to take notes more effectively and refer back to the subtitles for accuracy, reducing their cognitive load. Other interpreters shared that they were using captioning to understand speakers with strong accents to distinguish certain words. However, reliance on these tools isn’t absolute, as they sometimes fail. Interpreters need to maintain their existing strategies, such as manual note-taking and asking for repetitions. We also found that live captioning is used in addition to tools like Linguee to validate translations. Interpreters compare their interpretations with AI-generated translations to ensure accuracy.
Terminology Research: In specialized fields like healthcare, AI tools aid in researching complex medical terminology, ensuring that interpreters are accurate and up-to-date with their language usage.
Context Sensitivity and Distractions: There are limitations when using AI during interpretation. Some interpreters pointed out that AI tools like DeepL struggle with context-sensitive phrases and nuances in language. This results in translations that are only partially accurate, which highlights the current limitations of AI to fully grasp the subtleties of language and communication, an area where human interpreters excel. There are also instances where AI tools provide terms that are out of context or wrong, leading to confusion and distraction.
There’s a learning curve for remote interpreters
While the benefits of AI were clear to those who had used it, 48% of on-demand remote interpreters shared that they were not familiar with AI tools in interpreting.
One interpreter shared that they felt a bit uninformed. He saw people talking about AI online but didn’t understand how it applied to him as an interpreter. This sentiment makes sense when you consider the unique circumstances of this globally distributed workforce. Often, on-demand remote interpreters’ only engagement with technology comes through their relationship with language service companies. While AI might be making headlines, a Nepal-based interpreter who only accesses the internet through their company-provided laptop may not have had the chance to explore the technology in depth.
Like much of the training and standards available for on-demand remote interpreting, the burden will likely fall on LSPs and employers to bridge the AI knowledge and usage gap for interpreters. Luckily, new foundational resources available to this young profession, like the ‘The Remote Interpreter’ textbook, signal that dedicated resources and professional standards for remote interpreting are being taken seriously and will eventually remove some of the load from LSPs.
LSPs will actively consider AI in 2024
Language service providers are cautiously looking to integrate AI into their operations and services. 45% shared that they were planning to increase their use of AI tools in the next two years and 41% are actively considering it. We noticed that LSPs exhibited a cautious yet open approach towards AI. Many are still evaluating AI capabilities and quality levels, especially in captioning and interpretation, and are undecided about specific tools.
Here are a few of the various AI tools and strategies being contemplated:
For Language Services:
- Automating processes with machine translation and pre-translated work
- Implementing language recognition and transcription
- Using multilingual AI transcriptions
- Translating post-production and scaling services with AI
For Operations and Customized Solutions:
- Customized chatbots
- Art generators for content creation
- AI-powered sales insights
- Recruiting tool and onboarding automation
2024 will be a transformative year for language service providers. The intersection of AI and language services is set to become an increasingly important area for growth and innovation. Cautious optimism will be a favorable strategy for LSPs as the industry navigates the potential and limitations of AI, balancing technological advancements with the need for accurate, context-sensitive language services.
While embracing AI’s capabilities, it’s crucial to recognize its role as an augmentative force rather than a replacement in the language interpreting profession. AI, while transformative, cannot replace the nuanced understanding and emotional intelligence that human interpreters bring to high-stakes fields like healthcare and legal interpreting. Human interpreters excel in grasping cultural subtleties, idiomatic expressions, and non-verbal cues, adapting dynamically to evolving conversations. This adaptability, rooted in deep contextual awareness, is something AI presently struggles with, underscoring the irreplaceable value of human expertise in situations demanding high accuracy and sensitivity. As we integrate AI into our workflows, it’s imperative to highlight these unique human strengths, ensuring that AI is viewed as a complementary tool that enhances but does not supplant the human element in language services.
For interpreters, AI tools like terminology management and live captions can notably enhance their performance, offering improved vocabulary look-up, note-taking efficiency, and terminology research, but there remains a significant learning curve among the remote interpreter workforce. Given that nearly half of our remote interpreter respondents report unfamiliarity with AI, LSPs and technology providers need to facilitate training and resources to help these professionals harness AI tools effectively.
Download the free State of AI in Language Services Report
If you found these insights interesting and would like to dig deeper, check out our 38-page State of AI in Language Services report on the current usage, sentiment towards, and future expectations of AI in language services. This free resource offers a fresh view of the impact of AI technology on the language industry, specifically on on-demote remote interpreting services. It helps equip language service providers, interpreters, and tech enthusiasts with data and trends to make informed decisions around the new technology.