In part 1 of this series, we saw how history and luck put English at the top of the world’s linguistic tree. It might not have been the most spoken language in the world, but if English had a GDP, it would dwarf any other language on the planet.

In part 2, we found out that, particularly online, the strength of the English language is dwindling. Just 23 languages (out of more than 7000) are the native tongue of over 4 billion people that’s more than half the world. 

This gentle decline in the use of English should be discussed in terms of the economically-driven success of other countries. Whilst China for its sheer size has hogged the headlines, large parts of Asia and Africa are starting to assert themselves on the world stage. This has consequences for business.

In the first piece of this series, we discovered that English had got lucky. Of the 7000+ languages spoken in the world today an ever-changing list as dialects flex, grow and die out English became dominant. 

It’s historical good fortune and the practicalities of trade that gave English its position by the late 20th Century, and it’s no surprise that circumstance and practicality are equally responsible for the new world of language we find ourselves in today.

In this three-part series, we’re going to look at how the balance of language especially online is changing, and what that means for business. 

If you’re reading this in the original English it was written (rather than our translations in Chinese, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish or Italian), perhaps it’s not your first language, but here we are.

How did that happen? 

There is no one moment when SaaS Software as a Service was conceived, because SaaS as a concept has a host of components; all of which have had to come together in the right context in order to produce value for any sector or vertical market. Different sectors have moved towards SaaS models at different speeds.

In technical terms, SaaS relies on cloud delivery at scale, a minimum degree of widely available connectivity, and enterprise-grade security. If any of these are weak, SaaS drops off the agenda.

Artificial intelligence (AI) in gaming isn’t a recent innovation. As early as 1949, mathematician and cryptographer Claude Shannon pondered a one-player chess game, in which humans would compete against a computer. 

Indeed, gaming has been a key engine of AI, and a proving ground for the simulations, constructed environments and tests of realism that are the foundation of virtual experiences. 

At Unbabel we’re avid users of Slack, coordinating hundreds of overlapping workstreams, keeping the growing team of a multinational startup all on the same page, and generally living out our internal culture: one that values continuous learning about the areas we work in and on, and seeks to discover new and better ways to work.

As we’ve grown, more voices have been added to one of our channels, #worth_reading rebellious academics, failed philosophers, restless souls, frustrated artists, and all-round geeks— and we think the collective curation here has now become a resource worth sharing more widely. 

So let’s look at what we shared this month: 

It’s easy to lose ground in e-commerce. In a crowded market where customers can buy from a competitor as simply as following a link, retailers have to work hard. Every search term, product description and user pathway matters.

Not surprisingly, smart players have come to depend on the abundance of data consumers make available at every step of the business process. They deploy predictive analytics, machine learning and other Artificial Intelligence techniques to redefining the rules of the game, helping some stay ahead of the competition, and improving the customer experience overall. 

Here are just a few examples of how.  

What if you found yourself in the middle of a crisis – and the only information available to you was in a language you couldn’t understand?

It’s a desperate thought, and yet one which is all too common. Natural disasters don’t respect borders. And we live in a globalised world where we travel, trade and make our homes in many other countries. In fact, practically every crisis will be affected by a language barrier.

Here at Unbabel, we want to enable everyone to understand and be understood, in any language. And that includes Salvador Sobral, Portugal’s first ever winner of the Eurovision Song Contest! 🇵🇹

Fuelled by Super Bock and Doritos, Unbabel’s marketing team banded together to create this little site with subtitles and lyrics (written by his sister, Luisa Sobral) for their beautiful song, Amar Pelos Dois, in 17 languages — all translated with Unbabel.

An article by Brandon Deer, originally published at OpenView Labs – “A Conversation on the Future of AI with Unbabel’s Vasco Pedro

Vasco Pedro has always been fascinated with language and the window it provides to how we process information. His undergrad studies focused on artificial intelligence and computational linguistics, and then he went to earn his master’s and PhD in natural language processing at Carnegie Mellon. Throughout his education, Vasco explored the fundamentals of how we think, how consciousness arises, and the core AI aspects of language.