Why we’re building universal understanding with Unbabel

February 7, 2017

According to the famous story from Genesis, a once-united humanity that spoke a single language dared to build a city and a tower — the Tower of Babel — high enough to reach the heavens. That endeavour was halted by the Biblical God, and humanity’s speech was confounded so they could no longer understand each other, giving root to the thousands of languages we have today.

Fast forward a few thousand years to 1997 and one language dominated 80% of all pages on the World Wide Web — English. At the time, it was easy to feel like humanity would unite again on the back of this amazing global communications network.

Internet languages

But just twenty years later, in 2017, the English web makes up only about 30% of all content. And as billions more people come online with smartphones in the years to come, the web will come to reflect the fundamental barriers of human language more and more.

Internet languages 2017

English may have spread far and wide across the globe over the past two centuries, but the numbers show that companies and organizations who wish to benefit from a globally connected world will have to be multilingual.

Communication is the foundation of commerce, culture and civilisations. If we want to connect to, relate to and understand each other, we’ll need communication to transcend timezones, borders, markets and languages.

But it’s far from an easy problem to solve. We believe that translation as it currently exists isn’t the solution — it’s part of the problem. Machine Translation alone lacks the quality and professional translation is an unscalable craft that walls off what is deemed “translatable”.

Human quality translation

Before Unbabel the only options were to ignore customers, reply in a language they might not understand, or to duplicate business processes by investing millions in dedicated native-speaking teams.

So what do we bring to the table?

Unbabel combines two massive trends in technology — artificial intelligence and smartphone ownership — to create a solution that scales and maintains the quality of a human touch.

Unbabel translation

By harnessing the power of machine learning and a global community of 40,000 Unbabelers, we become the heart of multilingual communications, helping companies scale their conversations with customers across 28 languages.

Translation pipeline

We see Unbabel as an integral part of the internet’s infrastructure; one which businesses can build upon, which opens up new markets and helps them reach new customers.

We’re accelerating the shift toward a world without language barriers by enabling trustworthy, seamless and scalable translations between companies and their customers.

We want to open up new forms of content that would otherwise take too long, and cost too much, to translate, and we want to do it in parallel across dozens, and eventually hundreds, if not thousands of languages.

We want to enable everyone to understand and be understood in any language.

We’re building universal understanding.

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About the Author

Profile Photo of Vasco Pedro
Vasco Pedro

Vasco Pedro is a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Unbabel. He founded Unbabel and its new category creation, LangOps, in 2013, alongside João Graça, Sofia Pessanha, Bruno Silva, Hugo Silva during a surfing trip in Arrifana, Portugal. Under this leadership, Unbabel has since expanded globally with offices in San Francisco, California, and additional US hubs in New York and Pittsburgh, and a subsidiary office in Portugal. Leading brands like Pinterest, Skyscanner, Under Armour, Trello, and Oculus use Unbabel to make their customers happier and their support operations vastly more efficient. Vasco developed his love of both languages and technology during his time at Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned both his Master’s and doctorate in Language Technologies. Vasco then worked at both Siemens and Google, where he helped develop technologies to further understand data computation and language.