Language 2.0 – is global communication possible?
Human communication takes place on many levels. One of the most important means of communication is spoken language – in other words, our normal speech. Without language, human coexistence seems almost inconceivable. It will probably never be possible to prove exactly when and how the spoken language came into being. It can be assumed, however, that communication through signs and gestures laid the foundations for our language. Even though non-verbal understanding is still an essential part of our communication, spoken language has gradually become more and more important. It was and still is difficult to communicate as a human being in the dark by means of signs, for example. It is also much more efficient to be able to use your hands for other activities during a conversation. The development of language could therefore be described as a necessary evolutionary step.
The evolution of language is in a permanent state of flux. With the advent of the digital age, language is currently undergoing rapid change and further fragmentation. In addition to communication with images, moving images and sound, completely new codes are being created – for example in chats, SMS and social media conversations. With an average of 65 billion WhatsApp messages per day worldwide, it can be assumed that there is a certain amount of pressure to put spoken language into writing. Additional language signals such as facial expressions and gestures are being replaced by a new form of metatext (“LOL”, “*grins*”) or emojis – and sometimes even seem to be moving back into the spoken language. The complexity of interpersonal communication is increasing as a result. In terms of the number of channels available, individual languages and technolects, and even peer group languages. But wasn’t it an ancient dream of humankind to be able to communicate with each other in a straightforward manner across national and linguistic borders? The constantly decreasing number of spoken languages could help this dream come true. Between 6,000 and 7,000 languages are currently spoken in the world. Anthropologists forecast that only around 100 languages will exist on Earth in the year 2200, however. And yet the development of artificial language intelligence is likely to be of much greater relevance for global conversation. Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple – the race to give machines linguistic abilities has long since begun and even the threshold to real-time translation has already been crossed. However, it will be some years before machine translation is able to translate context, ambiguities and other subtleties into other languages. Our task as translators and linguists is to connect people across linguistic borders, especially in times of digital disruption. With great enthusiasm, we are committed to shaping a world that understands itself better.