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How to Overcome Language Barriers with AI

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While around 7,000 languages are spoken globally today, English remains the most commonly translated language. This translation focus can create a language barrier for individuals who don’t speak English. A lack of inclusive language options is a disadvantage for your business that can limit information exchange, collaboration, and customer satisfaction.

Thankfully, modern applications of AI can help you and your customers overcome language barriers. Businesses can use AI in their external facing communication channels to connect with global customers through inclusive language and reduce bias in the process.

Exactly what is inclusive language? And how can organizations use AI to create inclusive workplaces and enhance the customer experience? Keep reading to learn more.

Graphic showing a bot speaking in english and a man on a smartphone speaking in spanish

What is Inclusive Language?

Inclusive language is words and phrases that avoid biases, slang, and discriminatory expressions. Intentional uses of more inclusive language will help you and your customers communicate in ways everyone understands. It makes people feel welcome. Inclusive language resonates with wider audiences and helps companies create a more inclusive workplace. And to no surprise, on the flip side, discriminatory language is not inclusive and targets groups of people based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, and physical or mental ability.

Inclusive language is important to consider across all company materials — internal and external-facing. It also includes translation and language options for job descriptions and customer service. Businesses can use AI tools to support translation based on the linguistic needs of their target audiences.

Getting Technical: How AI Translation Supports Inclusive Language

AI can play a pivotal role in breaking down language barriers. More specifically, the technology can translate spoken and written text to create connections and facilitate mutual understanding. Its use of automation technologies can help you increase inclusive language across the board.

AI translation applies machine learning (ML) to interactions between a person and a computer. Modern AI translation tools can understand whole phrases through the use of ML and natural language processing (NLP). Other translation systems only translate one word at a time, which can lead to misunderstandings. Computers that use ML and NLP in AI translation understand the complexity and subtle differences in human conversations. This might include tones of voice, complex sentence structures, and slang. ML and NLP-enabled AI translation is usually much more accurate and tailored to the target audience.

Accurate AI translation can be especially helpful in contact center settings. Contact centers are often the first line of support for customers. And as the world becomes increasingly global, it’s important that your contact centers can support customers that speak different languages. Picture, for example, a traditional phone tree. Phone trees typically only give English and Spanish options up front — or sometimes, they don’t even give alternative language options. An AI-generated solution, however, can pivot automatically when it detects a caller using a different language.

AI translation services can reduce communication errors and boost accuracy, which allows you to better serve and connect with your customers.

Create an Inclusive Workplace with AI

The rise of globalization, remote work, and digital transformation have changed how organizations communicate. Employee and customer demographics are more diverse, which can make it easy for you to accidentally introduce language barriers. Leveraging AI to create communication processes that support diversity will help avoid this pitfall. These circumstances have heightened the need for organizations to establish inclusive communication processes and tools. Below are a few use cases for AI in an inclusive workplace.

Recruiting Communication Materials

Creating an inclusive workplace starts at the recruiting level. AI can help minimize biases in recruitment efforts. AI and NLP, for example, can help businesses add more inclusive language that minimizes biases in job postings or advertisements.

Biased language in job descriptions can discourage capable and talented candidates from applying for a position for which they are ideal. You can use these intelligent tools to analyze job descriptions and highlight and remove potentially biased language. As a result, recruiters can more easily source qualified candidates, and you can foster a more diverse team.

Real-Time Translation in Presentations

Depending on employee and customer demographics, it might make sense to leverage an AI translation service. AI-enabled tools can offer real-time translation to aid in connection and collaboration and foster understanding. Real-time translation can be especially useful during presentations, both virtual and in-person. Translation might occur via subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Some solutions also allow individual viewers to select the language of the subtitles. If presentation attendees have questions, they can use a chat function that supports and translates multiple languages.

Graphic showing examples of biased and unbiased language in a job posting

Overcome Language Barriers to Enhance Customer Experience

In addition to hindering collaboration and inclusivity in the workplace, language barriers can threaten a positive customer experience (CX). It’s vital for companies to deliver inclusive language to customers to enhance the customer experience.

Improve CX with Multilingual IVAs

Many organizations hire multilingual employees who can step in to support customers who speak different languages. These multilingual employees are especially helpful in contact center settings, where they are highly accessible to customers. However, as businesses become increasingly global, they require more flexible solutions to connect with their employees and customers.

When a language barrier prevents customers from solving their problems, resolution times skyrocket, which drags CX down. AI communication tools can help ease a company’s reliance on one or a few multilingual employees to translate conversations. One such tool is an intelligent virtual agent (IVA). IVAs can enable customers to find answers to their questions in various languages, via their preferred channel, and on their own time. This autonomy improves CX and can reduce the negative impacts of language barriers.

The Future of AI

We can already see examples of AI’s ability to process multiple languages with the growth of smart voice assistants such as Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. We anticipate AI translation will improve as the technology evolves.

Communication processes and tools must be able to overcome language barriers introduced in diverse workplaces. As AI translation technology evolves, it will only continue to improve how computers understand language and the intricacies of human dialect. Developers will train AI systems to reduce bias and prioritize inclusive language in their vocabulary. Organizations will minimize bias and overcome language barriers as AI advances. As a result, organizations will positively impact company culture, customer experience, and the bottom line.