Based on this, it is not unreasonable to believe that Google, Baidu, Yahoo, Bing and the like have permanently modified the way that languages are written. It is a reasonable theory for content that is distributed online.
And now it is the turn of virtual assistants. Your SEO or SEA specialised service providers have been repeating this to you for several months: any content produced must be compatible with “searches carried out by people using virtual assistants”.What effect do these tools have on the way we talk? Are virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Google Home and the like going to change the way we talk? And as a consequence, will they modify the interpretation profession, meaning that interpreters will have to learn a “virtual assistant compatible” variant or dialect of their mother tongue?
As we now have to translate in a way that is compatible with virtual assistants, will we also have to interpret in specific Google, Amazon or even Baidu languages in the upcoming months or years? Virtual assistants have already changed our purchasing habits (especially with and for the younger generations). This influence has been indicated in numerous studies, including the following byPWC:
In 2018, theLife Science Centre in Newcastle published the results of a study regarding an exhibition on robots: 79% of people with a regional accent modified the way that they speak in order to conform with, and be understood by, their devices equipped with virtual assistants.
The following article https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0163443720983295 also indicates the results with regard to minorities. Over the years, artificial intelligence has been supplied with data from its regular users, in the most widely used languages. The bias observed today, even though research teams are attempting to steadily counteract it, reinforces inequalities, with the limitations faced by non-native speakers providing the perfect example.
It is worth remembering that Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant have been designed based on transactional conversation models, the objective of which is to perform actions. This therefore encourages users to modify the way they speak to conform with “IT programming language”. Further to our hypothesis associatingVirtual Assistants with the evolution of languages in their spoken form (and asa result, an evolution of the languages that interpreters must master, incertain contexts, now that translators have learnt to incorporate SEO), it is interesting to note that virtual assistants are also used in certain countries to learn languages.
Numerous research studies have proved this, for example https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09588221.2019.1595664, and https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10494820.2020.1833043
Language learners use virtual assistants to become familiar with a language, without the stress of being face to face with another person. [Moussalli, S., &Cardoso, W. (2016)]. Beyond certain undeniable advantages, these learners will therefore “learn the language of robots, or in other words, the language of computers”, which is a somewhat “simplified” version of our traditional languages. The NY Times put forward the following theory in this article from 2018: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/14/magazine/tech-design-ai-chatbot.html“ Perhaps interacting with A.I.s will mean atrophy for our social muscles.”
In other words:will virtual assistants lead to atrophy in our languages, in our ability to express ourselves and to express feelings or subtle nuances? If this theory were to come true in the future, the loss of the subtleties of our languages may have a genuine impact on our profession.
For those who are passionate about the subject, here is a list of 11 researchers and personalities at the heart of the technology used by virtual assistants. People to follow that head up expert teams at Google, Amazon, Apple, Clinc, AudioAnalytics and even Dashbot.
The financial resources funding this research are almost limitless. This research therefore progresses at an extremely fast pace. Often even quicker than planned. We must therefore be prepared for any eventual outcome.