The Linguist


The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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28 The Linguist Vol/57 No/5 2018 OPINION & COMMENT Email with your views Brave new world: the linguists working in IT I recently overheard two young women talking about their university choices; when one said she was going to study Spanish, her friend replied that this could not lead to an exciting career. This made me wonder if people with little interest in languages believe that language knowledge leads only to teaching or translation. They couldn't be more wrong. I have been working in the world of multilingual professionals for nearly 20 years. During this period, I have noticed changing approaches to language theory and teaching methods; and met multilingual people working in a broad variety of interesting roles and industries. There is a growing trend for multilinguals to work within the software industry. IT is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, and with this growth has come an increasing expectation for companies in all sectors to consider the language needs and preferences of their clients and customers. Around the turn of the millennium, when internet use became ubiquitous, most web content was exclusively in one language, with English, Chinese and German dominating. Fast forward to today, and any business that wants to keep its position in the market must invest in technology. In the past decade there has been a huge rise in the number of IT start-ups providing multiple-function software. Websites and software not only have to be more attractive, but also suitable for researchers from all over the world who may want to read in their mother tongue. The demand for individuals with language skills to serve this need is rapidly increasing. I read an article recently entitled 'IT Wants to Learn Another Language' (The Hindu), suggesting that the importance of languages is increasing due to a desire to tap into non- English markets. Among the jobs that have become commonplace for multilinguals are technology and software consultants, project and product managers, and support engineers, as well as less technical positions in IT software sales and marketing. Multilingual web development companies not only translate content, but also localise design for specific markets and incorporate technology that supports metadata in all the relevant languages. Jobs vary from technical and managerial posts to sales, product- orientated and training roles. In many cases, speaking more than one language is an additional requirement to market-specific knowledge or IT skills (such as a degree in Computer Science). In training roles, multilingual professionals teach technical software courses to both customers and employees. If they wish to diversify into IT, they may undertake software development or web design training. Multilingual sales managers help to overcome cultural differences and language barriers when companies move into new markets. Marketing teams with language skills produce high-quality content to promote software enterprises abroad, translating materials and brochures in multiple languages. Language learning apps and games are another new field for multilingual professionals. Apps must be designed in a smart and constructive way so they can offer innovative learning methods, individual progress and user satisfaction. People with language skills assess content, ensure the vocabulary used is up to date and create references applicable to the target language. They test and analyse content, making recommendations on app development. Having a team member with language skills is not just about improving communication or acquiring new business prospects. Gabrielle Hogan-Brun argues that multilinguals tend to find innovative solutions for practical problems (Linguanomics: What is the market potential of multilingualism; 2017). Their language skills allow them to use a range of communication strategies in flexible and dynamic ways. Businesses now value the attributes of multilingual people – they are a great asset in dealing with complex topics, working under pressure and problem solving. Joanna Biernat MCIL © SHUTTERSTOCK

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