We’re all connected and in more ways that we’ve ever been. But even in a world of quick fire social media, instant messaging, and online communication, a connection has no meaning unless it leads to an outcome. For most of us, it’s the ability to share something–and sharing is facilitated by various forms of communication to allow us to express what we think and how we feel. Humans interact with each other by using various forms. From written words to music or other forms of a personal expression. But even in a progressive and modern world rich in technological advances, we still need language to express meaning–and that’s where a global world gets quite challenging.
A foreign investor attending a conference in Chicago; a hearing-impaired tourist listening to their favorite rock band; a Mandarin-speaking patient in the ER. They all have something in common: they require facilitated communication in either a spoken or written manner.
We’re often asked “Why not use an online-based solution? It’s ‘cheap’, convenient and the technology has gotten much better. It’s not perfect but it will do. Heck, there’s even an app for that.” Yes, it’s a fact of life that technology presents us with a multitude of options; sometimes way too many options. As a result, we’ve quickly become accustomed to how convenient it is to find anything and everything and in the process we tend to ignore or compromise the quality and reliability of the “digital solution du jour.”
Here’s the thing: Foreign language interpreting or ASL (American Sign language) are a lot more than a transactional (“app,” if you will) process. The same word can have a meaning that denotes different emotions. Understanding context and intent is not something an app can do.
Words connect people, and the best and most reliable medium to relay the true meaning of a spoken word is another human. Machines or online tools cannot convey the emotion that is associated with a word. What’s more, body language and nonverbal expressions are often as critical as the word itself.
Therefore, a hearing-impaired person attending a rock concert in New York could download the lyrics and look at her phone while the band is playing. But it’s a one-dimensional solution (app) that denies her the full experience. Replace that app with a Geneva ASL interpreter singing the lyrics onstage, and it’s no longer just about words but the immersive experience of ‘being’ in a concert.
While we clearly understand the role that technology plays in the world of communications, convenience often masks complexity. We have one chance to connect in a fast-moving world; when it comes to global communications we’d better get it right the first time.