Switzerland’s language service industry is experiencing a digital disruption thanks to the rise of large language models (LLMs) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This transformation is forcing Swiss language service providers to adapt and introduce innovative business models, resulting in a creative synergy of humans and AI that enriches real-time expression across borders.
SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Mario Grunitz, Co-founder of WeAreBrain
Switzerland’s unique linguistic diversity is fertile ground for language service providers (LSP). Nestled in the heart of Europe, the country has a thriving language services market thanks to its four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh.
Most domestic companies, from telecom and transport to retail and finance, operate in German, French, and Italian. Due to this multilingual imperative, they are big buyers of translation services with over 250 language service providers in Switzerland.
How AI is disrupting Swiss language services
Historically, the language service industry in Switzerland has evolved to cater to these diverse linguistic needs. However, the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly Large Language Models (LLMs), has introduced a new dynamic to this landscape.
The impact of AI on the Swiss language services market has been palpable, with LLMs offering unprecedented capabilities in translation, interpretation, and natural language processing. The ability of these models to understand context and generate coherent, contextually relevant text has led to faster and more efficient language services, disrupting traditional approaches in the industry.
New business models and services
The integration of AI into the language service industry has given rise to innovative business models that redefine how language services are delivered in Switzerland.
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The increased efficiency and speed provided by LLMs have prompted some companies to reconsider traditional pricing models, potentially leading to more competitive and cost-effective solutions for clients.
Over 50% of language service agencies integrate machine translation (MT) and other AI tools to enhance efficiency and reduce costs compared to human-driven models. However, even with the advancements in AI-driven machine translation over the past three decades, it has yet to consistently match the proven quality delivered by 100% human translation.
A new tool being used is SwissBERT, Switzerland’s version of the famous BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) language model and a flagship of natural language processing (NLP) advancement. It provides a deeper understanding of language context and flow than previous language models. While other nation-specific versions cater to one language, SwissBERT helps Swiss users perform multilingual tasks.
But with more translation jobs piling up each day than human translators can possibly satisfy, the need for machines is greater than ever. Additionally, the adoption of AI has broadened the scope of services offered by language service providers.
Zurich-based Quazel is harnessing AI to deliver personalised and individual language tutoring to develop conversational fluency, while fellow Zurich LSP Interprefy has released an automated real-time translation tool. Aivia focuses on interpreting meetings and events by translating speech into audio and captions in real-time.
Combining AI and language specialists, Swiss language service provider Text Shuffle leverages technology to allow businesses to communicate in any language in their own brand voice. Businesses can customise their tone, terminology, and style according to their industry.
Upskilling language professionals
As the language services industry evolves, language professionals find themselves at a crossroads, necessitating a shift in skill sets to remain relevant in the AI era.
AI literacy is now a fundamental requirement, as language professionals need to understand the intricacies of working alongside advanced language models. Moreover, skills related to data annotation and curation have become crucial, as these models rely heavily on high-quality training data.
In Switzerland, initiatives and programs will soon emerge to address the upskilling needs of language professionals specifically. Collaborations between language service providers, educational institutions, and tech companies will result in training programs focussing on the intersection of language expertise and AI technology.
These initiatives will equip professionals with the tools and knowledge necessary to navigate the evolving landscape of language services and foster collaboration between language professionals and technology.
Preserving Romansch with AI
The Romansch language represents a rich cultural heritage in Switzerland and faces unique challenges regarding relevance in the modern era.
With a relatively small number of speakers compared to the other official languages, Romansch requires special attention to ensure its preservation and continued relevance.
Thanks to a collaboration between Swiss companies Radiotelevisiun Svizra Rumantscha (RTR) and TextShuttle, automated translation from and into Romansh is finally available.
While Romansch likely won’t be included in the long list of forgotten languages for AI to help decipher, AI-driven tools can contribute to making Romansch more accessible through translation services, thereby expanding its reach in the digital space.
Challenges and solutions
While AI delivers faster and streamlined translations leading to improved productivity and reduced costs, there are some challenges to consider.
One critical aspect is the preservation of quality in AI-driven language services. The risk of inaccuracies and misinterpretations in machine-generated content underscores the importance of maintaining a balance between technology and human expertise.
There are critical challenges to overcoming algorithm bias, notably regarding gender information relating to particular job roles and the discrepancies of masculine/feminine usage in non-English languages.
Like every industry adopting widespread AI, ethical considerations and data privacy concerns are additional challenges that the language service industry must grapple with. The use of AI raises questions about the responsible handling of sensitive information, requiring robust ethical frameworks and compliance measures.
Swiss companies are proactively addressing these challenges through a combination of strategies. Many are implementing strict quality control measures, investing in ongoing training for professionals, and adopting ethical guidelines for AI usage.
The language service industry in Switzerland is experiencing a transformation driven by the integration of AI, particularly LLMs.
But instead of silencing what came before, this evolution of expression adds new business models and opportunities to the conversation. Swiss companies are adapting strategically to maintain the delicate balance between technology and human expertise.
Looking ahead, the collaboration between humans and AI will likely become more seamless, providing an eloquent portmanteau of efficiency and linguistic expertise to realise a fluency of future expression.
About the Author:
Mario Grunitz is WeAreBrain’s co-founder and serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in the technology field. His expertise lies in building and growing successful product, marketing and technology teams and innovative service offerings in high-pace, high-tech and high-growth organisations.