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22 March 2019
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Martin Read is editor of FM World
Martin Read is editor of FM World

06 August 2018 Martin Read

Martin Read explains how Google Translate broke down communication barriers at the 2018 World Cup, and hopes that 'workplace' can change FM conversations for the better.  

So the big story from this year’s World Cup turned out not to be ‘It’s coming home’, but rather ‘il rentre à la maison’, or perhaps ‘он возвращается домой’.

Because, video assistant referees aside, the tournament ended up showcasing a rather more profound technological innovation.

In Russia, the Google Translate service was enthusiastically used by tourists, locals and authorities alike. Invoked by smartphone app, it helped open up once closed conversations between people from different countries and cultures, deployed for everything from ordering beers, requesting medical assistance, flirting with locals and even reading newspapers written in Cyrillic. Inevitable colloquial blips aside, author Douglas Adams’ concept of the Babel fish – into which any language can be spoken and understood – is coming true; and it’s extraordinarily liberating.

In a world of myriad technologies chasing problems to solve, here’s a relatable human demand being satisfied by technology; a piece of artificial intelligence embraced for its ability to instantly empower.

Contrast this with the once-hip idea of video conferencing replacing meetings. Perhaps the reason Google Translate has been so eagerly adopted, while FMs are still running meeting rooms or still attending ever-popular exhibitions and conferences in person, is that we more readily accept technology when it augments rather than diminishes human interaction.

So: improved understanding between different peoples; confusion prevented; and meaningful relationships replacing the merely transactional? Perhaps this is the right time to mention the vote by members to change BIFM’s name to the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management. The argument that the word ‘workplace’ better translates into the language of business, opening up FM to wider conversations about organisational purpose and productivity, clearly won the support of members who voted. The hope is that ‘workplace’ can change conversations about FM for the better, just as Google Translate broke down communication barriers at the World Cup. В конце концов, вы использовали его для перевода этого сообщения, не так ли?

Martin Read is editor of FM World