GALA 2019 … Another Epic Conference for the Record Books

July 17, 2019 By

Ad Astra joined fellow global industry leaders in language services for networking and thought exchange March 24-27 in Munich, Germany. Hosted by the Global and Localization Association, the 11th annual Language of Business conference drew a record 500 attendees from 50 different countries, making this the largest annual language industry event in the world.

The theme of this year’s conference, “HumAInity at Work,” generated intriguing discussion about the increasing role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the language and translation industry, as we explored the future role of people in this evolving landscape. Conference panels, such as “Evolution of the Species: AI & the Revolution of Traditional Roles” with María Jesús de Arriba Díaz of Vistatec and “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with AI” with Diego Bartolome of Transperfect examined the common fear that automation will replace humans – and sought to dispel the image of AI as a competitor.

A Day One talk titled, “What Happens to the People When the Machines Take Over?” tangibly demonstrated AI benefits for language companies like Ad Astra. A case study showed that using automation in video translation management systems improved the human/workforce experience by removing mind-numbing, repetitive tasks from their daily routines. After overcoming initial resistance and concern, translators found that AI made their work more interesting and fulfilling. This talk demonstrated how AI can be embraced as a new tool to help our industry meet emerging challenges so we can continue to grow and thrive. Our gratitude to Dave Bryant of Dotsub for sharing this fascinating human experience with AI in his company.

During his opening keynote, Professor and author Brett Frischmann of Villanova challenged us to  consider AI as a tool created byand forpeople – to advance our productivity with improved service and increased sales – rather than an adversary seeking to take over the human side of business. An expert on the impacts of high tech on humans and society, Frischmann argues that we engineer AI to make our lives better, not the other way around. While AI is programmed to overcome human limitations, we must be careful to maintain our own skills or we could become robotic ourselves and lose critical thinking, which humans uniquely bring to the table.

Our takeaways on artificial intelligence: It is the future of our industry. And if used strategically, it can augment and accelerate (not replace or displace!) the vital work that people perform in language services. AI can be leveraged to grow business and increase sales – helping us become faster and more efficient for our customers, while also improving the work experience for our staff.

The conference wasn’t all work and no play. By day we connected with the presentations, engaged in lively discussions, reflected on industry challenges and brainstormed possible solutions. But by night, we dove into the local fare and culture of beautiful Munich (eating our weight in schnitzel!), reacquainted with old friends, and made new ones. The historic, famed Hoffbrauhaus provided a perfect venue for the GALA welcome dinner, where Ad Astra friend and all-around great guy, Gene Schriver of Hello GLOBO spun records and pumped up the crowd. Unwinding with friends after an intense day of peer-to-peer learning is just what der doktor ordered!

Panelists continued the AI theme on Day Two, with many touching on corporate culture as a dominant factor in the ability to adapt to rapidly evolving change. According to Andre Hickson of Ludejo, “The explosion of technological advances is a massive opportunity for the language service partner who is willing and able to adjust and take advantage of the rapidly changing environment in the localization industry.”

Yuka Ghesquière Nakasone of Global Bridge gave an important talk about the vital need for corporate executives to culturally integrate offices, since management tactics to elevate performance that work with culturally homogenous teams may not work with mixed cultures. She noted how personal characteristics like motivation, quality, excellence and potential are uniquely defined by native culture and language. Acknowledging personality and individual differences improves performance by maximizing the benefits of diversity on teams.

We learned from our friend, Stella Paris of Translators Without Borders (TWB), about her organization’s inspiring pioneer usage of language technology to communicate with and empower people who are living through crises. Case studies on the successful use of AI in translation will advance the work of humanitarian response and assistance throughout the world, by allowing two-way communication even with those who speak marginalized languages.

Speaking of TWB, We closed out Day Two by donning our favorite pair of leg warmers and moonwalking the night away for charity. The 80s-themed Take on Meparty – organized by Andrew Hickson of Ludejo – was a Thrillerof a good time. Ad Astra proudly donated video services to promote this important effort, which raised $5,800 to help TWB translators respond to humanitarian crises around the world.

Véronique Özkaya of LanguageWire perfectly punctuated our epic three-day learning spree with an inspiring closing keynote and farewell. She focused on the importance of growth in success – for the company, its employees, and its financial health. She noted that on the path to growth, a company must be adaptive to rapid industry changes, including tech advancements. She said that fearlessness and experimentation are the biggest factors in positive outcomes for growth, along with La Niaque– a term that meansdrive, ambition and energy – for sales and customer obsession.

We returned from Munich energized and optimistic about the future of our industry, as we embrace the benefit and growth potential that artificial intelligence promises. We’re already thinking ahead to next year, when GALA 2020 will be held in sunny San Diego! We look forward to the United States hosting the international GALA community and sharing one of our nation’s greatest assets – our multicultural richness and pride. Mark your calendar and plan to join us!