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How Does Technology Influence Language?

When Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press in 1440, it took the Western world by storm. For the first time in history the written word was distributed en masse to the public, whereas before, only the affluent had access to it.

Aside from allowing more widespread access, the printing press signaled the beginning of the uniformity in writing. With written materials becoming more widely available, so too were the “rules” of language- spelling, syntax, etc. gaining traction. We can thank Gutenberg and his ingenious printing press for those inevitable sticklers for spelling we all know.

Fast forward almost 600 years, and technology continues to pervade every bit of our lives, including our language. In the 21st century digital age, brevity may very well be the soul of wit. All of humanity’s technological advancements have given birth to a century focused on convenience and the quick exchange of information.

We’ve replaced the descriptive, flowy narratives of the early 20th century with 280-character Tweets; long-distance phone calls have given way to texts and emails; in-person meetings can now take place in your home via Zoom or Teams or Skype.

The language of technology has become so integrated in our everyday lives that you probably did not have to Google a single word from the last paragraph to understand what it meant.

Email, text, tweet, WIFI, 5G, hotspot, proxy server, HD, UHD, podcast, e-book…these are no longer the words of privilege, but the everyday. Like the printing press of the 15th century, modern technology has not only revolutionized our way of living, but also our way of speaking.

For a translator, this presents a unique challenge to stay current on trends and technologies to ensure they are able to bridge their source and target languages while conveying the most accurate meaning. As technology continues to evolve, so too will language. And, if it continues to happen at such a rapid pace, translators will never have a dull moment.

 

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