During August we ran into the usual array of odd but interesting articles related to language and culture around the world. On the most basic level, all of these articles are human communication. We look at cultural confusion that can mess up an intended message, how execs on earnings calls can make their message seem worse through the language they use, the terrible cultural loss when a language becomes extinct, and the complexity of explaining language to AI systems.

The Secret to Cross-Cultural Communication

Think knowing a language is enough to effectively communicate in other countries? You need to understand the language of their cultural interactions too:

“I have experienced shopkeepers in several places in the Middle East who insisted at checkout that I didn’t have to pay—it was “on the house.” If you didn’t know about the local culture, you might be quite surprised, thank them, and attempt to walk out of the store! Those familiar with the culture, however, would know that the token gesture was merely a sign of respect and that the appropriate response would be to insist on paying as usual.”

From the Association for Talent Development (ATD)

Research: Executives’ English Skills Affect the Outcomes of Earnings Calls

Overly complex use of language can materially and negatively impact stock prices:

“When we analyzed the data using a regression model, we found that the use of non-plain English and erroneous expressions, which together we classified as linguistic opacity, had real consequences. Controlling for the actual earnings news, we found that executives who spoke opaquely suffered various capital market consequences, including lower trading volume, restricted price movement, and inconsistent analyst forecasts.”

From Harvard Business Review

The Year of Indigenous Languages: Making it your business 

2680 languages are in danger of extinction and when they go the culture behind them is lost forever:

The Endangered Languages Project refers to the unprecedented decline in languages around the globe as a form of “mass extinction.” They estimate that around 40 percent of the world’s languages are endangered. Most of them are indigenous ones. 

This is particularly disturbing because indigenous languages are extremely rich in culture. They are complex knowledge systems, full of ancient wisdom and a unique understanding of the world. They are an integral part of our shared human heritage.”

From Nimdzi

AI researchers launch SuperGLUE, a rigorous benchmark for language understanding

Well, if you want an idea of how complex teachingAI to understand the complexities of meaning in language, including the ability to respond intelligently, try reading this article! Deep stuff.

“SuperGLUE comprises new ways to test creative approaches on a range of difficult NLP* tasks focused on innovations in a number of core areas of machine learning, including sample-efficient, transfer, multitask, and self-supervised learning. To challenge researchers, we selected tasks that have varied formats, have more nuanced questions, have yet to be solved using state-of-the-art methods, and are easily solvable by people,” Facebook AI researchers said in a blog post today.”

*Natural Language Processing

From VentureBeat