The Global Translation Industry: How it is Changing

Translators are professionals who convert text from one language to another. The demand for translators parallels the original emergence of text as a form of human communication and the growth in the need for human communication in text form. As the demand for professional translators grew over the centuries, there developed a translation industry. All evidence of current trends shows that this industry is going to continue to grow in size. The reasons for this will be explored further below.

In addition to a growth in size, the industry will see the greatest evolution over the next two decades, possibly faster, because of the rapid development of a range of technological advances that make translation work easier and faster.

The role of globalization in the evolution of the global translation industry

The demand for translation is directly proportional to the demand for accurate communication between people who speak and understand different languages. Whenever people, as individuals, companies, corporations, small businesses, government departments and agencies, volunteer and not-for-profit groups, and other organizations wish to communicate by text they can only do so if what they want to communicate can be read and understood. Professional translators, as individual freelancers or as employees of translation agencies, make this communication happen.

There is no doubt that global communication has grown immensely in the last few decades, especially due to advances in communication technology the opening up of trade routes, and the removal of trade barriers. This growth in global communication is part and parcel of globalization, an important change in human society. Intimately tied to globalization is the demand for economic growth and the desire of once impoverished and marginalized nations to become wealthier and more modern. 

The advent of the internet and its widespread adoption around the world has meant that the desire to communicate between people of different languages can be fulfilled more easily. At the same time, technology by itself does not allow language barriers to be bridged. It is the work of translators themselves who make this possible.

The impact of new technology on the global translation industry

Traditionally, translators would be given a standard paper version of the text and expected to translate it as accurately as possible. This still happens in some places, but technological advancements have meant that traditional translation companies have quickly adopted whatever new technology became available as long as it made their work easier and faster. 

The first technological advances would have been the development of print and printers, typewriters, and then computers. Instead of laboriously reading written text (although this still happens), the modern translator reads printed text and usually it arrives by email attachment or Google doc through the internet. Computers allowed proofreading and editing to be much more efficient and faster than what the older technology was able to process.

The pace of change is ongoing and it is quite likely that the translation companies of say ten or twenty years into the future will look back at what is available today as redundant as typewriters or the humble pen may be regarded today.

The relevance of the technology of the future for professional translation companies

The main advances in technology which will shape the future of the translation industry are:

  • Improvements in translation software and machine translation. At present, human translators are still regarded as more accurate than the current level of efficiency that machine or automated translation can provide, but the gap is steadily being eroded. Machine translation is being used already by modern translation companies, but never used alone. The product of machine translation is always subject to rigorous amendment and proofreading by human translators.
  • The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) will no doubt have the most far-reaching consequences for all human endeavors in the very near future, not just for the translation industry. The evolution and adoption of AI will be a double-edged sword. It may mean much faster translation times and even help to make mistakes and errors as well as editing redundant, but on the other hand, could mean that human translators will find themselves in competition with machines. The only thing that will prevent the loss of jobs in the translation industry may be the very growth in demand for translation itself.


Like any other industry, the translation industry has evolved over the years. The demand for the accurate translation of text is not going to go away in the near future, mainly due to globalization and the growth in the global economy. Although this should ensure a promising future, advances in technology, especially machine translation software and AI could reduce the need for human translators as the major part of the work is taken over by machines.


The Growing Importance of Video Translation in the Digital Era

The digital era has seen huge changes in the way people communicate. For one thing, people are communicating like never before with other people all around the world. Businesses are promoting their products and services all around the world, too, and looking for translators to do the necessary work needed so that potential customers understand what they are offering and how to purchase their products.

Videos are becoming almost compulsory in marketing. There are huge advantages to using videos to explain how products work and why they should be purchased. Like any other type of communication across language barriers, videos must be translated into the target languages if they are going to be effective. Obviously, the images and video content by itself go a long way to aiding comprehension, because even without voice-over or subtitles, watchers can get a broad idea of what the video is all about. But having the video supplemented by professionally translated audio content is a far superior option.

What is video translation?

Video translation is the use of professional video translators to convert the audio content of videos from the source language to another language or language. Many videos that are translated into other languages are done so for marketing purposes, but there are also instructional videos, technical videos, and videos used in conjunction with manuals made to explain how appliances or equipment are used. There are, of course, also videos used for entertainment, as well as documentaries, all of which need translators to do the hard work of audio translation if other people are to use and enjoy what the videos are conveying.

Video translation can be done in different ways. It might involve subtitles in the chosen target language, dubbing, which is when the translation is done in a more sophisticated way so that when the speakers in the video speak, they are muted. At the same time, the translated speech is heard instead. You can see that dubbing is taking place because the words heard don’t match the movement of the lips! There is also voice-over as a technique. This is used especially for manual type or instruction videos and documentaries. Someone explains over the top of the video content what is happening in the video in the target language.

Why Video Translation is Important?

Videos can sell a product better than using just audio messaging or still images. It can also explain how to put together a kit set piece of furniture or set up a new appliance better than a dry audio explanation or a black-and-white text manual. Video translation is necessary if the video is to be used in any language other than the source language, wherever the video was first made. 

Video translation, then, basically enhances user experience and makes the video messaging available to a much wider audience than if the video is only available in the source language.

Video translation used for marketing purposes is subject to the same pressures as any other form of marketing in that local cultural nuance and colloquial preferences and usages often dictate the use of localization experts when videos are submitted to video translators. Localization is an extension of translation that takes into consideration who is the actual intended audience and what differences they may have in their use of language and cultural preferences compared to standard language users.


Video translation as a niche industry has undoubtedly seen massive growth in the digital era. If you wish to maximize your marketing strategy and use videos to help you attract a wider potential market, then you will undoubtedly need to use professional video translators to convert your videos so that they are suitable in other languages.


The Importance of Cultural Sensitivity in Translation

One of the drawbacks of computer-based translation programs that the translation industry is repeatedly pointing out is that it totally lacks any ability to integrate cultural sensitivity into their software. Well, that could all change of course in the future, but at present, if you are looking for a translation service for whatever it is that you need translating for a foreign market, make sure that it takes into account cultural sensitivity as well as pride in accuracy.

What is cultural sensitivity?

Cultural sensitivity is simply an ability to adapt translated text so that it doesn’t offend or confuse the readership at the translated material is aimed at. This is more important at the translation stage because professional translators are expected to have feet firmly planted in both the culture and language of the source of the text and that of the target for the text as we. 

Most businesses, for example, may have little notion of what the sensitivities are of the people for whom they are aiming their material. They may not even realize that the target readers use different currencies, numbering systems, and units and live in different time zone. They may not realize that certain colors which mean something to the people in one country may mean something quite different to people in another country, or even a particular community in that country. Humor could be different, so a joke in one culture may be a slur or insult. Clothing, appearance, and gender differences can all have an impact on translation outcomes.

What is the importance of cultural sensitivity in language translation?

Cultural sensitivity can be an extremely important aspect of translation, or it may not be very important at all. It all depends on what is being translated and who is the expected target readership. At worst, material that is aimed at a new market that has not been subjected to culturally sensitive may invite ridicule, scorn, anger, disinterest, or just confusion. There are many examples that are used time and time again of typical mistakes in translating marketing material in particular insensitively. Some of the classic examples are slogans translated from English into Chinese such as the often quoted KFC “finger-lickin’ good” that translated into “eat your fingers” in Chinese. 

It is rare these days for successful international corporations to get their messaging wrong through translation simply because of an understanding of the importance of cross-cultural communication. It is more relevant for new businesses or businesses expanding their sales into new markets that have yet to appreciate the importance of cultural sensitivity in communication.

How do you handle cultural sensitivity in language translation?

The main message from this focus on the importance of cultural sensitivity is that you do need to be choosy about who translates your material for you. The greater the focus on marketing and the use of colloquial slogans and messaging, the more important it is for you to use translators who understand how to adapt the text you submit so that it becomes culturally sensitive. This needs for cultural sensitivity becomes less important for such things as technical manuals, scientific documents, medical research papers, and so on, as these often use a more recognized ‘international language’, understood by the users of these materials. 

When professional translators translate material that needs to be adjusted to suit a specific target readership, then they will use localization techniques. Basically, this is an assumption that it would be impossible to literally translate the material they have been given as it may offend or confuse the readers, so the words and phrases are changed to best get the message across.


Take cultural sensitivity into account when planning to get your material translated for the first time in a new language. Culturally insensitive translation could end your experiment in this new market. It is advisable to hire a team of experienced translators who can help you create culturally sensitive translations.


Global Businesses Benefit from Voice-Over Translations

The translation is not just about translating text, but it is also about localizing video and audio recordings. Today, technology has provided people with instant access to live video online, so these can be used as a marketing technique for a business too.

When it comes to using videos or audio recordings online, it is important to get the voice just right. The aim is to get the viewer or listener to stay online and buy the product being marketed. For a business intending on trying to access markets around the world the voice in the video or audio will need to be translated and a voice overused to replace the original speaker. If this sort of marketing has been effective at home, then with the right translator a voice-over should have the same effect. You cannot expect to depend on English as your only marketing language as not everyone in the world speaks it well enough to interpret videos and audio recordings marketing a product. Rarely do potential customers buy a product online if they are unable to understand a video or description of a product unless it is in their own language.

A voice-over translation that is done by a competent translator makes it understood both linguistically and culturally. Voice-over translators are trained to make corporate marketing materials come alive and elevate a business’s position, so it competes well with any competitors.

When you make a telephone call yourself, whether it is to another business or a friend, the automated voice on the other end of the phone that tells you to wait your turn may also be telling you about the product you have rung about. Depending on the tone and persuasiveness of the voice you may be convinced to research a bit more about the product once the call has come to an end. Just the right voice may inspire you to drop the phone and go out and buy the product. You have to try and do this with your audio and video presentations on your website.

Helping employees and customers understand

International video and audio translations may also help when hiring staff in different parts of the world. When the training materials for your business are well translated, you offer the chance for your business’s employees living in a faraway country to get a clearer understanding of the aims of your business. When hiring workers in other countries to help with your marketing you may have selected some who can grasp a bit of the English language but if training videos and eLearning apps are translated well into their own language then the learning will finish far sooner.

Your chosen voice-over translators covering the languages of the customers you hope to attract may be able to customize the videos so both in language and cultural appropriateness they fit the targeted customer.

Some company owners may think they can get anyone to do a voice-over and its translations but this would not be as effective as getting a professional voice-over actor who has many years of experience and knows how to translate into their native language so that customers will buy your product.

The Future of Translation in 2020 and Beyond

There is little doubt that technology has brought about marked changes to the translation industry. Many people want to know will translators be needed in the future. The obvious ones are Google and Skype translate. They both have useful but not entirely perfect translation programs but they have still made significant headways into perfecting language translation with less than a usual human input. These would only be a pipedream a couple of decades ago. In addition to the above technology which has eased the burden for translators are Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) tools, translation memory, instant communication, and glossaries.
What now lies ahead according to professional forecasters is a mixture of intelligent devices coupled with experts in different subject matter fields who will work alongside one another to deliver accurate translations at competitive prices. One thing that is for sure physical frontiers is no longer a bar to communication. This means any type of business, small or big can enter global markets as long as they have selected high-quality business translators to do their translation work. By the time 2020 comes to a close $45 billion will have passed through different hands as more and more businesses see the usefulness of going global and for this, business needs the translator. For sure the translation industry will grow. This price tag won’t be focusing on paying for simple word-for-word translations as they are no longer considered effective for the global market.
Translators and their companies will be promoting higher-end localization as the preferred route for companies wishing to go global and be competitive. It isn’t too difficult to transit language barriers but to do this with some true effect brands need to consider the cultural differences of their intended market. They cannot necessarily use the same brand terminology like color and symbols that have been effective to gain customers in their native language. They may even have to change the brand name completely if the wording of the brand translated from English into another language is not appropriate and might even cause offense leading to an instant boycott of the brand.

Offering competitive prices is key to a successful translation business

Lots of translation businesses are entering the lucrative translation market so it will be necessary to offer competitive pricing to stay in the market. This also means the translators will need to turn over more translation projects to stay in the market. This really means translators cannot ignore the benefits of integrating CAT tools into their everyday translation tasks. There is no way a purely human translator can ever compete effectively with those translators who have taken it upon themselves to embrace every type of technology to speed up the translation process but provide high-quality translations.

The new standard is an automated translation 

This doesn’t just mean the translations themselves but the managing of a workflow as well. Quickly downloading translation requirements and uploading finished translations is one of the moves towards translation efficiency. There is more efficient translation software that speedily converts an assortment of different file types as well as the CAT technology that reduces the time required for completing the translation process. By integrating a better content management system, decreases turnaround times.
In summary, the following will be increasingly part of the translation process at the beginning of this new decade:

  • a translation memory which includes data to do with terminology as well as technical vocabulary;
  • simpler access to any prior work and many resources available to gather information;
  • multilingual SEO, allowing the integration of local keywords into translated content;
  • tracking tools monitoring workflow;
  • these tools limit the need for emails and manual file transfers. This reduces the time devoted to repetitive jobs and there is less room for mistakes to be made;
  • proofreading tools are expected to be much simpler to use creating an increase in accuracy and decreasing the time required to check each translation;
  • artificial intelligence will be used widely by translators.

Google has made marked improvements in its first translation software and uses more artificial intelligence than ever before. This breakthrough will be used by all players in the translation industry from the company clients down to the human translator. Machine translation isn’t yet perfect, as it cannot yet take on all 7,000 languages and dialects, but artificial intelligence and deep learning are expected to create new lines of the translation software. It will be able to integrate more cultures as more and more people use the internet more frequently. IT specialists won’t be in such high demand as new software will be self-explanatory.
Finally, the future of translation lies in the cloud, as in reality SaaS and another web integrated technology are the most effective methods of keeping the client’s information secure. So easy to access as there is no need to download documents directly onto a personal computer which so often causes security risks. Embracing changes is part of the world today so translation businesses have to be quick to stay ahead of competitors and tap into the lucrative translation market.

Likely Trends for the Translation Industry in 2020

2019 is nearly over and the translation industry is facing similar predictions to those proposed for the beginning of 2019.

The continued rise of machine translation and post-editing

Machine translations have started to have more of an effect on the translation sector in recent years. The key reason for this recently is the initiation of neural machine translation or NMT. Neural Machine Translation (NMT) is the method used to get machines to learn how to translate. So far, the results have been so promising that machines have managed to achieve state-of-the-art performance for some language pairs. Due to these results, there has been a boost in demand for post-editing machine translations. By 2022, the expected value globally of machine translations is likely to be at least $980 billion.

Transcreation is alive and kicking

Transcreation is creative writing combined with localization. A translator or language service provider takes on a client’s specific texts or content pieces for the purpose of using them as a marketing tactic for a brand. The translation that is created makes it appear as though it was naturally written in that language and not just an adapted translation created using the word-for-word basic translation technique. This technique is set to spread more and more and it really falls in the hands of a human translator, not a machine, at least, not yet.

Localization of subtitling and videos

Increasingly online video content is taking over as the most popular media. According to Cisco, when we reach 2021, 80 percent of all online traffic will be in video form. This means a rise in demand for video translations and translated subtitles. Around 85 percent of the social media’s video content today is played in the absence of sound which means there is a need for subtitling in many languages.

E-learning and webinar

By 2025, e-learning is expected to reach a value of $355 billion. It is likely that translations of e-learning platforms are likely to increase to match the increase in demand for e-learning. It is not just the language used on the website that will require translations but also the software used to engage the learner.

Localization and globalization

With the implementation of more and more broadband connections and an increase in the speed of the internet, localization and globalization are still going to be a key part of the translation industry in the coming year.
Overall, despite the advent of yet more translation technology there is still going to be a consistent need for human translators and translation services throughout the coming year and beyond as the requirements for translations haven’t yet reached their peak.

Translation: Data Into Stories and Actions

Most people understand that translation is all about converting one language into another. However, with IT so much a part of everyday living these days, there is a new type of translation around. This involves translating data into stories and action. It’s only an extension of more orthodox translation, except that data is treated as a ‘language’ in its own right.

The point about turning data into stories is that often it’s the only way that the message that the data is storing can be interpreted and remembered by most ordinary people.

It’s not that easy finding good data translators – those people who are sufficiently comfortable with data that they can competently deal with story translation. The one clear message is that the demand for effective data translators is not going to diminish any time soon.

Storytelling has of course been around for as long as humans developed speech. There is something about stories and story-telling which is so much more compelling than studying a bunch of figures, even if the figures are the basis of the story. One study between the power of data alone and data translated into stories has come from subscriptions to a popular charity, “Save the Children.’ Two different brochures were devised. One was full of statistics about child poverty and hunger in Africa. The other told the same story as the data but in words described the tale of a particular African child. The story in words garnered three times as much in subscriptions to ‘Save the Children’ as the data version.

Other evidence for the value of stories over the data that the stories are derived from comes from neuroscientists. They have discovered that interpreting data alone only stimulates two different areas of the brain. These are the Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas of the brain. When data is converted into stories and action, the stimulation spreads from the primary parts of the brain to those parts that are stimulated by emotion.

Other studies have shown that while only 5% of people can remember specific statistics expressed in number form, over 60% can remember stories. Apart from the ability to remember things, the other key advantage of translating data into stories and actions is that it makes that data more persuasive, as the charity brochure example above amply demonstrates.

It was back in 200 that Google’s chief economist said that the ability to take raw data and convert it into a story that communicated the information it represented would become an important skill. Only 10 years later, this prediction has become very evident. Companies are desperately trying to recruit talented people with the necessary skills to translate data into the narrative as data has become so much more omnipotent. In fact, data translation has consistently turned up in the top 4 skill categories in all countries analysed by LinkedIn recently.

Investing in Translation Beats Treating it as a Cost

Whenever you spend money on something it could either be regarded as a cost or an investment. There may seem to be little difference between these terms, but in reality there is. Basically, if you view expenditure on an item as a cost, you are not expecting it to enhance your business. The expenditure is merely designed to maintain the standard or quality of the service as it is.

This difference in meaning applies to translation tasks as well. You could either view the amount of money you pay for translation as a cost or as an investment.

How can you tell the difference when you engage professional translation services to complete a translation project? Does the cost of not translating a website (for example) outweigh the cost of translating it? Is the cost of localising marketing material expected to bear fruit in terms of greater sales because the language is adjusted to a greater population size? If you use professional medical translators rather than a generalised translation agency that is not specialised in medical terminology will your sales of medical equipment be more likely to meet local requirements?

There is no easy answer to any of these questions as every situation is different and unique for each business opportunity. In many cases, there will be no real answer to whether an extra investment in translation will pay off, but that is one of the gambles that any business has to make.

There are some generalisations that can be made which should be born in mind whenever the cost of translation is justified in terms of investment in a better return in the future:

  • Professional translation is better than non professional translation
  • Reliance on machine translation without human input is likely to be a mistake
  • New technology such as CAT (computer aided technology) has revolutionised translation tasks and has led to the ability to handle far larger amounts of data as well as a greater consistency.
  • Translators that are capable of effective localisation, known as transcreators, are better than more general translators
  • The more languages that potential customers are able to access on a marketing website the greater the potential for transforming this into genuine sales.
  • Technical translation, particularly of legal, medical and scientific documents is better done by translators who have in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.

A Global Economy Needs Expert Financial Translation

The flow of money and financial transactions are probably more global than any other sphere of human activity. For these transactions to occur as speedily and as seamlessly as possible, it requires professional translation agencies to employ translators with expertise in financial translation.

Financial translation can be challenging, not least because of the need for speed. Many financial transactions are made swiftly in response to shifts in the world financial market. That means that translators are often asked to complete a translation as quickly as possible. There has to be a corresponding balance between accuracy and speed.

English language speakers are lucky in that English remains one of the most important languages used for financial transactions although other languages are growing in importance. The language dominance of English tends to relate to the dominance of certain economies. For example, it’s hard to argue with understanding English when it comes to interpreting and communicating about the New York Stock Exchange, valued at $13.4 trillion and the NASDAQ (another U.S. financial institution) valued at $3.9 trillion. Following the money trail, other key languages in finance are the Tokyo Stock Exchange of $3,8 trillion, the Euronext Exchange with $2.9 trillion and Shanghai’s Stock Exchange with $2.2 trillion. That makes Japanese, French, German and Chinese important for translators of financial documents too.

It might seem that financial transactions are devoid of nuance and must be entirely straightforward, but there are pitfalls as there are with any other type of translation.

One of the easiest pitfalls is the use of numbers and punctuation. In the English language speaking world, for instance the comma is used to separate thousands, while in many other countries, it is the full stop. In France, for instance, €1.500 means one and a half thousand Euros, while in England or Australia it means 1 and a half Euros! Quite a difference!

Even between countries with the same language there can be number differences too. For instance, an American billion is a thousand times smaller than an English billion, which perhaps explains why there are so any more billionaires in the U.S. compared to Britain! Then there are different units which need to be calculated and converted, even if most of the world has adopted the metric system, there are significant sectors of the world and that includes the business world stubbornly sticking with imperial measurements.

Financial translation has its challenges but translators are much in demand in an increasingly globalised financial world.

Translating for the International E-Commerce Market

Online shopping has been a rapidly growing phenomenon, both internally and externally across borders over the last decade. In fact, e-Commerce, as online shopping is also called, is regarded as having a detrimental effect on traditional shopping done in physical stores. High street closures have been blamed, for instance, on the growth of e-Commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba.

The international e-commerce market depends on its success on the abilities of professional translation agencies to effectively communicate a huge variety of products in a number of different languages. Alibaba, the Chinese based e-Commerce giant, has learned that despite the fact that the internal Chinese market is growing rapidly as the Chinese population becomes ever more affluent, there are huge profits to be made by selling online all over the world.

Alibaba has become a very successful online sales company but it has only been able to do so because it learned the hard way that badly translated marketing of products wasn’t going to work. The main disadvantage of online shopping is the uncertainty about what you are buying: the quality, the size, the colour and so on. All of these details have to be communicated through the e-Commerce company’s public website. If consumers don’t trust or understand what they see on that website because the language used cannot be understood, they will turn elsewhere, or not bother with online shopping at all.

Alibaba’s cross-border market is expected to increase fourfold between 2014 and 2020, a figure which parallels the growth of the Chinese internal e-commerce market.

It’s not just China that is selling successfully to the rest of the world. German online shoppers are buying a lot of their stuff from Britain. The U.K. and the U.S., both big e-commerce nations, are selling to consumers on both sides of the Atlantic. Over 70% of British companies that sell online also sell offshore. Of course, selling British goods to the U.S. or Australia is a lot easier than selling the same products to the Chinese as the language barrier is almost non-existent. For many e-Commerce sellers, it is the language barrier that is the most important stumbling block. This presents an enormous opportunity for professional translators and translation agencies that adapt to changes in marketing strategy and present themselves as experts in e-Commerce translation.