The Future of Translation in 2020 and Beyond

There is little doubt that technology has brought about marked changes to the translation industry. 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 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. 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 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, this 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.

What can Translators Expect in the Future?

Tech Comm specialist, Stefan Gentz, summed up some of the translation challenges for the future at the 2015 Institute of Translation and Interpreting Conference.

He came out with the following leading points related to modern translation

    • Translation has gone global and this can be seen clearly by the volume of translation services that are online these days. It is expected that before the next decade has finished most translation will be cloud based.
    • Clients expect translations to be done quickly so that means NAATI translators have to adapt to new technology and use it in order to meet client demands.faster translation.
    • Clients expect the costs of their professional translation services to drop considerably so that they can get their translations done in a cost-effective manner especially as the volume of words needing translations often top hundreds of thousands of words and the costs could be prohibitive if they are not lowered from their current rate.
    • Translators need to take on technology more than ever before so that they can meet the requirements for providing cost-effective translations that match their clients content requirements.
    • Each day, data reaching 3 trillion gigabytes is produced, offering endless opportunities for eager translators, but human translators have been slow to respond. Microsoft and Google have taken the largest chunk of the translator market. Google can translate more words a minute than the total of all human translators yearly.
    • Global business would not exist without translations, so the human translation world has to take on this challenge and not sit back and later wonder what happened.

This is the time for human translators to stop worrying about quality and focus on offering a similar service to Microsoft and Google. Machine translations are getting better and better and it is expected within the next 10 years to be at least as good as human translations. Gurdeep Pall, the vice president of Microsoft’s corporate sector, believes that translation facilities should be freely available at no cost.

With the way the access to“Freebies” are just about the norm, such as Facebook and Gmail, there is no telling how far Microsoft and Google are prepared to go when machine translations become as good or even better than human translators, rapidly becoming the norm. The way that the human translation services market could capitalise on trends now and into the future using current machine translation technology is to develop business models that offer various grades of service ranging from free translations through to a standard translation and a more superior premium translation. This will expose translators to all the different possibilities of earning an income from their skills.

How Global Brand Websites are Lost In Translation

It’s quite realistic to assume that when websites are translated into many different languages that sales will be boosted. Consumers are far more likely to buy from a website in their own language and spend longer browsing too. It is taking a long time for global brands to realise the importance of using professional translation services to get their websites and product information translated into global languages.

It is of course not necessarily straightforward when translating brand information as there are variations in the way countries who seemingly speak the same language have local differences that are not necessarily that easy to understand. For example, in the United States, the name for sports shoes is “sneakers” while in Britain the word used is “trainers.” These are two totally different words which only the people from those countries would clearly understand.

Some businesses have begun to learn about these language variations such as Tory Burch who uses different words for his U.S. site and his British site when marketing clothing. He sells “sweaters” in the U.S. and “jumpers” in Britain which are two different words used for the same type of clothing.

Website language is important

If your business fails to take notice of the nuances in a language then sales performance will not be so good. This is partly due to the search words potential customers may use. If Tory Burch used the word jumper on his U.S. site but the term used for this item of clothing in the U.S. is sweater then few people will be directed to his website when they use their specific search term.

Glossaries are built up by translators who work for translation services in Australia so that when they are asked to perform a translation they have a good idea of what terms are used in the country in question for certain words related to the product information being translated. It has taken time for these glossaries to be formed as global brands have only fairly recently seen the importance of translating websites and product descriptions into the type of language used by their potential customers.

Glossaries for Spanish customers from Spain may be different from those compiled for Argentinean customers. This is the same for documents such as legal documents as different terms may be used for legal concepts in different countries so a word by word translation is not possible. Document translation services have slowly built up glossaries so they can better meet the needs of their international clients by ensuring the correct legal terms are used.