Before we talk about translation provider trends in the current year, we need to look back at the prior year. In 2020, COVID-19 threw an economy-disrupting curveball at the entire world. All forecasts and predictions went out the window practically overnight. In the months following, the way the world does business changed dramatically from the plunging downturn in international travel to the rise of the home office. And we’re by no means out of the woods. This statement from the IMF accurately sums up the situation:
The global economy’s long ascent back to pre-pandemic levels of activity remains prone to setbacks.
Some Economic Sectors Have Done Well
Some areas of the economy have managed to find opportunities amid the ongoing crisis, and one of these is the translation sector. The 2020 European Language Industry Survey (encompassing 45 countries) found that language service providers were well prepared to weather the pandemic storm. There are three reasons for this.
- Many translation providers were already familiar with and equipped to provide their services in a home office type of setup.
- The majority of translation providers’ activities span all economic sectors, making them less prone to suffer from abrupt economic shifts.
- The health crisis has spawned an enormous amount of COVID-related content that has to be translated to comply with legal requirements – particularly among international organizations.
This has resulted in the translation industry attracting more translators, proofreaders, copywriters, and content editors than in previous years. Thousands of people who found themselves without their regular jobs segued into the world of translation provider services.
- According to one report, the global language services and technology industry market grew to US$ 24.2 billion in 2019, and growth to US$ 25.3 billion is forecast by 2022.
Now that this unpredictable and extraordinary year is finally over let’s look at four trends that are likely to take hold in the translation provider sector of the economy in 2021.
1. Machine Translation/Human Editing
Machine translation (MT) is not new and has been gaining ground over the past decade. However, MT will continue to become more integrated into the translation industry. Last year’s European Language Industry Survey found that 78% of language service providers were either already using or are planning to utilize MT in conjunction with post-editing tools.
MT Software Keeps Getting Better
MT software is finally good enough to provide workable translated content. Gone is the time when an MT program would turn out reams of garbled sentences that had more in common with Lewis Carroll than a solid marketing brief. These programs now have enough data to enable them to compare, contrast, and create with a higher level of effectiveness.
- It is estimated that between now and 2024, the machine translation market will increase in value to US$ 1.5 billion – at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 19%.
However, this doesn’t mean that translation providers are about to turn into just word factories with a production line churning out translations. Good translated and localized content is still all about bringing the human touch that will attract a targeted audience. Human editors will continue to be as essential to the translation process as ever.
2. The Robots Are Arriving – Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Translation
AI is not quite the same as machine translation. AI is primarily employed by companies developing computer-aided translation (CAT) tools, which are utilized by human translators when creating texts from scratch. While MT has many uses (e.g., translating parts lists or user manuals), some translation projects pay to have a human in the loop from the very beginning – those relating to creative, marketing, literary, etc.
AI Continues to Improve Itself
AI in CAT tools has become increasingly more sophisticated. Based on a deep learning neural network foundation, AI algorithms continually ‘learn’ from the data that is inputted. AI familiarizes itself with the translator’s preference for particular words, phrases, and flourishes and adapts its algorithms to reflect this. In effect, the AI works just ahead of the human translator by offering up suggestions based on the context.
- This field will continue to develop, and translators can expect to receive even more assistance from their AI coworkers in the future.
3. Globalization Equals Translation
In a post-COVID economy, businesses will be exploring every possible channel that can be used to rebound and recover their losses. This may mean increasing inroads into emerging markets – think Russia, Turkey, Mexico, South America, Thailand, South Africa. And although English is the global language of business, when it comes to communication with end-users, people prefer to receive information in their native language.
4. From Static Text to Dynamic Interaction
The use of online marketing via videos has been expanding for some time. In fact, 87% of marketing professionals are currently using video as a key marketing tool. People now expect to be able to watch videos on their smartphones from any location. This linked infographic reveals that 54% of consumers want to see more video content and less text from their preferred brands.
Videos Need Translation Providers
Although the move to videos might seem like a threat to the translation industry, the opposite is true. People frequently watch videos in public with the sound off, relying on the accompanying text and subtitles to understand the story. This text has to be translated into many different languages. Translators won’t be short of content to work on any time soon.
There’s another trend happening in the world of video content: deep localization. Video content creators can use the power of after-effects and digital overlays to make a film shot in one location appear as though it was produced in another. Think further ahead for this one – not just 2021, but perhaps the next decade.
Uncertain Times Call for a Reliable Translation Partner
Here’s the question: How do we already know (in January) which trends will grip the translation world in the whole of 2021? Well, to maintain our status as a leading language service provider, Localize makes sure we keep our finger on the translation market’s pulse at all times. Understanding the direction the industry is taking enables us to quickly adapt and evolve our processes, invest in the latest translation technologies, and expand our already considerable expertise. This puts us one step ahead of the competition and makes us a safe choice in uncertain times.