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How Globalization has Affected the Translation Industry

Globalization gives businesses more opportunities for growth, but it increases competition at the same time. In a globalized world, you can have a wider client base, but you will also be competing with more businesses. One way you can stand out from the international business crowd is by translating your content, product information, website, and marketing materials. “An enormous advantage that online retailers and ecommerce sites have over brick-and-mortar stores is access to global markets with website translation and localization,” says Ofer Tirosh, the CEO of a leading translation company called Tomedes. The translation industry makes communication achievable despite the lingual and cultural barriers. Perhaps this is why according to Statista, the market size of the global language services industry keeps on increasing year after year. It is even estimated to grow to $56.18 billion by 2021 compared to $49.60 billion in 2019, $46.52 billion in 2018, $43.08 billion in… you get the point. Judging by these numbers, it will continue to increase by 2025 and beyond.

How the Global Pandemic Has Changed Business As Usual and Where Translation Fits in The New Normal

Currently in 2020, one of the greatest challenge of global business is the Covid19 pandemic. The threat of coronavirus has changed the world almost overnight. Because there is still no vaccine, everyone has to alter their lifestyles in order to avoid infection. One such alteration is working from home due to the imposed lockdowns around the middle of 2020. As such, businesses also had to change their processes and delve into digital in order to continue operating. The companies who were unable to effectively adapt to remote work and digital systems were the ones who suffered the most amidst the pandemic-induced economic recession.

While the Hospitality and Travel industry has been the most negatively affected by the pandemic, the Ecommerce industry has seen a rise. As more and more people are working from home, more and more are also shopping from home instead of in physical stores. According to Forbes, the total online spending in May 2020 alone equates to a total of $82.5 billion. The more successful Ecommerce sites are those who were able to utilize translation and cater to an international client base.

Of course, English remains the top 1 language used on the internet. This has been the case before and this will still be the case in the future. However, only translating to English could make you lose potential sales. In the third global survey conducted by CSA Research in 2020, it was found out that 76% of online shoppers choose to buy products from websites that contain information in their native language. The research firm also reports in another survey that 56% of online shoppers either spend more time on websites that are in their native language compared to websites in English or avoid English URLs completely.

The Future of the Translation Industry

Before we discuss the future of the translation industry, we have to go back to the past in order to have a better appreciation of why there is a need for translation at all. The word translation is derived from the Latin word translatio which means “to bring/carry across”. In a way, translation serves as a bridge between worlds. In the Western world, the first book ever translated was the Bible when it was translated from Hebrew to Greek. Now, the Bible is sold in 692 languages — the reasons why millions of people worldwide are able to read it and get lessons from it.

Fast forward to the present, the need for translation has only increased year after year and it will continue to increase as the world is making a critical shift to digital. Here are 5 ways that the translation industry will evolve based on current trends:

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1. Translation technology developments

Translation tools are getting better and better. We can thank the developments in machine learning for this. As machine systems went from knowledge-based methods to learning-based methods, translation tools have gotten smarter. But it still isn’t always accurate. When statistical machine translation (SMT) came to be, AI has been able to translate words with fewer mistakes. But because of the natural flexibility of human language, again, it isn’t always accurate. SMT is capable of translating quickly. But as a phrase-based translation system, it sometimes loses the true meaning of the sentence. With neural machine translation (NMT) on the rise, translation technology has seen a huge leap. This is because NMT, as the name suggests, imitates the neural network found in animal and human brains in order to learn new things faster and deeper. An artificial neural network is capable of predicting a sequence of words by translating it into a sequence of numbers that represents them.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to give yourself a headache with the deep science of it all. Basically what this means for the translation industry is that AI will be used more and more by translation companies. As more businesses go digital and international, more content needs to be produced and translated. Machine learning tools are going to be applied in order to bridge the gap between supply and demand.

2. But human translators…

With the improvements of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it begs the question: will machines replace human translators like in some future dystopian movie? Yes… and no. Yes, AI will be used more and more. In fact, it is estimated that machines will carry out 50% of translation tasks, but no, machines will not fully replace human translators by 2025.

Technology has only gotten better as the years passed, but machines perform better with objective rules. Language is subjective and language also keeps on evolving. As of April 2020, Merriam-Webster reports that they added 535 new words in their dictionary. And that’s only for the English language alone! According to The Guardian’s Global Language Monitor, more than 5,000 new words are created every year.

3. More languages and dialects will be included

Languages that are not popularly used on the internet are less likely to be translated because they do not generate enough revenue that makes them worth the effort of translation. According to CSA Research, translating into 31 languages was sufficient in 2017 to reach 97% of internet users. The research firm predicts that businesses need to translate into 34 languages by 2022 in order to reach the same percentage of users. However, by 2027, businesses need to utilize 62 languages in order to reach 96% of internet users:

4. An Increase in Transcreation Needs

Transcreation is rapidly growing, and part of the reason is that global brands recognize its usefulness in digital marketing. Transcreation does not only involve translating words from one language into another. The goal of transcreation is to recreate the content into the language of the target audience while taking the audience’s culture into consideration — maintaining the same intent, style, and concept of the original material. It is a combination of language interpretation and creativity. Transcreators are usually copywriters before they are translators, and great transcreators are those who have linguistic skills but are well-versed in marketing techniques.

5. Video Translation

More consumers now prefer consuming content via video format compared to written articles, which is why according to Wyzowl’s 2020 Video Marketing Statistics, 92% of marketers now say that video is an important part of their marketing strategy compared to only 78% in 2015. Translating your videos or even just adding subtitles will help you reach a wider audience.

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Sarah Anna

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