The localisation industry is facing some substantial changes. Last two decades brought us such tools and technologies that could change the entire face of humanity: smartphones, globalisation powered by the Internet. What are the main challenges that the translators and LSPs are facing today?

One of the main topics that occupy the minds of industry representatives the most is machine translation. With its rapid development, many people ask themselves if it is the birth of our great ally or our greatest enemy that will eventually leave the translators unemployed.

This is still a matter of the future as the technology is imperfect and still needs to be tended to by human experts. Left all by itself, the AI easily makes mistakes that can lead to many (at best) misunderstandings.

Will machines repleace translators? Careful there!

Nowadays, mostly big companies look at machine translation algorithms with high hopes. The internet streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix or HBO have audiences that top the population of many nations! That’s why, they have to process a lot of data and do it really fast. It was a surprise to see that while the Internet made us all connected, it didn’t make us all speak and read in one common language. Instead, the need for localised content is growing, especially when it comes to the above-mentioned media.

Watching favourite shows is a relaxing activity; therefore, most of the viewers do not want to put any effort into it. Of course, watching in a foreign language and keeping up with it is such. That’s why, most viewers tend to choose those broadcasters that provide them with local language versions. The Internet in its growth is an ally of the localisation business, because its worldwide range generates the need to localise its content. At the beginning of 21st century, some people were afraid that the entire world will end up speaking American English. They were wrong and the pop culture shows it perfectly.

What could possibly go wrong?

Big streaming services gather audience in millions. The key to that is not only the proper rooster of titles, but mostly the availability of them to multilingual audience. To achieve that they invest millions of dollars in the machine learning industry as well as multinational team of „organic” translators.

Recently Netflix started testing figsApp, an interesting application that translates difficult phrases and complicated sentences to simpler and easier to understand. It is a part of a strategy called „Simplify-Then-Translate”. First the machine translator works on the given material and then real translators check and correct if necessary. This line of work can improve the speed of releasing new shows. Still the issue of quality remains really important. Nowadays the machine translators without the human supervision usually end up in „translation fails” lists.

Movies are a great field of testing possible mistakes.

In a nutshell, machine translation is not a threat for translators and LSPs to worry about. What is more, with technological development, the human factor will still be vital. After all, each artificial intelligence or neural network has to start learning at some point. It is our, human, job to provide it with proper data so that it can process the right knowledge, not mistakes that could be stuck in its “brain” forever.

Translators in times of the disease

The pandemic of Covid-19 has struck many types of businesses declining workforce, disturbing contacts and distorting supply chains. In the localisation industry, however, things look rather different. The time of pandemic is also the time of a great need for flawless communication. Government statements, health regulations and procedures need to be translated perfectly for everyone who could be their target group. As the virus spread its range to more and more countries around the globe, more and more languages had to be involved in preparing proper safety regulations.

There are also new fields of work for translators. As the pandemic caused many weeks of lockdown, people flocked to online communicators and video conferencing tools to sustain their professional and social lives. Skype, Discord, Zoom or GoToMeeting – to name some of them – reported a sky-rocketing growth of users and traffic. With that in mind, many LSPs broadened their offer by adding online translation to their list of services.

At the same time, there is a big rise in the demand for skilled medical translators who can handle localisation of health procedures, laws and all information about new medicines.

The world of translators in times of change

By the end of 2020, the LSP market will have been worth about 45 billion dollars. Both the companies and freelance translators will look for new ways of cooperation, new services to provide and new ways of sustaining such growth.

Globalisation came a different way than it was predicted. It is not about making everything sound the same. The main point is to reach out to as many people as possible. To do so, it is crucial to cross all the barriers. Language can be one, and it is really narrow-minded to assume that the entire world speaks English. That is why, localisation and translator’s place in the global market is secured, although it may change its face.

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