04 November 2017

Translation and disruption #5

If the translation industry is indeed on the brink of disruptive innovation some of the things that may happen could include:
  • change will be more client driven, less supplier driven
  • translation memory systems, the current leaders in translation technology, are unlikely to retain their leadership
  • clients will accept lower quality provided the service is cheaper, more accessible and less difficult to understand
  • self-service offerings like Google Translate will continue to enjoy explosive growth
  • some translation clients using cheaper or free-of-charge services will encounter serious and sometimes costly failures
  • new business for suppliers specialising in high-end translation, adaptation, localisation, etc. will come largely from clients who have encountered and recognised failures produced by cheaper solutions
  • as a percentage of global consumption, the proportion of translations provided by high-end suppliers will continue to fall
  • the intellectual content of a growing proportion of translation industry jobs, including freelance work, will decline at an accelerating pace
  • the amount of training required to master the next generation of translation environment tools (TenTs) will plummet
  • universities will face enormous challenges justifying long-cycle training courses for translators facing, for the most part, low and falling pay scales and less intellectually satisfying work prospects
  • a proportion of the small army of high-end suppliers enjoying both success and good incomes may once again come into the profession after a decade or more of experience in other types of work yielding in-depth knowledge of subject matter and languages.

Signs that others are also noticing the trend

User expectations: The good news for MT is that due to the crapification of language the expectations bar has been coming down, and people are much more willing to accept raw MT, warts and all. Despite the quality problems, more & more people are using web-based MT services like Google Translate, Bing Translator, etc., to read and write content in other languages.  As with texting above, they’re more concerned with content than with form: they’re OK with errors as long as they can understand the content or at least get the gist of it. This seems to be true even for countries that have traditionally had a high bar for language quality, like Japan and France.

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