We've recently seen a lot of translators concerned about the important ongoing changes in the world of translation. Today, we give them a few reasons to believe in a fine future.
The main worries of translators can be compiled in a couple of statements. Let's see them one by one.
"Rates have been decreasing a lot and will keep decreasing"
It is true that recently prices have been decreasing significantly. This is the direct consequence of a bigger competition between translators since the Internet really emerged as a mass media.
Now the question is : how long will it keep going?
In my opinion, we have reached a peak point: translators are already doing very big efforts about their rates but rates just can't keep decreasing forever; translators will still need to have enough money at the end of the month.
If you have experience and diplomas, you should be able to market your advantages and get jobs at reasonable rates.
Another idea is that, to maintain good rates, translators will progressively specialize in a couple of fields and try to offer additional services: translation of press releases, commercial e-mails and more generally marketing services requiring the help of a translator/interpreter.
For example, the next time you see a job offer for, say, website translation, try to mention in your quote "As a free addition, I can also translate and submit a press release for your site + write/translate a couple of newsletters for you". Try it, you may be nicely surprised with results.
I call it the "Icing on the cake".
"Machines will replace translators"
NO. Computer ASSISTED Translation tools are here to assist translators, not to replace them. They can save you a lot of time and prevent your from doing mistakes but in no case they will be able to translate everything perfectly.
Even the best machines won't be able to reproduce perfectly the tone of a text, understand things such as sarcasm or irony or recreate the human feelings a text can convey.
This topic would be worth an article, but the idea is that translation is a form of art, constantly renewed. It is not like manufacturing some product and definitely not something that can be automatized.
Would you ask a machine to translate a poem, or a touching dialog? I bet not. Companies would not do that either.
"Chinese and Indian translators have been taking all the assignments recently"
I don't believe so. It is quite common to fear people who are appearing on a market, but this fear is meaningless.
Yes, some non-native translators are getting jobs at ridiculously low prices (sometimes below 0.01$/word).
However, serious companies looking for proper translations will always look for experienced translators who are native speakers.
If some company decided to give a job to a random translator (the one offering the lowest rate, actually), then it just means they didn't care about the quality of their translation and would have given the job to the same kind of translator 10 years ago, and would do the very same in 10 years.
"There are more and more translators, which makes it harder to find jobs"
The number of assignments is also increasing yearly. Moreover, in developed countries, the number of freelance translators is getting stable, as most translators now own a computer with an Internet connection.
The number of assignments is also set to keep increasing. In our "globalized" world, companies are trying (more and more) to reach audience in various markets -worldwide when possible-. And if they want to preserve their image, it is a necessity for them to offer a proper translation/localization for all of their products.
Once again, quality will have the priority over rates (or let's say at least 50/50...) and serious translators should have a significant advantage again.
In the end, serious companies will always look for native and experienced translators and will be ready to invest reasonable prices for it.
Of course, the world of translation is changing with the growth of internet and improvements brought to translation tools. And as you surely know, change always scares people.
But if we have a careful look at the translation world, we can easily see that our dear industry is not heading to its death.