Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Translation: Headed Towards A New Ice Age?

As some of you may have noticed, in recent days the CEOs of mid-sized translation companies write quite pessimistic articles on the future of the translation and localization industries.

We here at Active Gaming Media are not in possession of a crystal ball with which to predict the future, however our multilingual staff allows me to hear fresh opinions on the translation markets in several countries, and it is true that most of the opinions indicate a discouraging situation. Allow me to elaborate on this with a few basic yet important points:

1. Rates are generally decreasing in all translation markets.
2. Clients do not show a big interest in translation, and recently, companies even outsource translation jobs to non-native speakers. Basically, this is a reflection of the lack of importance placed on our industry.
3. Only translators using Trados receive good jobs. There are, however, free tools on the market which are cheaper and have better functionality for certain languages (see Japanese).
4. The number of people who work from home is increasing daily because of the economic crisis.
5. One of these days Google may create a tool so powerful that it will be able to translate with almost-human accuracy.

So it would appear that in a period of global warming, the translation industry is moving towards a new, devastating Ice Age that will end with all us going the unfortunate way of the poor dinosaurs.

This may or may not be true. I believe you may have heard opinions similar to the above if you’ve been working in a translation agency for more than two weeks.
My perception of the situation is that the market is not going to change much in the next few years, but it is obvious that forthcoming technological advancements will cause the translation world to change, and yes, that may affect the income of some translators, but it is also true that these changes could benefit communication between different countries and their respective economies, and it is also a fact that this kind of changes is - I guess - inevitable.

Therefore, the only course of action for a translator to take is to hone his skills, be prepared for the changes, and then accept them. This can also be extrapolated to companies, which should be prepared not only to accept the change, but even to try to force that change, developing new products and services which encourage the evolution of the translation and localization markets.
We really wish for all of the translators who are worried about their future to prepare themselves and enjoy this change in the language world rather than fear it.