Where does the future of the translating and interpreting market lie? Demand for translation and interpreting services is expected to increase significantly in the next 10 years due to globalization, although translators may not necessarily see a corresponding increase in income.
The Globalization of the Translation Market
Globalization has skyrocketed the demand for translation and interpreting services at an unprecedented rate. The Internet has given business owners the chance to reach the global market, and the proliferation of smartphones has led to uniformly translated apps for devices like the iPhone in many different language pairs. Sites like eBay and Amazon sell items internationally in abundance, and this mammoth boost in demand leads many experts to believe that the translation industry is recession-proof, which is great news for the professionals who are in this field for the long term. The real way to gain a competitive edge in business is to go global, and professional translation services will always be necessary for this.
A Fragmenting Translation Market
Although professionals will have the comfort of job security, this increase in demand might not positively affect their wallets. There has been a hike in the number of translation companies that have opened in recent years (an estimated 26,000 worldwide in 2012 alone) making the influx of cash to translation companies highly fragmented. Bulk translation and crowdsourced translation providers have contributed to this phenomenon even more by adding a wave of people providing translation services to the mix. These types of services keep a pool of hundreds to thousands of people worldwide who are able to work between various language pairs, allowing translations to complete projects quickly. These websites often advertise that any bilingual person can begin translating from home in an instant, and that no professional translation experience is required. In turn, this keeps translation costs low – about 20% less than other professional translation services – and the quality of translation work is at risk.
Are All Crowdsourcing Websites Bad?
While they may have contributed to further fragmenting the translation market, these types of companies are meeting a real demand for common e-mail correspondence translation services that were not widely available until their introduction. Market fragmentation allows more people to access translation and localization services because the market is more competitive. This gives people more for their money. And despite the fact that the anticipated growth in profits for translation companies is still relatively stagnant, the top 100 translation companies in the world have seen a significant increase in their revenue.
The Future of the Market
When I received my degree in translation studies, I was hired by a crowdsourcing website where I would often see medical or legal texts being posted for translation at low rates. I cannot assume that they were done very well, considering the lack of time allocated for them, and the fact that they did not have senior translators to review them. I think that the advent of crowdsourcing websites has given the false impression to consumers that quality translations of any type of document can be done quickly, and for cheap. I think this split in the market will eventually be bridged when translation companies offer their customers a better way to discern what level of translation quality is necessary for a specific project. This will ensure that professionals are still allocated the kind of work they are capable of doing, and that amateur translators don’t take over the majority of the market that requires professional translation.