Thursday, February 14, 2013

Looking Back on the Last 20 Years in the Translation Industry

There were a lot of changes in the translation industry over the last 20 years, partly because of advancements in technology, manufacturing, medical research, economic issues, and competition. Here are the ten biggest areas that saw change:
  1. Going from a cottage industry to being listed on the stock exchange; translation is a big business.
  2. What seems like more translation service providers for companies to choose from is actually European, Chinese and Indian translation agencies marketing in the United States. Having seen the potential and growth in the United States translation market, they strategically set their sights on it which has driven down the cost and quality resulting in confusion, lack of trust, and costly mistakes by translation buyers.
  3. FIGS (French, Italian, German and Spanish) gave way to companies having a standard of upwards to 23 official languages that they produce all material in (FIGS, plus Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, or Hindi)
  4. Translators are professionally trained, certified and tech savvy. One can no longer expect that just knowing a foreign language is good enough to be a translator. There are translation degrees, industry guidelines and explicit ISO and ASTM guidelines for translators.
  5. What was once considered not worth translating is now required, such as product labeling, instructions for use, and clinical study material. The localization of a product’s software, displays and help files are built into the cost of the product. Software developers cannot just rely on having the translation of manuals as being good enough to sell the product.
  6. Translation memory software is not a monopoly and there are options available for both agencies and translators which are, for the most part, fully compatible with each other.
  7. We have evolved from delivering hardcopy translations by mail or overnight delivery, to faxing them, to email and electronic delivery via ftp sites, using different types of desktop publishing software that was not available 20 years ago.
  8. Project Management tools developed and marketed specifically to the translation industry, as well as a real sales force in place for most translation service providers.
  9. Translation for use in the United States has increased. Stores in the United States like Wal-Mart, Sears, and Home Depot have bilingual signage and some stores require product packaging to be bilingual. There are communities of Russian, Arabic and Indian speakers that state school systems must be able to teach, communicate and test students as well as offer English as a second language programs.
  10. More material requires translation. It is not just the legal contracts to export material or printed sales sheets and advertisements. There are different types of methods we use to communicate with now. Consider the importance of the internet and web sites, e-learning, podcasts, voice command technology and apps used in today’s society. Customers use the web site to find people to do business with and even buy products directly. That information needs to be translated to gain more market share. Companies have more global offices and need to effectively train their employees with online materials, PowerPoint slides, or communicate vital information via podcasts.