Another year, another slew of developments in a sector that never stands still. After a pandemic that ripped up the prediction script in 2020 and again in 2021, the language service industry is looking toward the future with cautious optimism. After already showing great resilience for the past two years, there are several innovative translation trends the sector is embracing as technology opens up new avenues for language service provision. From machine translation developments to subtitling and transcription software to remote interpreting, it is an exciting time to be a language professional. And so: While the global economy may not be out of the woods yet, we can rest assured about the future of language services for some time to come.
Machine-generated content is king
While we have already discussed the ins and outs of machine translation (MT) on this blog before, the technology is evolving rapidly – so it makes sense to take a quick look at what’s new in the world of MT. Along with software developers continuing to refine machine translation suites so they can deliver both speed and accuracy, MT may soon be paired with AI models to translate content that was – at least in part – originally generated by a machine. With so many platforms, sites and portals needing to meet the demands of online readers around the world, MT is an accessible, affordable and adaptable solution for translating blog posts, listicles, social media content, news updates and more. Little wonder, then, that the MT market is on track to be worth USD 230.67 million by 2026. Of course, it bears repeating that MT still isn’t close to replacing human translators: In fact, as the technology continues to improve, translation professionals will be able to get more done in less time without cutting corners, so they’ll have more work available to them than ever before.
Subtitles and dubbing: the keys to new worlds
According to Deadline, the most-watched show on Netflix in 2021 was the Korean phenomenon Squid Game, with 142 million viewers. And it wasn’t the only foreign-language show in the top 10: the French streaming smash Lupin came in at number three with 76 million, while Money Heist, a Spanish drama series, also made the cut at number seven with an audience of 65 million. These are three major examples that prove one thing: As the Internet and globalisation continue to make the world smaller, more content in foreign languages will need to be either dubbed or subtitled to ensure additional reach. From Netflix behemoths to instructional YouTube videos and from podcasts to massive open online courses, the market for one-inch words and lip-synced dialogue contains huge potential: Valuates Reports projects it will be worth USD 441.7 million by 2027. And, as The Guardian points out, this is not something that can be handed off onto machine translation, as “Subtitling is an essential art form” requiring nuance and the ability to work within the physical limitations of the screen. In other words: Good news for translators seeking to specialise in an area that is challenging yet rewarding – and in some cases prestigious.
Speech to text meets a need for speed
This article was written using a keyboard. Future generations will likely look back at this input method as quaint and slow, just as we do when we spy a typewriter at a flea market. Voice recognition software has been around for a while now (in fact, the first system was designed back in 1952), but the technology has reached a level where transcribing a voice recording is both viable and affordable. As more companies become clued in to the fact that they can have their conferences, general meetings, presentations and interviews recorded and then immortalised in digital ink, it will be down to language service providers to step in and offer their expertise in this fledgling field – first by creating a script using speech recognition software and then manually checking the text and comparing it to the recording to ensure it is 100% correct. The software isn’t perfect yet (just try putting on the captions on certain YouTube videos), but it is getting better all the time. And there are ways to make it easier for the technology to understand the words being uttered, too: from cutting out background noise to briefing participants not to speak over one another.
Interaction from anywhere on the planet
One area of the language service industry that received a direct boost due to the pandemic is interpreting. What was once very much a face-to-face affair had to adapt quickly to restrictions on mobility, human contact and room capacity. The result: Remote interpreting. While it may have found its start out of necessity, the ability to virtually attend events, meetings, conferences and so on all over the world can only be a good thing for interpreters and their employers, as it reduces transport and logistical concerns to a minimum and allows for flexibility and spontaneous sourcing of services. As an article from the American Translators Association points out, all it takes to get set up is a good headset and microphone, a quiet location and preferably two separate workstations – one to stream the event and another for support materials and glossaries. And with the unprecedented growth in popularity of platforms such as Zoom (along with established remote interpreting software such as KUDO, Interprefy or Voiceboxer), the technology to get online is more available and affordable than ever.
Individual communities, a universal understanding
Another language service that is becoming ever more important in our increasingly globalised – and increasingly unstable – world is community interpreting. The emphasis here is on ‘community’, as this type of interpreter serves as the mouthpiece for certain social groups in need of public and social services, but which lack the language skills to request and apply for these themselves. This is especially important in matters pertaining to health care, education, housing and civil rights, not least because communicating the group’s needs will have a huge effect on their overall quality of life. As migration increases – whether due to the climate crisis, conflict or other reasons – governments, social bodies and NGOs will need professional community interpreters to assist them in order to reach a mutual understanding and a satisfactory outcome for all. Ideally, these professionals should combine an in-depth knowledge of languages and public services with the compassion and drive to help secure aid and empowerment for immigrants, refugees and other persons who may (whether directly or indirectly) have been marginalised up to now. Plus, by dismantling language barriers, this can lead to more trust, better integration and stronger communities. Not bad for a day’s work.
Looking toward the horizon with confidence
The question on many lips remains: Are we out of the woods? The global economy may not be – not yet anyway – but as the translation trends above show, the language services industry is going from strength to strength. As with any rapidly changing situation, peace of mind comes from being able to rely on a partner that stays on top of developments, works with the latest technology and always maintains the human touch. Take a look at how SwissGlobal can help you navigate the dynamic world of translation, editing and copywriting and get ahead even when times are challenging.
The future is here. Let’s welcome it together.