Translation industry trends in the next decade

Trends are influenced not only by new inventions and technologies, but also — as we see in the translation industry — by customers who need reliable solutions and an approach tailored to their needs. Globally, this can be seen with the example of foldable-screen smartphones which, despite being the biggest innovation in recent years, have lost out in the market due to — among other factors — the lack of demand for such solutions. We've created a list of trends that could dominate the world of translation as we enter the next decade.

Machine vs. human translators

Translation industry representatives indicate that in 2023 machine translation will become even more popular. This type of translation was created in the 1950s and became well known thanks to Google's translation tool, among others. Machine translation continues to develop rapidly in the professional translation industry and beyond. It's worth noting that current solutions are already highly advanced. Interest in this technology is increasing all the more because a machine-translated text can be checked not only by a translator specialised in the relevant field, but also by a properly trained artificial intelligence.

However, verification processes performed by a post-editor can sometimes actually negate advantages, such as the speed of machine translation and its low costs compared to hiring human translators. In some cases, thorough verification and proofreading of a machine translation can ultimately take longer than a conventional translation done by a human in the first place.

We're well aware of the importance of time in completing orders — clients often want a translation ‘yesterday', and as such we believe that a trend in the coming years will not be to use machine translation (which is nothing new in the industry) but rather to streamline these translation and post-editing processes; this in turn will further reduce the turnaround time of translation projects.

New language combinations on the rise

The current situation within the global market is one of the reasons for the growing popularity of new language combinations. The trade war between the U.S. and China is hampering the activity of the manufacturers of mobile devices or gadgets that we all use on a daily basis. As a result, large technology corporations are moving their factories out of China, choosing (for example) India, meaning that Hindi is increasingly prevalent in corporate communications.

The trend towards internationalisation has been noticeable for several years now and therefore cannot be underestimated in the translation industry either. That said, it's worth opting for experts or translators who deal with unusual languages or new combinations. For example, according to Ethologue, 2019 saw a significant increase in the popularity of Spanish, which is maintaining its position among the leading languages this year as well. The winner in the translation market will therefore be the player best able to meet the needs of clients in terms of the language combinations they require.

Marketing, video content and voice assistants vs. translation

Requests very often arise where a translation of a document is needed only for internal company use and serves purely to make the foreign-language content understandable. On the other hand, marketing translation projects exist where it is important to not only translate the information correctly, but also nest it in the cultural context of the target language.

Although the need for marketing content translation is nothing new in the industry, we wish to highlight this type of translation because demand for it continued to increase in 2020 and it may appear in unexpected contexts.

The decade began with hectic events related to war, fires in Australia and a new threat: COVID-19. This meant that almost all companies were obliged to publish important media messages about these events, in addition to standard marketing activities. These messages often need to be translated very quickly into multiple languages, and must not only retain their intended meaning but also be adapted to the cultural group of the target language.

Nowadays, messages transmitted through multimedia platforms are becoming increasingly popular. Translation of various types of videos with time-coded subtitles and dubbing may therefore become a key service in the translation industry.

Experts also foresee an increase of up to 50% in the number of people and companies using voice assistants, such as Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri or Google Assistant. One of the problems with such tools, in addition to their limitations in recognising and following commands, is the inability to speak in other languages. While Alexa and Siri are able to answer questions perfectly in English, their capabilities are limited in other languages — or even non-existent if those languages aren't available. Therefore, the support that these tools provide can become a key service of translation agencies worldwide.

As we can see, the coming years will be marked by a mix of new and old trends in the translation industry. There will clearly be many more as time goes by, so at present it's hard to foresee which direction will have the greatest impact on translation projects. Any translation service provider must guarantee its customers a high degree of flexibility by updating its offerings according to their needs and global trends.

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