Top Translation Industry Trends for 2020

January 8, 2020
Top Translation Industry Trends for 2020

Towards the end of every year, the Tomedes team sits down to think about the future. We use our translation industry expertise and the business trends that we’ve seen over the course of the past year to map out what’s likely to trend in the year ahead. 

For 2019’s translation trends (click the link below to read the full article on this) we flagged up internal digitization, external outreach and technological advancement. While we fully expect those trends to continue into 2020 and beyond, we thought it was time to flag up a few additional top translation industry trends that we believe will be important in 2020. Read on to discover more! 

Read more: Translation Industry Trends for 2019

Trend One: Post-editing Machine Translation

We expect post-editing of machine translations (PEMT) to be a top trend in the translation world in 2020. Not only is machine translation an attractive option for many businesses (due to its speed and cost), but there is growing evidence to suggest that turning to translation by a machine, then improving the result with a PEMT service is faster (and therefore more cost effective) than translating from scratch. In 2020, we’ll see the translation industry respond to this in force. 

Let’s look at some numbers. A study by the University of Groningen (Netherlands) and Dublin City University (Ireland) looked at three methods of translation of a chapter of the popular novel, Warbreaker:

• Translation from scratch

• Post-editing of phrase-based statistical machine translation

• Post-editing of neural machine translation

The study found that post-editing of phrase-based statistical machine translation resulted in 18% greater translation productivity, while post-editing of neural machine translation resulted in 36% higher productivity than translating from scratch. 

Furthermore, both of the methods including machine translation saw the translators take fewer breaks during their work (29% for post-editing of phrase-based statistical machine translation and 42% for post-editing of neural machine translation). The breaks they did take, however, lasted longer than they did when translating from scratch, at 14% for phrase-based and 25% neural machine translation. 

The figures will add further weight to the trend for businesses to try combining machine translation with post-editing services in 2020. Even though translations produced by machines aren’t perfect, technology has advanced sufficiently to mean that it’s often faster to use a machine AND a human than to rely on human translation alone. 


Translation Services Industry Growth

While we’re on the subject of machine translation, it’s worth taking a quick detour to look at the growth of the translation industry. An increase in calls for non-English languages, coupled with a global environment in which any company can achieve international reach, means that demand for language conversion services is growing rapidly. 

At the same time, however, the shape of the translator market is shifting, with machines picking up a greater share of the business than ever before. Will translation look the same in five years’ time? Highly unlikely! We anticipate that the idea of a machine as a primary language convertor, backed up by human expertise as a secondary resource, will continue to gain in popularity. 

This means that, while the demand for translation services continues to grow, the role of the human working as a foreign language translator will change significantly. Human translators will need to work in harmony with machines in this brave new translation world! 

Does AI Mean an End for Translation Jobs?

As we’re digressing anyway, before we move on to the second of our top translation opportunities for 2020, let’s address the idea that advances in AI will mean an end to translation jobs. With human translators shifting their stance to address PEMT needs, there’s no need to think that AI will replace human translation any time soon. Perhaps it may one day, but we’re nowhere near that point yet. 

Paste a long block of Spanish text into Google Translate and ask it to deliver the copy in English and you’ll see why. Even with the vast resources that Google has at its disposal (its Q3 2019 revenue came to US$40.3 billion), the company has been unable to master machine translation in the way that a human translator can. 

And that’s using two of the languages that the Google Translate team has been working on for years. What about more obscure languages? How many languages are there in the world? There are around 6,500 spoken languages in existence at the present time, though some 2,000 of them have fewer than 1,000 speakers, meaning that the number of languages is due to decline rapidly. 

Indeed, the majority of language service providers focus on delivering about 40 of the most commonly used languages. Translation technologies have the same focus, meaning that a real translator who speaks a lesser used language has almost no reason to fear the impact of machine language translator developments on the translation industry. 

Trend Two: Mandarin Translation 

Language translation to and from Mandarin is nothing new, but it is becoming increasingly important. Back in 1979, China opened up to foreign trade and investment and it hasn’t looked back since. Real annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged 9.5% through to 2018, making China one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Indeed, the World Bank hailed it as “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.” 

China is now the world’s largest economy when considered in terms of purchasing power parity. According to the Congressional Research Service, it is also the world’s largest manufacturer, merchandise trader and holder of foreign exchange reserves, as well as the US’s biggest merchandise trading partner and largest source of imports. 

All of this has led to a rapidly growing need for the services of those who translate Chinese to English in recent years – a need that we anticipate will continue to increase in importance in 2020. 

Quite simply, businesses can’t afford to ignore China if they are serious about global trade these days. For those used to trading in the western world, that means paying attention to a whole new set of business rules, behaviours and customs. 

Business translation, along with business interpretation, is an essential part of this. The right Mandarin translator or interpreter can help a company not just to present itself in the ideal language but can help it to navigate the often-complex world of international business etiquette. When dealing with a culture in which respect and saving face is extremely important, careful guidance on what to say (and most importantly, what not to say), can make all the difference. 

What Languages Are in High Demand for Translators?

Mandarin isn’t the only language that will be keeping the translation industry busy this year. Translation need can vary based on a number of factors, but economic developments and political factors are often key contributors. 

Spanish translation was highly sought after in 2019 and will continue to keep translators busy in 2020. We also anticipate that German translation professionals will find 2020 is a busy year for them. Both of these will be driven by demand for business translation, as firms with international trade translate everything from product labels to marketing brochures in order to increase their global footprint.  

Trend Three: Transcreation 

Tomedes has been providing marketing translation services for over ten years. In that time, we’ve seen marketing trends flex and change, as consumers shift the way that they shop, the way they engage with brands and the importance they place on ethical and ecological considerations. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, no doubt you’ve experienced some of this yourself. 

In 2020, we anticipate seeing an increase in demand for transcreation services, as part of the overall marketing translation niche. Transcreation is the process of taking the original intention of a company’s marketing materials and conveying it to a new audience. 

Doing so involves far more than just translation. Imagery and iconography can change, as can entire blocks of copy. Indeed, nothing is sacred when it comes to transcreation, other than the original intent of the marketing materials. Even logos, product names and straplines can be altered if it’s necessary to engage the target audience in the appropriate way. 

This is a key trend for businesses looking to take advantage of the opportunities that come with globalization. Technological and logistical advances mean that companies can reach out to customers around the world. Those that pay most attention to the way that they do so will be best placed to benefit. 

Translating Threats to Opportunities in the Business World

Transcreation really comes into play when there are significant cultural differences between the two parties who wish to communicate. The protracted trade war between the USA and China is a modern-day example of the impact that cultural differences (as well as economic self-interest and political egos) can have. At the time of writing, the US has imposed tariffs on more than $360bn worth of Chinese goods. China, in response, has imposed tariffs of more than $110bn of products from the US. 

While business partnerships might seem difficult between Chinese and US companies, given the bigger picture, there are plenty of major US companies relying on Chinese manufacturing in order to produce their goods. Establishing such global partnerships would be far harder without the aid of transcreation. It is a service that can work past the threats of the bigger picture in order to overcome cultural barriers. As such, it paves the way for opportunity. 

Trend Four: Video Translation 

Our final 2020 translation trend is video translation. Those who have been following our predictions over the years will note that this isn’t the first time we’ve focused on video translation. That’s because it has become increasingly important over the past several years, as we consume more and more of our content through this medium. 

So why are we flagging it up again as a trend for 2020? One word: Google. Google is placing an increasing amount of importance on video. SE Ranking reports that including video on your webpages can improve your position in the SERPS and increase your click-through rate, driving more traffic to your site. For businesses looking to sell products or services, that means an increased need for video. And for those looking to sell internationally, it means more video translation. 

As such, we expect to see a notable uptick in video translation once more this year. It’s already one of our most sought-after translation services, and 2020 looks set to be an even bigger and better year for those producing (and translating) videos. 

Video localization will also come into its own in 2020. Indeed, Technavio reports that an increase in video content localization will deliver a positive impact on the market, contributing significantly to its growth. 

2020 Translation Industry Analysis 

Which of these translation trends will your business be contributing to in 2020? Are you planning to expand into new territories, using transcreation and video translation to ease your passage? Will you be using Mandarin translation to try and crack the Chinese market? Leave a comment below to let us know the top translation need within your business for 2020!  

Whatever your translation demands, it’s likely that the right combination of quality, customer service and price will be essential from your translation provider(s) over the year ahead. While machine translation can deliver on the latter, it is the human translator who can provide the quality of translation and level of customer service that are so important to business translation clients. 

The translation industry has grown every year for the past ten years. That’s despite a tough economic climate, political upheaval in numerous countries and all manner of happenings around the globe. As we enter a new decade, the industry looks set to continue that growth, albeit in a new form as it embraces the expansion of AI technology in the translation world. 

Our global marketplace means that translation has never been more important when it comes to connecting individuals and businesses from a hugely diverse range of linguistic backgrounds. For individual companies, high quality translation means the ability to reach more customers and expand their footprint. For the business world as a whole, translation delivers the ability for entire countries to trade successfully around the globe. This will be essential to daily life as we know it in 2020! 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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