2020 and 2021 have been unusual years for the translation industry, just as they have for so many other sectors as they try to deal with the impact of the pandemic. How will this carry through into 2022? What trends will we see define the translation industry in the year ahead? I’ve taken a quick look into the crystal ball to find out…
The global language services industry saw more than a decade of year-on-year growth come to an end in 2020, with the market worth between $47.5 billion and $48.4 billion (compared to $49.6 billion in 2019).
However, with the industry stabilising and the world learning how to live with the pandemic, a jump in growth was expected in 2021, with the overall value reaching somewhere between $51.6 billion and $52.9 billion. And further growth is expected in 2022, with estimates putting the value of the global language services industry at between $54.8 billion and $57.7 billion.
Sitting behind these headline figures about the translation market size is a busy sector that is undergoing significant change, not just due to the pandemic but increasingly as a result of the evolution of technology. In fact, let’s start there for our 2022 translation industry trends.
The advantages of machine translation are well established. It delivers translations faster and more cost-effective than human translators can, but with reduced quality. Right?
Actually, that’s far from the whole story, which is why 2022 will be the year to tackle misconceptions regarding machine translation.
Google Translate has a lot to answer for when it comes to misconceptions about machine translation. Years of hilarious translation fails have taken their toll, leaving many individuals convinced that machine translation is inaccurate and unreliable.
But that hides the true picture. Machine translation is, in fact, the future of the translation industry. Between advances in machine learning and neural networks, and tech firms racing to disrupt the language space, there’s almost no comparison between machine translation in 2022 and Google Translate’s first efforts at automated translation way back in 2006.
This means that 2022 will be all about tackling this gap in perceptions. It is up to those of us in the translation services industry to educate clients about the future of translation and the role of machines within that future.
Machine translation post-editing (MTPE) services come into play here too. There used to be an attitude of, “Don’t worry, we have a human proofreader who can fix that.” The idea was to take an inaccurate machine translation and have a human bring it up to standard.
Again, this is based on past perceptions of accuracy, not the current reality. Now, the experience is more of a collaborative one, with machine and human working together as part of the same process. Human and machine contribute equally to the provision of fast, cost-effective and extremely accurate translations. This is the future of translation when it comes to MTPE.
I’ve got plenty more to say when it comes to machine translation in 2022 – so much that I could dedicate a whole article to just that. So I did…
The past couple of years have been a crash course for many businesses in how to work remotely. It’s an area where the translator market was already well ahead of the curve, with many translators and other linguists having worked remotely for years.
However, that’s not to say that the pandemic hasn’t led to some interesting improvements in how we work together remotely. Video calling has come on leaps and bounds, as have a range of collaboration tools and platforms, from kanban boards like Trello to various localization platforms. You can check out the link below for some of the best of these for industry translations.
We’re likely to see this trend accelerate further in 2022, with tech firms that dived into developing tools for remote working maturing their product ranges and expanding the use cases for those products.
Those of us in the translation industry will need to keep on top of these changes, looking at them not just from a language perspective but from a project management and customer service viewpoint. From more efficient project planning to swifter collaborations, there’s likely to be a lot that these kinds of tools can enhance in 2022 and beyond.
Read more: 10 Best Translation Tools for Translators
On the subject of advances in technology, speech translation is likely to generate plenty of interest in 2022. Microsoft Azure already promises the ability to generate both speech-to-speech translation and speech-to-text translation with a single API call, selling it as a service to app providers.
Speech recognition software has come a long way in recent years. This has done much more than merely lead to a major proliferation in smart speakers (though it’s certainly facilitated that too). Reliable speech recognition capabilities mean it’s easier to dictate an article these days than it is to type it (this post being a case in point).
For the translation industry, this has facilitated the advancement of speech translation, with both translators and interpreters able to take advantage of this during the course of their professional life.
Speech translation will also serve developers well in 2022. Those looking to break into the market with new camera translation apps, for example, now have some superb capabilities to play around with and to take forward in new and interesting ways over the year ahead.
Another trend for 2022 will be a growth in demand for business translation. This isn’t just a natural progression based on the translation statistics I provided above, but a reflection of the shifts in the way that so many firms are now approaching the way they do business.
We’re all online more since the pandemic. A lot more, in many cases, and businesses are looking at what this means to them. In many cases, it means that companies have rethought their delivery area, as serving customers online can remove previous geographical limitations.
This shift in mindset has led a number of businesses to think global instead of local when it comes to their service delivery model. In 2022, the translation and localization industry will be there to help them with this approach. From the translation of advertisements and other marketing materials to the provision of online interpretation for video calls, the language services industry is ready to step up and support businesses dynamically to achieve their goals.
Media localization is the process of taking creative media content, such as films and radio shows, and preparing it for presentation to new audiences – usually audiences that speak other languages. You can read a more detailed explanation of media localization, along with its advantages and uses, by clicking the link below.
As with other forms of localization, the task is about much more than language. Accurate translation is a cornerstone of it, but it’s just as important to work on the cultural and technical elements of the localization process.
Our collective hunger for audiovisual content shows no signs of abating in 2022. As such, it’s unsurprising that companies are increasingly looking at how they can use TV show formats and radio-style presentations to connect with both their existing customers new prospects. With many firms now thinking global in terms of their business goals, the need to localize their creative content has never been greater. As such, this is likely to be a major trend for the translation services market in 2022.
Remember back at the start of 2020 when only those in a few specialist industries knew or cared what a coronavirus was, how spike proteins behaved or what the difference between vaccine efficacy and vaccine efficiency was? Simpler times…
As the pandemic shows no signs of abating at the time of writing, it’s fair to assume that medical translation will continue to drive plenty of demand for translation services in 2022.
Medical expertise has always been highly prized within the translation market, with medical translators able to command excellent rates for their unique blend of knowledge and linguistic ability. The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus from late 2019 created an unprecedented need to spread information rapidly around the planet regarding the outbreak. That included the sharing of detailed medical information back and forth between healthcare providers and governments, often with multiple updates within a single day.
Timely, accurate medical translation was absolutely essential to facilitating this. Two years later, the channels for delivering those translations are now well established, but that’s not to say that demand is likely to drop off anytime soon. Indeed, with the new Omicron variant spreading like wildfire at the start of 2022, it’s likely that we’re going to see a great deal of demand for medical translation services throughout the year.
In terms of languages, the trend translation companies are likely to experience over the years ahead is likely to focus on those languages which are growing fastest. I’ve explored these in detail in the link provided below, but I’ll include a quick summary here.
Over the next few years, the fastest growing languages in terms of speaker numbers are tipped to be English, Portuguese and Arabic. In terms of the speed at which speaker numbers are increasing, Urdu, Indonesian, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Spanish and French all warrant a mention. It’s likely that those translating between these languages can look forward to a very busy 2022 – and beyond.
Regional specialisms will be important here. The growth of French, for example, is projected to centre on its use in sub-Saharan Africa, rather than France. Currently, the region is home to around 44% of the world’s French speakers. That figure is projected to rise to 85% by 2050.
The same is true of Spanish – rapid growth is projected over the coming years, but not centred in Spain. Instead, it is the use of Spanish in the US that is booming, with Spanish growing faster than any other language in the country.
Read more: The Fastest Growing Languages in the World
As I mentioned above, everyone is doing so much more online these days. Doing so was of necessity when the pandemic first struck. However, many people have stuck with undertaking activities online due to the convenience and easy accessibility of doing so.
E-learning is a case in point, with people using their online time to learn a new skill, whether to advance their career, combat loneliness and isolation or purely for the fun of it. Training providers have done much to court this eager new audience, including delivering their course materials in multiple languages.
The translation service market will, of course, be there to support those companies looking to expand their training materials in order to reach new markets, ready to enrol a whole new cohort of learners in 2022.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round-up of translation industry trends in 2022. Which will impact the way that you approach your work or run your business over the year ahead? And are there any trends that you feel will be important in the translation industry in 2022 that I’ve not covered above? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on what’s in store in 2022.