What does the future hold for the translation industry? Well, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for translators and interpreters is very positive, with anticipated growth of 20% between 2021 and 2031. That’s an employment change of some 14,000 jobs. But what does this huge growth look like in practice? What will be the top translation industry trends for 2023? Let’s find out.
Technology has played a role in translation for decades, with computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools supporting translators to work faster and more efficiently. CAT tools also support consistency and quality across translation projects, including those undertaken by individual translators and by larger project teams.
In recent years, the other major development in terms of technology for translation projects is machine translation. This fast-growing market will continue to evolve and will be one of the major translation trends in 2023.
The global machine translation market was worth $1.1 billion in 2022, having grown from a market value of $450 million in 2017. The huge growth reflects companies’ increasing acceptance of machine translation, as well as the increasing quality of the output that machines generate. Evolving neural networks and AI-inspired translation models will continue to drive up quality standards in 2023 and beyond.
The growth of machine translation has inspired the growth of another service: post-editing machine translation (PEMT). This is where a professional translator takes the machine-translated copy and works with it to enhance its quality. It is an approach that combines the benefits of using computers to translate (namely, speed and affordability), with the nuance and skill that humans bring to the craft. As such, PEMT is set to continue growing in 2023. Will it take over the translation industry? Not in the year ahead, but it is certainly becoming an increasingly important component of it.
Machine translation works better for some translation tasks than others. As such, not all types of translation will be impacted equally by it. Those where the form and flow of the words is as important as conveying the meaning, such as literary and poetry translation, can be harder for machines to translate with the necessary subtlety. Also, translations where the subject matter is something medical, scientific, legal, or financial— that is, documents that require a degree of human expertise that (as yet) machine translation cannot match—will also continue to be dealt with largely by human translators during 2023. That said, machine translation continues to evolve rapidly, so it is likely that it will be capable of undertaking more complex and nuanced tasks over the coming years.
Global trade is a complex area of work. Between language barriers and differing legislative systems, as well as the logistics of moving parts and finished goods between countries, there is plenty to keep global companies occupied. One of the translation trends that relates to this in 2023 will be the increasing development of localization departments in major global companies.
The need for localization has changed over the years – and continues to do so. Localization used to be all about connecting with customers through locale-appropriate marketing approaches. Then the global growth of the Internet saw a boom in website localization. Most recently, companies are coming to appreciate the value of localizing their presence on social media channels in different countries, including paid advertising on these sites (as well as on search engines).
All of the above adds up to a need for companies to embrace localization trends and put teams in place in order to address them. That localization work will span both B2C communications and B2B work. Companies don’t achieve major global expansion by working in silos. Instead, they develop partnerships and networks that support them to grow into new territories by tapping into local expertise. B2B localization is essential for this, enabling companies to present themselves in a way that will deliver maximum benefits and efficiencies as they grow.
The last of our translation trends for 2023 is the growth of the translation industry itself. The global population is increasing and international trade is growing—by 3.5% in 2022 and by 1.0% in 2023, according to the World Trade Organization.
The pace of global population growth means there is a huge need for new, innovative solutions to tackle urgent issues such as climate change, food insecurity, and antibiotic resistance. All of this means greater demand for translation, as governments and companies work across international borders in order to create joint solutions to these global issues.