Note: This blog entry was originally written in Japanese in 2017 for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate the entry into English and to post-edit the output for readers outside of Japan. The original Japanese entry can be found here.
According to an industry research firm, the global translation and localization market is said to be strong. In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has announced a tourism vision in the past to aim 40 million foreign visitors to Japan and consumption amount of eight trillion yen toward the originally planned 2020 Olympics. But how is the non-tourism/inbound related translation and localization market changing now?
In addition, as the accuracy of machine translation (MT) utilizing AI has improved, there are voices that say that AI will take away people's jobs, raising questions about the survival of the translation industry. Do these opinions correctly reflect the needs of the current market?
Let's talk about the current situation of the translation industry and the outlook for supply and demand in the future.
Let's learn about the translation industry!
What do you imagine when you hear the word "translation"?
Many people may think of subtitle translations for movies and documentaries, or publication translations that deal with foreign books and novels. However, the largest market is industrial translation used in business, which translates contracts, manuals, patent specifications, etc. in various languages. Companies can request the translation work to translation companies or freelance translators, or they might use MT, as mentioned earlier that the accuracy is rapidly improving, or crowdsourcing platforms.
Comparing freelancers and in-house translators, translation companies and crowdsourcing platforms
The most familiar might be working with freelance translators, including your acquaintances. In particular, requests to your acquaintances are something that seems easier to take action and ask. It has the advantage that it is easier to negotiate prices since you know them already, but it might be difficult to negotiate with whom you will be working with the first time. And above all, you probably do not meet new freelance translators often. Also, due to the limited capacity, it is difficult to request large volumes of work or multilingual translation projects.
There is also a way to train translators in-house without outsourcing the work. Compared to freelancers, in-house translators have the greatest advantage of being able to communicate easily such as sharing product information and internal information. Since the intention is accurately conveyed, a stable quality can be expected. On the other hand, in a company that does not always have documents to be translated, having a staff specializing in translation leads to an increase in cost.
Crowdsourcing platforms, which has gained popularity in the recent years, can cover the points of variety in workforce and capacity. In some cases, you may be able to request the work at a lower cost. However, in the end, it depends on the individual's ability, so the disadvantage is that it depends on your luck whether you can meet a good translator. Also, the quality may be inconsistent as well as there is no guarantee for the quality of translation.
Quality control and process control are carried out by professional staff, so it is suitable when you want to ensure industry standard quality or when translating a large-scale project. The price will be higher than working with a freelance translator, but you can rely on translation companies for a full service, such as supporting the additional translation work when you have updates or applying the changes after your review. In addition, since translation companies usually work with software such as TRADOS and memoQ, they can flexibly support various documentation including documents with complex structure.
What is in demand? How about MT?
Next, let's look at the demand situation in the translation industry.
English is still the most in demand. With the globalization of companies in Asian countries, the demand for languages such as Chinese and Korean is also increasing. One of the reasons is that Asia, where economic growth is remarkable, has become an attractive place as a market.
On the other hand, the rise of neural machine translation (NMT) has improved the accuracy of MT in recent years. Some may be worried that translators will no longer be needed as MT quality gets better. However, the general opinion is that the demand for professional translators will not disappear.
An IT company that sells software to more than 50 countries around the world says that currently, only two percent of the content that needs to be translated is actually translated. The remaining 98 percent that has not yet been translated is a huge market.
Language is an indispensable communication tool in any era and region, and translation enables us to create the documents necessary for corporate activities. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the translation industry to grow, contrary to the ranking predictions of jobs that will disappear within the next decade due to the development of artificial intelligence. As MT continues to evolve day by day, there may be less need for simple translations that are less specialized and can be handled by MT. However, in highly specialized fields and contents such as highly artistic novels that require reading between lines for appropriate expressions, it is considered extremely unlikely that human translation will disappear.
How to properly translate those 98% of untranslated material
Freelancers, in-house translators, crowdsourcing platforms, and translation companies. Human translation and MT. Even if you say "translation" in one word, there are various means and methods. And the quality level and turnaround time of the translation work also differ by the means and methods.
The important thing is to select the correct translation method and contractor, i.e. who to work with, according to your budget and purpose of the translation. Our strength is the ability to flexibly respond to the various needs of our clients and make proposals based on the situation. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your current project or translation services in general.