The evolving language services industry
It’s nearly the end of the year, so let’s take a flying look at how the language services industry has evolved in the last 12 months. Here are some of the key trends for 2010.
The centralisation of the buying processhas been a strong theme, with larger businesses, particularly those in the technology or life sciences industries, opting to streamline their buying processes by favouring a centralised approach to translation and localisation.
It is encouraging to read that buyers are focusing more on the quality of language services. According to a survey carried out by the Common Sense Advisory 44.6% of buyers now make it a priority to formally measure quality, and the overwhelming majority (94.6%) claim to measure it at least on an informal basis.
Sales of commercial translation technologies for automation continued to grow throughout 2010, and there was also an increasing trend towards the creation of home grown software, as language service providers realised the need for an increasingly customised approach and adapted and consolidated their own systems for ease of use.
In a competitive and expanding market many companies have chosen to narrow their focus and offer a niche service, such as transcreation. They discovered that it’s no longer always enough to rely on quality or price to differentiate themselves from rivals, instead it’s becoming more important to have a unique sales edge and market themselves as experts in one particular sector.
Since the launch of Facebook’s translation platform (Facebook Connect) in 2008, crowd-sourced translations have become ever more popular. For example, Google’s pilot “Health Speaks” initiative launched in September uses crowd-sourced and collaborative translation to make health information more accessible to people across the world.
Crowd sourced translations really come into their own in the social networking context (Hootsuite, Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, Flickr) where users are passionate about the site and have a personal interest in contributing and improving the service. Despite the hype, crowd sourcing has not proved to be a corporate trend- probably mainly because business organisations have a specific style or brand they need to protect, but also perhaps due to the fact that visitors are less involved with their sites and lack the motivation to translate them.
The Common Sense Advisory’s review of 1, 000 websites “Gaining Global Web Presence” showed that despite the slowing of economic growth generally, the investment in translation and localisation services continued to grow – and in fact the average number of languages available on websites actually increased. Around a fifth of the world’s highest ranking websites are now available in at least 8 languages, and the globalisation trend shows no sign of slowing down as support for emerging languages becomes ever more necessary.
Demand for interpreting services in Europe has increased over the last year and continues to do so. The figures are impressive, with Northern Europe reporting average growth rates of 153.51% (http://www.globalwatchtower.com/2010/12/15/predictions-postmortem/), for example. Previous Common Sense Advisory reports had shown that compared to the US, spoken language services in 2009 took up only a small amount of the European market- and this may have begun to change throughout 2010 in response to the European Union’s Treaty of Lisbon and other initiatives which championed the rights of individuals to have access to interpreting services during court proceedings.
It’s certainly been another eventful year for the language services industry. I wonder what 2011 will hold!