Macro/Micro: The translation company is dead

Terena Bell
MultiLingual Jul/Aug 2015
Columns and Commentary

Cliché as my statement may be, though, I stand by it. The translation company as we know it is dead.

When I started In Every Language in 2005, though, she was alive and kicking. In fact, our whole industry was. At the American Translators’ Association’s 2009 Translation Company Division conference, I gave a presentation on why translation, in face of the recession, would continue thriving. I claimed that government regulations such as Title VI and that export market conditions pretty much guaranteed translation would always be needed. And I was right....

The world will always need translation. Forget government regulations, market climates — as long as there are two people on this earth who speak, a third person will be needed to translate between them. The translation company of the future, the one that is cancer-free, alive and kicking, will be a child of this while shaped from the surrounding climate that drove its predecessor to the grave.

The effects of supply chain degradation, industry overdiversification, market consolidation and technological innovation mean that the translation company of the future will either sell over $10 million a year or it will sell under $1 million, but there will be no companies in between. Those that are in between right now will either be acquired to make another company bigger, like In Every Language was, or they will atrophy into highly-specialized boutiques. Those that are big will remain generalists, while marketing target areas by way of creating unique selling propositions (think, “serving all with a focus on X, Y and Z”), and those that remain or are made small will be unable to generalize but instead be forced to microfocus...

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