Common Sense Advisory’s predictions for 2011

Since 2005, Common Sense Advisory has issued predictions for the language services industry. In 2011, according to this year’s predictions, language will appear more prominently on the radar of global and domestic organizations than ever before:

Marketers of everyday products feature built-in language support. Any product with a screen, audio input or written instructions can reach an exponentially larger global market share with a bit of help from translation. As marketers begin to view localization through the lens of revenue enablement, several major firms in 2011 will position language support not only as a product feature, but as a core differentiator. This phenomenon will also fuel the demand for multilingual content creation tools.

Translation energizes customer experiences. As the ubiquity of stateless social and commercial interaction increases, more websites and mobile services will incorporate on-demand language tools. In a world of instant gratification, internet and mobile users are too impatient to leave a site to translate a message thread or other content they want to access. Shrewd web and mobile developers will provide enablement for many-to-many-language social interactions, not just a localized user interface — or risk losing visitors to a competitor.

Fiscal scars trigger spending sobriety. As economies around the world recover, businesses that depend on localization and translation services will realize that the reactive tactics they embraced in 2010 need to be closely reviewed. Instead of just squeezing suppliers for better pricing, they’ll start to look at the big picture, turning to more sophisticated solutions, such as automation and process optimization. Look for more language service providers (LSPs) to offer their clients localization audits and process reviews in response to this need.

Project managers at global organizations face an identity crisis. Bogged down by more translation work than ever and a shoestring staff, project managers will take a fresh look at their job descriptions. They’ll ask, “Should I really spend time on this, or should I give it to an LSP?” Internal localization and translation departments will question whether they should go the route of outsourcing wholeheartedly, and whether a large internal staff is truly critical for efficiency in managing their language activities.

Nervous tolerance of machine translation (MT) turns into enthusiastic acceptance. Organizations that previously saw MT as only good enough for certain applications will have a major shift in thinking. Instead of viewing MT as a solution that’s just sufficient for their needs, they will not only embrace it, but make it a standard and uncontroversial part of their multilingual content production pipeline. Meanwhile, with more data to feed them, the tools themselves improve in quality. Website and mobile users will take ready advantage of free or low-cost MT applications on demand.

Crowdsourced and user-generated content displaces internal documentation and technical support. More companies will turn to their online communities to provide documentation and support — driven by the much faster speed at which a crowd can complete common tasks. Expect more LSPs and technology vendors to offer products and services that specifically address crowdsourced translation and user-translated content.

Global and multilingual social media become areas of domain expertise. As social media’s profile continues to rise on the global marketing scene, providers from both within the language services industry and outside of it will launch products and services that cater to the largely unaddressed need for tools, technologies and services that will help organizations expand their social media presence across barriers of language, culture and nation.

Marketers grab the language opportunity by the “long tail.” Many have observed that the internet has traditionally been targeted at a small group of commonly spoken languages, leaving behind a large number of less frequently used tongues that make up a “long tail of languages.” As the computing industry grows friendlier to non-Latin scripts and as international domain names become more popular, these smaller linguistic communities will offer economic potential.

Video and audio skills create localization stars. As the costs of providing speech-based and visual information on the internet continue to drop, more companies will need LSPs to help them adapt existing audio and video content or create unique content. LSPs that offer transcreation and cultural adaptation services will see spikes in demand for these services.

Hybrid “buyer/supplier” organizations make waves in the industry. Some of the largest consumers of translation in the world — such as Google, HP, Manpower and Xerox — happen to also be some of the largest providers of the accompanying services and technology. LSPs that previously said, “They’re not true competitors” will take a hard look at what these much larger companies are doing, so that they can reassess their own roles. Where these companies lead, the industry will follow.