The language industry encompasses a dynamic and rapidly changing medium — human language — and we are committed to providing a space for new voices with fresh perspectives, including students and recent graduates. In our first academic corner, we talk to four graduates starting out in the language industry about why they chose the industry, what their vision is for the future, and how the industry can make the internal improvements it needs to be truly reflective of an ethnically, economically, and linguistically diverse population.
When asked what attracted these students to the language industry, Jamie Chu says, “A common or shared interest in a language facilitates communication between people and across cultures — it leads to better understanding, inclusivity, and an unlimited network to grow relationships. Ultimately, however, I just love that the language industry makes a variety of information, products, and services more accessible to those who need or search for them, and has the power to enrich someone’s life!” It was in Japan, where Jessy Nguyen taught English, that he began to narrow down his passions and interests. “After returning to the US, I found the language industry to be an ideal combination of all of my passions: language, technology, business, and accessibility. It was a big change from my previous field of study, biology, but the ability to meet diverse scholars with varying backgrounds in the industry, learn new technologies, while working towards a more connected world was something that enticed me.”
Similarly, Calvin Westfall also points at experiencing other cultures as the leading inspiration to chase a career in language and language services. “My first few freelance jobs were related to community and public health issues, which strengthened my resolve to serve and help others around me. I also love sports and film, and being able to participate and engage in media from other countries has opened up worlds.” Autumn Smith said it started earlier, when she was a child. “I have always had a love of language and cultures. I was fascinated by the sounds of other languages. I never knew I could actually make a career out of it other than teaching, until a few years ago when a friend told me they were working as a project coordinator and another friend told me about MIIS. I had experience with language, people management, event management, and conflict resolution so it was really a natural progression for me.”
Talking about the future of localization, Jessy thinks that as technology improves and the world becomes more global, more organizations and companies will be offering more services in more languages. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been major advancements made in e-commerce and transition to online services, even from organizations traditionally operated in-person. The stage is set for more companies, both large and small, to reach more people and ideally in their preferred languages.” Also referencing the pandemic as a catalyst for change, Jamie emphasizes to never underestimate the consumer and how their needs will drive advancements in the industry. “Consumers will continue to have new, more complex demands, and so companies must better cater to a more global-minded audience while thinking of the most cost-effective ways to accomplish this. In the future, I believe we will continue to see great improvements in and the application of AI to make the ever-growing demands in our industry more manageable.” Autumn thinks that localization is changing at a rapid pace. “…our practices, technologies, priorities, and overall landscape have evolved at an incredible pace in the last few years. The future of localization inherently lies in our ability to adapt to these technologies, utilize them to their fullest capacities, and continue to reach towards the lofty dream of no-touch localization. Whether that be through the use of AI, continued improvement to CAT/TMS tool interfaces, or through other tools yet to be created. The only way forward is to continue to improve the gaps that currently exist.” Applying localization as a fundamental tool in order to solve global issues, Calvin envisions a future where “…people everywhere will know and care about localization and how it can improve their lives and communities.”
Finally, representing the future of the language industry, these students offered wide-ranging suggestions as to what changes they would like to see.
“In the language industry, our work inherently makes products, words, concepts, and so on understandable and accessible by those who speak other languages but oftentimes, we are required to focus on the business potential, the ROI, the profit, etc. … I think focusing on the value our work plays in creating accessible products and content will allow us to remain close to the language and culture which forms the foundation of our industry,” according to Jessy. Calvin would make wage information readily available and accessible, especially for freelancers and contract work. “Translation and localization is a finely honed skill that should be valued and rewarded accordingly.”
“Perhaps the most common complaint I hear of the language industry is the need for greater work-life balance,” says Jamie. “Like so many of my friends and colleagues that have had to juggle work, school, family, etc. through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we internalize the significance of physical and mental health and make them a priority. As much as we try, oftentimes it is very difficult to accomplish this alone, and I am enthusiastic to see companies taking concrete actions to ensure employees’ well-being. I would urge more institutions to put people first and sincerely provide a supportive work environment.”
Lack of diversity is Autumn’s peeve. “We operate in a silo: while we are global, most of the faces on teams still look the same. While we are always talking about evangelization, we only talk to each other and don’t talk in broader spaces or engage in meaningful conversation outside of the circle of localization professionals. We all work with the same people. We need to diversify if we are ever going to get past the hurdles we have self-inflicted upon ourselves.”