Translation Trends for 2021: How the industry is shaping up 

Regional translation industry growth trends

As the digital realm continuously pushes for more globalized and shared experiences, the global translation industry is predicted to continue its growth in the new year, with early estimates having predicted that it would be worth $56.1 billion by the start of 2021. With the pandemic ongoing, people are mostly in their homes working (or playing) in front of computer screens, making this the time when multilingual content can help businesses get ahead of the game. Some of the major trends in the translation industry globally include post-editing machine translation, video translation, and transcreation. However, these growth trends may look different in different regions of the world.

Europe

In Europe, there is an expected increase in the use of machine translation post-editing (MTPE, sometimes referred to as PEMT) and artificial intelligence (AI) in the translation process. There is even a survey published on the official website of the European Commission showing that 78% of language service providers (LSPs) are going to start or increase the use of MTPE.

North America

The translation industry in North America focuses on technical and machine translation, with the former expected to achieve even higher growth by 2025, driven largely by businesses expanding into foreign markets. Moreover, translation services such as translation of blog posts, product information, and marketing copy are expected to be in more demand compared to interpretation services.


South America

Portuguese is the most widely spoken language in South America, with Spanish a close second. Both of these languages are classified as the business languages of the region, though a small number of other South American countries have Dutch, French, or English as their official languages. Similar to North America, there is expected to be more of a demand for translation, though we also see an increasing demand for legal interpreting services. Currently, South America ranks third for number of translation and interpretation associations, after Europe and North America.

Asia-Pacific

The language industry is rising quickly in the Asia-Pacific region, especially Japan and China. The trend in the region is for more and more language service providers to partner with companies in the tech sector, meaning that we can see more use cases for machine translation in the Asia-Pacific region. It is expected the global machine translation market will have a compound annual growth rate of 19% until 2024. Of course, human translation will not be obsolete in the near future, but we will be seeing more computer-assisted translation.

Africa

Just like in the Asia-Pacific region, we also see a trend toward machine learning in the African region, with a focus on the adaption of neural machine translation (NMT) for African languages. Compared to statistical machine translation (SMT), which was previously widely used in the translation industry, NMT allows AI to learn more complex things and learn them faster. Basically, it makes artificial intelligence more, well, intelligent.

 In-demand languages for translation

Source: Statista

We all know that English is the most used language on the internet, but according to a survey from Statista in 2018 (shown in the image above), Chinese has the largest number of first-language speakers. Businesses and organizations can use translation to bridge the gap between the languages people actually use in real life and the dominant language of the internet. Research shows that, besides English, the following are the most in-demand languages for translation:

  • Russian
  • German
  • Spanish
  • French
  • Japanese
  • Portuguese
  • Italian
  • Persian
  • Polish
  • Chinese

Automated translation vs. computer-assisted translation vs. human translation

Automated translation, computer-assisted translation, and human translation are the three methods of translation today. What makes these methods different from each other? Is one better than the other? Let’s start the discussion with the first translators in history — humans.

Human translation (HT) is the most ancient form of translation, and is also the most reliable even today.

This is because humans understand the three Cs of content translation: context, colloquialism, and creative writing, better than robots can. Human translation is the best method to use when translating creative material such as marketing copy or novels. HT is also the best method to use when translating content that involves specific expertise such as texts filled with medical, legal, or engineering terminologies.

Computer-assisted translation (CAT) is, mainly, translation done by a human translator with the help of professional translation software. The benefit of CAT over strictly human translation is speed. However, the disadvantage of using CAT is that software cannot comprehend context well. There have been improvements to CAT technology over the years, but it still gets confused when faced with vague phrases, and there is always the possibility that some colloquialisms and slang words cannot be translated or will be mistranslated. Choose this method if the priority is quick translation over 100% accuracy.

Automated translation (AT) is, as the name implies, fully machine-operated. It does not require human translators, except to input the source text in the computer. However, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. After all, if automated translation didn’t have any disadvantages, then everyone would automatically prefer it. But alas, as with everything else in the world, automated translation is not without its disadvantages — mainly inaccuracy. Google Translate is the most widely used form of automated translation for its convenience and price point (free). And, if you have used Google Translate before, you know that the results are not completely accurate. Remember that in the translation industry, accuracy is the most important aspect. Nevertheless, there are still circumstances when you can use AT, such as when dealing with short source texts. Use free automated translation software if the priority is on saving costs.

To illustrate the above point, here is an infographic created by Day Translations:

Although the infographic shows that human translation is still superior, the three types of translation each have their own pros and cons. In summary:

  • Choose automated translation if you prioritize speed over accuracy.
  • Choose computer-assisted translation if you want to translate more documents and do not need high quality translations. Basically when quantity > quality.
  • Choose human translation if you prioritize accuracy over everything else.

With all that being said, there are a few translation companies you might want to keep an eye on. Take Adobe, for example. If you are not keeping track of who’s who and what’s what in the translation industry, this one will surely surprise you. Yes, it’s the same Adobe that created Photoshop, InDesign, and After Effects, among a slew of other applications. Adobe offers machine translation services in their Adobe Experience Manager software. One Hour Translation, LanguageLine Solutions, and Lionbridge are also big players this year.

Louise Taylor
Louise Taylor manages content for the Tomedes Translators blog. She has worked in the language and translation industry for many years.

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