State of the Language Services Industry in 2019

Now that we have stepped into 2020, it is worth looking back at where the needle moved for language services in 2019. If anything, knowing what trends dominated last year will help to forecast trends for 2020 and even beyond.

Language services include translating electronic, multi-media, and written material from foreign languages to English or vice versa. It also includes interpretation of often oral communication from English to other languages or vice versa. Suffice to say that the industry as a whole has grown both in the number of people seeking out these services and those offering them. But there is more to it that industry growth because some particular aspects of language services have grown while others have vastly remained the same.

Improvement in Machine Translation

While it has been a topic of hot debate, machine translation has improved in 2019. It still isn’t as accurate as a human translator; machine translation has become significantly better at specific tasks like translating road signs.
The Big Five continued to invest heavily in machine translation with Google hard at work making improvements to Google Translate’s accuracy. While machine translation has come a long way in 2019, it works more as a stepping stone for automating manual translation and less about being able to translate multimedia, document, and websites accurately on the fly.

Increased Digitalization

2019 saw a surge in requests to translate and localize websites, courses, videos, and other types of digital content. It appears that businesses, both large and small, are now moving towards having a global presence with localized versions of their existence.
Videos were increasingly being subtitled, dubbed, and captioned. Around 80% of people who watch YouTube videos reside outside of the US which has placed massive demand on captioning and subtitling videos in a myriad of languages.

An increasing number of mobile apps are were also being translated into numerous languages in 2019. The goal for app developers now is to gear their offering to people beyond English speaking borders.

The challenge now is budgeting for these types of translations. Take games, for instance, which require capturing the local culture as well as the language. Sure, word for word translations is cheaper but the best way to communicate intent, emotion and other dramatic ideas requires intense localization.

Cheaper Services and Lower Quality

2019 is also when an increasing number of individuals were offering translation services. In 2019 there were more freelance translators than ever before. However, that has led to the quality of the translated documents declining. Many translators may be native in one language, but their second language is not half as good as their native language which means that the translated documents are erroneous.

Professional translators work as a team, which means that other team members overcome weaknesses to assure an accurately translated piece of content. Also, having independent editors improves the quality of the eventual translation. That said, budget-driven businesses will continue to go the route of cheaper and often lower quality translation services through 2020.