5 Translation Industry Predictions for 2016

To quote Bob Dylan, times are changing…and the translation industry is changing, too. Every year, the world grows smaller, better connected and more technologically advanced. What will 2016 bring for the translation industry? We’ve dusted off our crystal balls to give you a sneak peak into the future!

Companies Who Take Translation Seriously Will Reap the Rewards

Ready to expand into new markets? If the borders of your home country are starting to feel a little small, there’s never been a better time to conquer the world.  Especially for e-commerce and other web-based businesses, translation represents a tremendous opportunity to get in ahead of the competition.

For example,translation company Smartling recently polled 150 US marketers and found that 48 percent were not marketing outside of the US at all. Even fewer companies were taking advantage of the unique opportunities created by localisation, as 86 percent admitted to simply translating English language content without customising it to the target market.

Meanwhile, according to research from Common Sense Advisory:

When looking across sectors, we found that company size, website popularity, and brand value all show positive correlation to the number of languages found…Yet one out of three websites (37%) visited turned out to be monolingual.

So, companies that are willing to take their foreign language customers seriously and make an effort to craft marketing content for them in their own languages have a tremendous opportunity to get ahead of the competition. Will you let it pass you by?

Demand for Multilingual Web Content Will Skyrocket

Right now, 53.7% of written content on the web is in English.   The next most popular language is Russian, at a mighty 6.3%. That means hundreds of millions of web users are underserved. They can’t read most of the online content we English speakers take for granted.  As the Atlantic put it:

“Even national languages like Hindi and Swahili are used on only .01 percent of the 10 million most popular websites. The majority of the world’s languages lack an online presence that is actually useful.”

And yes, lots of people do speak English as a second language, with varying degrees of fluency. But even then, most people prefer to do business in their native tongue.

Every day, more and more people come online in non-English-speaking countries. This year, China, India and Indonesia are expected to add the most new Internet users.  The need for translated content is certainly not slowing down any time soon.  And this increased demand will not just be for major languages like Russian and French. “Long tail” languages will become increasingly important, too.

Multilingual SEO Will Become Essential

Translating web content is all well and good, but it’s not enough. People have to be able to find it, and that’s where multilingual SEO comes in. It’s not enough to be on the first page of Google in English if your business is targeting other languages. Did you know that even in the same city, searching in different languages can yield completely different results? For example, according to the Guardian,

“In a case study of the West Bank, searching for “restaurant” locally in Hebrew, Arabic and English brought back different results for each language.”

In the same study, searches in Arabic “usually result in only 5% to 15% of the number of results that the same search term brings in Hebrew.” We all know how hard it is to get on the first page in English, but for other languages there may be less competition.

And don’t think that you can simply plug your keywords into Google Translate, either. What you get back may not correspond to what people in your target language are actually searching for.  This article from Search Engine Watch explains in more detail why trying to use Google Translate to generate keywords is a bad idea.

Want to learn more? Check out this slideshow on Multilingual SEO from our CEO Richard Brooks!

Mobile Optimisation Will Be Crucial

Even in English, it’s important to optimise your website for mobile users. But consider this:  many of the new Internet users coming online in emerging markets have only option to view your website, and that’s on a cell phone.

For example, according to the International Data Corporation, 3.2 billion people will have Internet access this year. More than 2 billion of these Internet users will use a mobile device instead of a computer.

Common Sense Advisory notes that

The majority of these potential customers operate in languages, cultures, locations, and business environments that have nothing to do with English or the countries where it is spoken. However, their personal context is more important than ever because they have more money to spend and more local companies with which to spend it.

Whether you choose to reach out to these customers via a website, an app, or both, you must take the display requirements of cell phones and tablets into account.

The Machines Will Rise, But They Will Not Win

In 2016, machine translation and crowdsourced translation will become increasingly common, but human translators will still come out on top.

Are the robots coming for our jobs? Some reports would have you believe that translators are walking around with targets on our backs, just waiting for SkyNet to come finish us off. For example. according to ZDNet:

[R]aw word-to-word translation will be fully automated soon. So, if you’re not translating high-dollar business negotiations or matters of national security, then you may find that algorithms will be good enough to handle most other translation duties.

Sorry, but no. Again, demand for translation services is only going to go up for the foreseeable future. We do expect machine translation and crowdsourced translation to become more common, and take over some of the translation “drudge work” where there’s not a lot riding on the outcome.  But really, how much of your business communications can be “just good enough?”

Your marketing? That’s how you communicate with your customers. An effective localisation strategy can’t rely solely on machine translation. Automated “raw word-to-word translation” might result in something that’s understandable in your target language and doesn’t have any embarrassing errors.  But will it accurately represent your company’s voice? Will it take cultural nuances into account? No, you need humans for that.

“Understandable” is a low bar to set. Businesses that don’t settle for “good enough” will be able to capture new markets with localised and transcreated content that speaks to customers in their language.

What are your predictions for the translation industry this year? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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