this is a guest post written by our partner company Interpreters and Translators, Inc. from Manchester, Connecticut USA
Paul Sulzberger on his blog, The Translation Business, recently asked whether bad translators are driving out good translators. Paul’s posting tackles the issue of how the need for translation is growing steeply but the fees translators earn are decreasing. The posting is an interview with a 30 year veteran of the industry, Luigi Muzii who voices some strong opinions that we thought bear repeating.
Damaging: Buying Translation Services Based On Price
Luigi says bad translators drive out the good ones because of structural problems within the translation industry. The most damaging problem is that the main parameter in selling/buying translation is price–and usually price alone.
“Rather than looking to understand and meet their customers’ real needs, language service providers find themselves trapped in a downward spiral of destructive price competition,” Luigi says.
“The effects are passed down the line affecting all players in the industry,” Luigi continues. “The damage is made worse when professional translation services are auctioned via portals like ProZ and TranslatorsCafe. Projects are offered to a large, undifferentiated mass of translators and those who offer the lowest bids generally win the tender and get the work.”
The Best Translators Are Marginalized
To survive and withstand price competition in the market, resellers who are unable to improve or streamline their processes find they have no choice but to put pressure on the rates they pay to translators. This approach marginalizes the best translators. The best translators become increasingly unwilling to work for poorer and poorer rewards and eventually they’re squeezed out of the market. Does this sound accurate to you?
More And More Translation But Less And Less Qualified Translators?
According to Luigi, this process is hurting both the customer and the middlemen who perpetuate this obsolete system. The unprecedented growth in demand for translation will lead to a chronic shortfall of qualified language specialists. The gap between the lower and the higher end of the translation labor market is widening and the process will inevitably continue. So, if Luigi’s scenario proves right, we’ll have more and more translation by less and less qualified translators.
Translator Productivity Must Increase
The content explosion caused by the digital age and the Internet has caused the demand for translation to increase steadily over the last three decades. There’s no doubt that increase will continue. Luigi says content is doubling every year and this growth is outstripping the rate at which translators are entering the profession. And it takes many years to master all the skills of professional translation. The only way to handle this growth in content is by increasing translators’ productivity, but the translation industry remains a relatively low-tech industry.
With machine translation and other advances, translation is rapidly shifting online. And the costs associated with the online economy are trending toward zero at a very fast pace. Luigi sees the prevailing model as free translation for basic online services and premium charges for advanced translation or special features.
How will you do in this translation future? Luigi thinks the interpretation and translation winners will be those who can leverage their specialist linguistic skills by increasing their productivity with advances in technology.
Do you agree or disagree with Luigi Muzii’s assessment? Tell us why.