Machine translation has been around for over 20 years now, with new software, programs and web applications being developed at an impressive rate. One of the main reasons for this relates to the importance of the Internet in our daily lives and its subsequent effect: globalization.
However, despite the continued efforts and creative ideas of the developers of machine translation, human translation still remains the predominant force within the translation industry. Human translation is, without a doubt, globally considered to offer the best service in terms of quality for one basic reason: accuracy.
Human translation will never be redundant
Machine translation might be quicker, might offer short fixes to immediate problems, it might be useful for translations of basic content needs (like the kind of information likely to be found in a Facebook or Twitter post, or the kind of information found in online forums), but machine translation will never beat human translation when it comes to accurate translations which take context, culture, local community knowledge and the nuances of language (such as metaphors, puns and humor) into account.
This is why, unlike a number of industries worldwide, the translation industry continues to grow year on year and professionals continue to train to become qualified translation experts. Fear of redundancy in the translation industry is very, very low.
What’s happening in the translation industry? What’s its growth like? What are the real figures we should be looking at?
The translation industry is not affected by recessions like most other private industries. The demand for translations is simply too high and this demand is a global one. The most “in-demand” job in the translation industry is for military translators and, according to research conducted by the Common Sense Advisory, the top 100 companies operating in the market generate anything from US$427 million to US$4 million on an annual basis.
Another report, undertaken by IbisWorld, reveals that translation services will most probably reach US$37 billion by 2018, with the United States being the largest market in the world, closely followed by Europe and then Asia. Both government sectors and private companies contribute to the demand for high quality translation across the globe. In fact, the United States Bureau of Statistics predicts the industry to grow by an incredible 42% by the time we get to 2020.
The Internet, globalization and rising industries
The incredible demand for translation expertise on a global scale is a positive sign for both machine and human translations sectors. As the Internet continues to provoke a surge in globalization, there will be more companies, organizations and individuals in need of both quick, concise translations, and detailed, quality translations; those which can only be completed by human translators who have a deep understanding of both the language, the culture and the context of the translation task that they have in front of them.
IBISWorld believes that the translation industry has gone way beyond the growth phrase and is now in the mature phase of its business cycle. By 2018, IBISWorld predicts the translation services will have increased at a rate of 4.7% per annum. The prediction for the global GDP growth for the same period is set to reach a mere 2.1% in comparison. Human translators are going to be needed to cope with such expansions. There’s little doubt that what they can offer in terms of accuracy and contextual knowledge will ever be beaten by a machine, search engine or software program, not matter how good it happens to be.
On a final note, for those translators working on translations for the medical and pharmaceutical industry, the prospects are even greater, particularly in the Asia-Pacific market. Translation services in this area of the industry and in this part of the world are expected to experience an increase of over 14% in the next four years.
Machines might be fast, but the translation industry is going to need plenty of human manpower to deal with the growing demands of globalization in the coming years too. There’s nothing which can beat that human touch.