The world has always needed translators and it always will. [Tweet it] In fact, while many industries slid on a downward spiral during the most recent recession, there was one that was hardly affected — translation. Of course, no industry can be totally recession-proof, but the translation (and interpretation) services industry is just that – virtually immune to recession ills. In fact, year-over-year, the translation market has been steadily increasing.
According to CareerBuilder.com, the translation and interpretation services industry is expected to add about 12,400 jobs by 2019, a 36% increase.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 46% increase in translation job opportunities by 2022—much higher than the 11% average growth rate of all other occupations. This is only surpassed by the home health care aide industry, an industry which sometimes requires interpretation and translation.
Why is this happening? There are four major factors powering the growth of the industry and cementing the job security of translators.
1. The Changing Face of America
The higher-than-average growth reflects the growing diversity of the United States. It’s really not surprising. Whether in a classroom, office, or in our local neighborhoods, all of us interact with people who speak a different language. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 41 million foreign-born people currently living in the United States. That is 13.1% of the entire population and growing! It is also four times more than the immigrant population of the 1960s and 70s. In contrast, the U.S. born population has only increased about 1.6 times the size it was in 1960.
As those numbers grow, the need for translation will grow right alongside them. One study shows the outsourced language services market reached $33.5 billion in 2012; its annual growth rate was around 12%.
Within the U.S., the shift in the national market has included a large influx of Hispanics, the largest minority in the United States. (Only Mexico has a larger Hispanic population). As of 2014, there were an estimated 55 million Hispanic people living in the U.S. This number is expected to double in 50 years, so savvy businesses concentrate their translation efforts on this important demographic.
2. The World is Shrinking as Businesses Expand
Companies are now going global in search of more clientele. Not long ago, a U.S.-based company would be mostly active in the United States. But today’s technology allows businesses to reach further. This brings with it many other aspects that we didn’t have to deal with years ago. Now companies that wish to go global need to concentrate on marketing their service or product(s) to prospective clients in other countries in their native language. This means translation of all sorts of documents such as logos, slogans, ads, brochures, instructions, and websites.
3. Wait. Why translate at all?
Why do businesses bother to translate their documents? Doesn’t almost everyone speak English? According to the American Translators Association, this is a common misconception in English speaking countries. The ATA says that only 17% of the world’s population speaks English natively. Research shows that we all strongly prefer using our own language when we spend our money, surf the web, etc. So, to avoid misunderstood or misinterpreted messages, most successful businesses hire qualified translators to get their points across effectively. It may cost some money, but it makes sense when the message is received well and the bottom-line sky-rockets due to added efforts to translate.
No matter the document, quality translators help companies entering the global market look more polished. They help avoid embarrassing gaffes and the dreaded international “advertising fail” list. See my previous post on translation blunders for some cringe-worthy examples.
Translators with knowledge of medical terminology are translating documents into other languages and saving lives! Translators with legal expertise are ensuring legal documents are accurate. Literary translators are making sure the nuance and “color” of the source language rings true.
Individuals are also using translators. They need driver’s licenses, marriage and birth certificates translated. Wills, court transcripts, service agreements and other legal documents also need solid translation.
4. Computers are Helping People
Since free machine translation has become popular − according to the ATA− the market for professional translation has actually increased. More people are now aware of human translators thanks to Google and Bing. This is not surprising, considering many businesses have probably tried computer translations and found that a professional human translator could do a better job with figurative language.
I have tried using computer translators recently and found both hits and misses. In fact, trying to translate from English into a few other languages and back into English led to some interesting, comical results. (Try it yourself sometime. Idioms are particularly hard for computers.)
More businesses notice that human translators have in-depth knowledge of the languages they are dealing with backed by advanced degrees, certifications and experience. They know how to translate meaning from one language and culture to another without changing the overall tone, message, content. Not an easy feat.
So, no matter the state of the economy, no matter how small or heterogeneous the world gets, we still need to communicate with one another. As long as there are languages mingling on the world stage, there will be translators.
Ilona K‘s earliest memories center around writing. She wrote and illustrated her first novel when she was eleven. Her latest creations include website user guides for the Federal Aviation Administration and blog articles for a language service provider.
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