As the term suggests, “localization” is the process of adapting a text from one language to another to best fit the traditions and expectations of a specific local market. Localization is necessary precisely because of the vast differences in language and culture between countries and regions. The differences don’t stop there, however; each region and country charts a specific growth according to the political, economic, and cultural factors that shift day by day, year by year, creating varied environments in which translation flourishes—or dies off.
In light of translation’s wide-reaching, global, and multicultural possibilities, we introduce today major translation and localization trends of 2022, arranged by geographical region. By now, it’s clear what the common global trends in translation are: machine translation, voice-to-voice translation, post-editing, video media translation, etc. However, each continental region has its unique demands and capacities that need to be addressed; keeping these differences in mind helps provide a better, nuanced idea of how the translation industry is evolving as a whole.
The computer-aided translation (CAT) company MemoQ has been keeping track of developments in the Asia-Pacific region, noting how dramatically the translation industry has been growing there, especially in China and Japan. The Asia-Pacific region is one of the fastest-growing language service provider (LSP) markets, with Japanese and Chinese LSP services dominating the regional market. Japan’s Honyaku Center and China’s Pactera Technologies now place in the global top 10 LSPs as of 2020; accordingly, MemoQ has deployed a second server in Japan.
MemoQ is on the watch for growth in strategic partnerships in the region, picking out China’s Pactera Technologies in particular. The Beijing-based company has received Microsoft’s award for top China System Integrator, making it “one of Microsoft’s leading partners in the worldwide LSP market.” This is just the beginning, MemoQ notes, of “strategic alliances between the tech sector and LSPs, especially with cloud computing platforms and machine learning developers.” With the continued rise of Japan and China in the global translation market (and commerce in general), it is likely that more of these alliances will form and grow over the coming years.
The Microsoft-Pactera alliance signifies yet another important trend in the Asia-Pacific region: improved LSP customer experience with cloud-based solutions. Pactera has had great success using cloud-based technology to improve customer experiences; MemoQ advises clients to “watch for more LSPs to add CXOs to their teams to drive client relationships, as customer experience becomes a high priority.” Pactera’s implementation of machine learning for quality control has made it one of the most innovative LSPs, single-handedly driving up the demand for AI-infused translation processes to better equip translators and achieve high-quality outputs.
All this development in the Asia-Pacific region owes largely to government investments in the translation sector. The Japanese government is investing 19 million USD for the development of simultaneous interpretation technology, following the Chinese government’s investment in local LSPs under the country’s One Belt One Road initiative. Such government backing in the sector means “competition [will] heat up between the Asia-Pacific sector and the rest of the global translation industry,” claims MemoQ.
Finally, the Asia-Pacific region (especially China and Japan)’s healthcare industry is expected to grow to $11.9 trillion; after all, the region is home to the second-largest healthcare industry in the world. As a result, the demand for medical translators will grow drastically, predicts MemoQ.
Europe is a powerhouse in the language and translation industries, home to numerous top-ranking LSPs; the region boasts a long tradition and history of translation as well. In the 2021 European Language Industry Survey, Rudy Tirry of EUATC (The European Union Association of Translation Companies) gives a brief overview of the trends, issues, and worries European translators and LSPs have about the imminent future of the language industry.
As to be expected, the survey revealed that machine translation remained the single most important trend in Europe, as voted by training institutes, buyers & language departments, and independent professionals. Translators expressed general concern over machine translation quality improvement but also commented that such improvements will lead to more focus on MTPE (Machine Translation Post-Editing), as well as human translation niches. Overall, the frightening speed at which machine translation has revolutionized the translation industry has forced LSPs and translators to “rethink operations” and grapple with “better software” in an attempt to stay relevant and competitive in an industry that becomes more crowded with each passing day.
One can’t speak of economic growth in Africa without also speaking of the inherent inequalities that have limited growth in the continent in the past decades. With so much translation development focused in North America and Europe—mainly around English and high-resource Romance languages—there is hardly any attention given to researchers, scientists, and researchers working in Africa to improve communication between the 2,000+ languages spoken in the continent.
Leading translation research in Africa is Vukosi Marivate, a founding member of Maskhane—“a pan-African research project to improve how dozens of languages are represented in the branch of AI known as natural language processing.” Maskhane’s mission is to bring African languages to the forefront of data science and artificial intelligence research, directing attention and resources into major languages that are all but ignored by bigger AI and NLP research groups such as Google and Microsoft.
Working alongside them is writer and linguist Kola Tubosun, who “created a multimedia dictionary for the Yoruba language and also created a text-to-speech machine for the language.” Tubosun is now developing speech-recognition technologies for Hausa and Igbo, Nigeria’s two other major languages; in the past, he has also led a Google research project, creating a “Nigerian English” voice for map applications.
There is also Remy Muhire, a Rwandan software engineer who is developing a new open-source speech data set for the Kinyarwanda language with the help of native volunteer speakers. Marivate, Tubosun, and Muhire are examples of scientists working to develop language translation technology for African languages. Speech-to-speech translation, as well as translation in major languages such as Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba, will be crucial to further communication and economic development in Africa.
We recently published a blog post on Viva Translate: a platform offering real-time email translations and streamlined transaction procedures for freelancers in Latin America as they communicate with clients abroad. Viva Translate goes to prove how many professionals reside in Latin America and how large the untapped talent is there. In a sense, Viva Translate exemplifies a successful approach to localized experience: they believe their “offering of specialized MT to individual users is what makes it stand out.” Viva Translate identified the specialized needs of the South American and North American markets, which is something larger companies (Microsoft Translate, Lionbridge, etc.) cannot do with as much grace.
More recent issues that have arisen in the Latin American translator discourse are the Pokemon games and their blatant lack of Latin American localization. Nintendo released the European Spanish version of the games without taking into account the differences between European Spanish and the various dialects of Latin American Spanish, leading to serious misunderstanding. A petition, signed by more than 20,000 people, clarifies some of the differences:
In Pokémon X / Y, there is a Flare Grunt who says “nos importa un pito”. This may sound very mild in Spain (“we care very little about something”), but in Latin America it’s a very aggressive and insolent expression… these are just a handful of examples in a game packed with dialogue. So how do you explain to a Latino kid that the words they see on the screen of their favorite game can’t be said out loud in public?
This particular issue in gaming localization points out the detrimental consequences of not having proper localization processes in place in Latin America—even for games as successful and renown as Pokémon.
It’s fair to say that developments and trends recorded in North America pertain to the rest of the world, as many of the biggest research firms (Google, Microsoft, Meta, etc.) and the largest LSPs (Lionbridge, TransPerfect, LanguageLine, etc.) reside here. Most of what researchers and professionals cite as “global advances in the translation industry” pertain to what is developed and created in North America—although communication with researchers from all over the world is crucial to the research done in NA.
At the same time, Ofer Tirosh—CEO of Tomedes—has outlined some major sectors in the North American market that are expected to grow and bloom in the coming years. Machine translation is an obvious answer, and with it, post-editing. Tirosh also points out that business translation and media localization will be important issues to keep in mind, as well as e-learning and medical translation, although the Asia-Pacific market showcases similar trends in those areas.
Overall, it’s safe to say that Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific regions are progressing in a similar direction; researchers in Latin America and Africa, however, face problems with finding enough funding and resources to continue their work. Nonetheless, development continues as economies start to flourish in the wake of the pandemic.
Another idea to keep in mind is that regions are not necessarily homogenous; for example, China and Japan—while the biggest players in the region—do not represent the Asia-Pacific market as a whole. South Korea, alongside Vietnam and other major Southeast Asian markets, loom ever heavier in the background. The same idea applies to Africa; major local languages develop AI-based communication tools at varying speeds, and thus a more nuanced approach to understanding the market is required.
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