2018: A Look Forward – Platforms, E-Discovery, NMT

Now that we can fully see 2017 in the rear-view mirror and can digest all of the changes we have encountered, it is time to brace ourselves for what the next 12 months may hold in store for the translation industry.

Last year, we witnessed an industry continuing to mature, further integrating new technologies, and striving to better meet the needs and demands of a constantly changing market. Without sounding too pedantic or gazing into a crystal ball, we can expect certain trends like these to continue. Looking at the specifics though, there are areas that will continue to have a significant impact, chief among them being Neural Machine Translation as well as translation and business management platforms.

It is no understatement to say that Neural Machine Translation (NMT) will continue to be the big topic for the foreseeable future when it comes to translation, and rightly so. In learning in a similar way to the human brain, NMT allows for a wider understanding of vocabulary usage and can potentially generate a faster translation while taking into account a wider context compared to traditional statistical machine translation. Because of this, NMT will continue to be expanded upon and further implemented when it comes to standard translation; however, due to the imperfect nature of machine-based translations, any rise in the use of NMT will inevitably lead to a rise in demand for post editors and proofreaders, along with translators to add value when it comes to problems that cannot be solved by a machine.

As much as the complexity of the translations has changed due to NMT, the needs of business requiring language services have changed as well. Companies are no longer content with a translation firm that provides a one-off service, they’re looking for a language services provider that can provide an overall translation solution. Far from the occasional document or manual, the rapid increase in global commerce and global communication and information exchange has necessitated the rise in customized platforms which allow companies to track orders, receive updates on demand, and actively monitor and communicate throughout the process. With the continued acceleration of global business and more companies looking for comprehensive and tailor-made translation solutions, the offering of such business and translation management platform solutions looks to increase during the next year.

Aside from these 2 specific trends, we can expect an expanding market overall. Considering the estimated size of the global language industry in 2016 at US 40 billion as well as the current industry estimated size of US 43 billion, a projected value of US 47.5 billion by 2021 equates to steady growth for this year, with some projecting growth of 6.5%-7.5% through 2018. Along with traditional industry growth, another anticipated driver in the coming years will likely be from expanded e-Discovery translation operations, which, in a 2-year survey of multinational corporations’ cross-border litigation ending in 2016, saw an increase of 50%. With the global economy finally looking as if it will break out of the 2.4-2.8% growth rate it has been mired in since 2012 and achieve global GDP growth of 3.1% in 2018, this could easily be a great year for global economic growth and growth within the industry.