The translation industry is largely unregulated, at the national level as well as international level. There are a number of local non-governmental professional standards institutions and associations such as ATA; however, they do not have regulatory powers.
Government regulatory oversight
This largely unregulated model has benefited the translation industry immensely. Armed with translation skills, a computer and internet connection anyone could sign up, talent poured into the industry. Companies brought technological and methodological innovations such as cloud computing techniques. Consumers benefited equally through increased competition which led to lower costs, and in turn made professional translation services accessible to even more consumers who heretofore has been locked out of the translation market.
It’s not surprising then that the translation industry doubled to 33 billion dollars in a little under a decade.
An industry falling victim to its own success
That phenomenal growth, however, is being jeopardized by a new kind of entity which doesn’t have an understanding of, or even a passion for, translation, translation processes, translation tools or the translation industry in general. Essentially, the industry is being overrun by companies engaged primarily in pursuit of profit, not in providing quality translation services to the benefit of the consumer that has made this phenomenal growth possible.
Funded to the hilt with venture capital these entities have hired marketing firms to push a noxious concoction of translation clouds embedded with machine translation and translation crowdsourcing as professional translation services. Clients are powerless in the face of this onslaught to make informed decisions. For example, the Internet is usually a great resource for feedback, to research a company’s reputation and for product and service reviews. However, here again, these so-called professional translation service companies have shown ingenuity by:
- Using online reputation management consultants to cleanup negative publicity
The process works by posting fake comments and articles, etc recommending the company in order to push negative comments off the top 3-4 pages of search results (according to Google most people only look at the first 3 pages of search results).
- Simply changing the company name
A number of translation cloud services have recently - within the last year or so - changed their trade name or the name of their cloud translation operations. This gives them a newly minted reputation, which is easier to manage and maintain, not to mention cheaper than cleaning up an existing reputation.
The result is, as reported in an influential industry study, 80% of international businesses lose money to poor quality translation2. What is not reported is the actual amount international businesses lose; however, you can be sure it is very significant.
The slide towards regulatory oversight
That grim statistic is set to be a fact of life.
Monetary loses due to translation errors (poor quality translation) will continue. However, although the scale and magnitude of these loses are in and of itself cause for regulation, I believe it will be the injury to people and lose of human life resulting from poor translation quality which accelerates the slide towards regulatory oversight of the translation industry. Indeed, when an industry is either unwilling, or incapable, of policing itself a certain degree of measured regulatory oversight becomes necessary.
Do you think regulation in the translation industry is inevitable or even desirable?
- SDL International Survey
About the Author
Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, owner of Japan Translation Service Tokyo Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services
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