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Translating for the XXI century: part 2

Article by Sam Berner

Prices of translation around the world are falling rapidly and are expected to fall by another 50% in the next two to three years. Pretending that this is not happening or making a fuss publicly is not working. We cannot, and should not, stop progress. We also cannot ethically expect clients to want to pay more than what they can afford.

In this Darwinian economy, the fittest are those among us who know how to obtain and utilise the correct knowledge, and then have the guts to make the jump into a highly disruptive and very volatile market.

So what does it take? As translators:

  • Let us be reasonable about our expectations of the foreseeable future. Time will not turn back.
  • Let us not panic. The translation market in 2015 is predicted to be worth around USD33.5 billion. Most of that value is in software, but there is still enough to go around to those who want to make money in the industry – mostly through localisation and post-editing.
  • We really need to start thinking like our clients so we can pre-empt their needs. Without clients we can kiss our profession goodbye.
  • We need to use the new technology to our own benefit. We must become technologically savvy. Since localisation is the biggest market at the moment, it would make sense to learn to program software.
  • We also need to understand that technology changes all the time, and we must change with it. Otherwise, reality will overtake us and we will drop out of the market.
  • We need to get out of the freelance mode and work together - creating ad-hoc teams that band and disband fast, where members complement each other’s skills and where large amounts of work can be done smoothly and quickly.
  • We also need to become more business savvy, learning how to market our services through the plethora of social media, blogs and audio-visual platforms that are now available for free online.
  • We need to act business-like at all times giving this profession our all. Translating is no longer a cottage industry. If you don't give it all your time and effort, don't expect it to give you money in return.
  • We need to stay informed. The biggest disfavour we can do to ourselves, is not to know where our industry is going. We end up believing in self-created myths of disempowerment.
  • We need to concentrate on doing professional development that produces financial results, take responsibility for what you learn, and be weary of spending money on useless exercises.

To conclude: As a translator you need to think outside the box, step outside your comfort zone and embrace change and disruption.

May the power of words be with you on your journey!

Sam Berner is currently the principal partner of Arabic Communication Experts, one of Australia’s leading translation and cross cultural training services specializing in the Middle East. Having spent over 30 years translating, Sam continues to mentor and motivate many aspiring translators to expand their vision globally. She is also an active AUSIT member and a former national president.

This article was reproduced with permission. You can read Part 1 here.   


Published: 30/05/2016