by Giannis Nistas, Linguist at Commit
Have you ever thought about the importance of language services? How translation and interpreting shape the world we live in as well as our everyday lives?
Well, let’s check some numbers first regarding the size of the translation and localization industry: According to Common Sense Advisory, in 2015 the global language services industry turnover totaled 40 billion USD–with Europe accounting for a market share of 53,09%, and North America and Asia covering 34,82% and 10,49% of the global market respectively. For 2019, the translation industry value worldwide is projected at 50 billion USD.
These are quite big numbers, so let’s shed some light on the role this industry plays in areas like international politics, global business, and our everyday life.
Language services are crucial for day to day operations in international politics. You have interpreters facilitating communications in multilateral negotiations in international forums, discussing topics ranging from climate change and human rights to international trade and security.
Then, you have numerous language professionals working for intergovernmental organizations, like the United Nations. These can be copy preparers, editors, interpreters, reference assistants, terminologists, translators and verbatim reporters.
And if you consider a “place” where linguists play an absolutely decisive and vital role, that is the European Union. Being a supranational politico-economic organization of 28 member states, the EU is widely dependent on language services to maintain a close contact with its over 510 million citizens.
Since the EU is based on the multilingualism principle, all laws, treaties, secondary legislation, regulations and directives should be translated into the 24 official languages of its member states. For a democratic organization like the EU, language professionals serve the principle of transparency, promote the right to information and help reinforce many other democratic values.
Most corporations with global presence have based their dominance in the global market on translation/localization strategies. In this context, they offer localized versions of their websites into numerous locales; they have developed dedicated online portals for their partner communities; they communicate with their distribution channel partners through translated material; they provide their channel partners with translated training content to help them get familiar with the features and capabilities of new products; they localize demand and lead generation campaigns to expand their pipeline.
But even in the case of small-scale corporations, it goes without saying that they have better chances of succeeding in foreign markets if they localize their marketing content, like their websites and their brochures. Another key to success for many companies is the localization of their product names. For example, many food companies end up having their product names localized, so that they do not sound awkward or offensive in different cultural contexts and locales.
However, when it comes to companies doing business in the pharmaceutical and medical device sector, the risk can be a lot greater than an embarrassing translation. For such companies, the translation of relevant documents, e.g. Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC), Product Information Leaflet (PIL), Instructions for Use (IFU) etc., is obligatory for regulatory approvals to be granted. Public health is an issue to be taken seriously, that is why the field of medical/pharmaceutical translation is the most regulated one.
From the above-mentioned examples, it is more than obvious that translation helps to ensure a smooth economic activity and contributes to positive business results.
To better understand how important language services are in our everyday lives, just think of the following examples:
- Many patients need to use medical devices at home, like nebulizers to inhale medicinal drugs. What if they didn’t have localized instructions to instruct them how to use them?
- How difficult would it be for someone to learn how to operate a home appliance or a personal computer without reading a manual in their mother tongue?
- Clinical studies aiming to contribute to the improvement of medical treatments or to the establishment of new ones need volunteers. But who would accept to take part in such studies without first having fully understood the complications and risks, their rights and obligations before signing an informed consent document?
- Asylum seekers need to be heard in their mother tongue, so what if there were no interpreters to facilitate communication? The same applies to medical interpreters who help patients communicate with doctors and nurses and, also help doctors understand the needs of foreign patients and choose the indicated treatment.
And the list goes on and on!
So, to answer the question in this article’s title, YES, translation really does have a strong impact to our lives. It gives us access to valuable information, it opens doors for global trading and helps international politics go around. Language services are everywhere and judging from the 2017 predictions, the demand is increasing at a fast pace. We’ll only have to wait and see what the future will bring for our industry!