The introduction of technology has changed how the translation industry operates.

Experienced translators are becoming more skilled but there’s a shortfall at entry level where the education sector hasn’t quite caught up with evolving demands.

Technology in Translation

The reason technology has become so pervasive in the translation industry is because Language Service Providers (LSPs) have had to find new ways to stay afloat in a marketplace where the cost of their services hasn’t changed but wages and living expenses have.

It’s no wonder LSPs have been looking for ways to increase productivity. Technology, so far, has been providing the answers.

Anu Carnegie-Brown, Managing Director of Sandberg Translation Partners Ltd., explains in more detail:

The revenue per unit we can charge our clients for translation services has hardly increased in the past ten years, whereas the cost of living for those who work in the industry has.

Furthermore, the average size of a translation project has decreased, which means that we have to process a higher number of projects to get the same revenue. Since we can’t raise the unit price, we have had to learn to increase our output without increasing the production cost.

The main reason most translation companies are still in business today is that they have managed this challenge with technology.”

Translation-tech in Education

Due to these changes within the translation industry it’s important that all stakeholders are talking to one another, including at educator level.

Students these days pick up new technologies with surprising ease but the skills shortage among graduates of translation studies appears to be down to what they learn, or don’t learn, at university.

Dilek Yazıcı, CEO of Diltra works closely with universities on this particular subject.

It is not a big deal to teach Generation Z new technologies or new software programs since they are almost born with innate ability to use any kind of program.

“The catching point here is that university courses need to offer more up-to-date information about the translation technology. I believe LSPs should continue to keep their contact with the universities in this sense.”

The difficulty here is that education for those wanting to work in the translation industry varies widely. This means that people with a wide mix of skills are being released into the sector each year.

Carnegie-Brown adds: “The educators’ knowledge of the industry varies from country to country and university to university. I have taught or advised translation students and their educators in the UK, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Over the years, I have had to start from the basics; introducing to them the common practices in the industry.”

Translation Educators Looking to the Industry

There are a number of educators embracing input from the business world.

One such example is Juha Eskelinen, who works at the University of Helsinki where they ensure students are in touch with professionals in the industry.

“We keep in touch with translation companies and professional translators and I attend monthly a meeting with a group of legal translators working in-house jobs. I also belong to the Finnish Translators’ Association and spend time on several relevant web forums.”

Organisations such as Elia Exchange, work to bridge the gap between LSPs and educators in order to benefit students that will become the future of the industry.

Both Carnegie-Brown and Yazıcı work as coordinators for Elia Exchange and understand the importance of connecting the business world with the relevant academic institutions to ensure students are learning the skills needed to succeed in the ever-changing industry.

Not only does this increase the talent pool but it saves LSPs time and energy when it comes to training new staff.

Educators could take their lead from the likes of Surrey University, which gives its students valuable work skills alongside language ones, making them more adaptable to a changing industry.

Joanna Gough, a lecturer in translation studies at the university explains.

Employability is one of our top priorities, but we take a slightly different approach to the industry/academia conundrum.

Rather than forever playing a catch-up game with ‘industry needs’, we are preparing students to take ownership and leadership in the language industry when they leave the university.

Our ambition is to create highly flexible graduates who can think creatively, make decisions, innovate and drive the necessary changes in future.”

Of course, educators have their own goals to think about and it’s this that often causes them to slip behind in terms of appreciating industry needs. This however is hardly a new phenomena.

LSPs faced great challenges in the nineties without sufficient human resources to meet the huge global customer demand. Educators were aware of only a small part of it since, naturally, they were involved in their academic world and paper work.

So, together with some of my colleagues from the language industry we kept giving lectures and organised panels through the translation associations, urging the academia to adapt their curricula to the changes in the translation industry,” explains Yazıcı.

LSPs Plugging the Skills-Gap

The goal of trying to bridge this gap and keeping educators up-to-date with the wider industry is part of a wider need to reduce the pressures on LSPs in terms of recruitment, training and production.

“If a class of 20 graduates have not learned anything else at the university than to translate well, it will take 20 different LSPs three to six months to train and support them before they can manage a translator role or a project manager role independently in the commercial world. Then, potentially, another six months before they can work fast enough to earn a decent living.

“This is a significant waste of staff time in an industry that is striving for efficiencies in all areas of their business. If we can cut that time down even a little, it will be a saving for the companies who employ graduates,” states Carnegie-Brown.

As the industry continues to evolve and LSPs need to become even more efficient, companies won’t have the time to train staff to the correct level, which could lead to an even greater skills gap in the future.

This is why it remains key that all stakeholders within the industry remain in close communication to improve and develop skills and education.