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The language services industry is big business; a recent study by the ATC showed that the UK market is now the third largest in the world, worth over £1 billion annually. This is only expected to rise; with the global turnover of the market expected to be in the region of 50 billion USD by 2019.

It¹s clear that the demand for linguistic services is increasing rapidly, with more opportunities emerging. The fact that these opportunities mean the introduction of new technologies is to some, inevitable. But others are skeptical; worried that corners are going to be cut, standards lowered, and that the market will be Œuberised¹, all of which resulting in the decline of interpreting and translations jobs.

A quick browse online shows you there are thousands of apps that can translate and interpret words and sentences for you. Skype even has a translate feature that Œcan help you communicate in 7 languages for voice calls, and in more than 50 languages while instant messaging.¹ Multilingual communication really seems to be just at the click of a button, or so we¹re being led to believe.

But let¹s face it, software like this can only help you order a coffee, read a bus timetable or ask a distant relative who speaks another language how their day has been. It will never be advanced or nuanced enough to replace highly trained, qualified language professionals and the work they do.

The Linguali app is not part of this wave of Œuberisation¹. Our technology is not designed to replace interpreters, it is designed to make their job easier. No more high costs, no more carrying around expensive and heavy equipment, no more confusing interfaces at events, no more chasing people around for headsets. Sounds perfect, right? And that is the best part, our app is made by interpreters for interpreters, so it really does do what it says on the box.

Multilingual conferences and meeting rooms are not disappearing, quite the opposite, there are more than ever before and it is our responsibility to make them as accessible as possible. Yet we have spoken to event organisers who have never used interpreters until now because of the prohibitive costs associated with language services.

In spite of this, there is still a hesitation from some to embrace any type of technology, even a tool that can help with the demand for high quality language services. An example of this is with traditional agencies, many of whom still claim that for simultaneous interpretation to work there needs to be sophisticated, specialised equipment, and the technicians who have the expertise to run it. When now, that really is not true. With everyone owning a smartphone or web-enabled device, why not let them be part of the solution? Instead of fighting technology, embrace it and make it work for you.

As Bill Wood, the founder of DS Interpretation, said: ³Interpreters will never be replaced by technology, they will be replaced by interpreters who use technology².

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More and more translations are now performed “in house”
Across different industries, particularly for companies with international footprint, it is undeniable that all categories of staff speak better and better English. Even if it has not much to do with the Queen’s English, the mastering of English language is not a differentiating factor anymore when hiring staff as it is a natural pre requirement.
A consequence of this evolution is that more and more translations, in general from English to a local language are performed in house. This results also from an increased sense of urgency as information circulates quicker and quicker in multiple languages and it is becoming more challenging to accept the “externalization” time to a translation agency when people in house could do it quicker without any requirement for an additional internal proofreading.
Very technical translations are also a specific area where internal staff will grow more and more critical of translations proposed by an external translation agency and could end up asking for those to be reinternalized.

This is a challenge for both translation agencies and international corporations
When a corporation does not have a dedicated internal translation team, those “internal translations” are performed by individuals who are not professional translators and this activity which can represent a significant amount of internal resources is usually not very visible to senior management, this is a hidden cost for the company financial director.
This issue which follows a growing trend represent a challenge both for traditional language service providers (LSPs) and for international corporations. LSPs are obviously confronted to an unofficial internal competition which may even be unknown to their contacts in the procurement team of the buyers. And for the companies with international footprint, this activity can be a source of frustrations for the teams but also a significant source of inefficiency.

How Technology can help transforming this challenge into an opportunity
Technology is the route to explore to address this matter.
LSPs who want to capture 100% of their client translation business need to be literally “in the face” of all their client users, and this can only happen through a web translation interface, which is ideally integrated into the IT network of their clients. This interface could propose human and automated customized translation services to address the various needs of their client.
International corporates could investigate the new developments of machine learning applied to technical translations and proposed a dynamic and extremely efficient tool to their staff so that they may carry on translating themselves if they think it guarantees a better quality while dedicating less time to it.
The financial sector is particularly exposed to the topic of internal translation as market movements require fast communication and client relationship handled in local language instead of English provides a competitive advantage in many cases.

Let’s discuss the topic at the Next UK ATC conference
Lingua Custodia, through the voice of its CEO, Olivier Debeugny who is also a finance professional, will introduce a case study on this topic based on his own past experience in the investment industry at the next UK ATC Conference on September 22nd .
Lingua Custodia applies machine learning to financial translations and develops customised and smart machine translation software for various types of financial documents.
Follow Lingua Custodia on LinkedIn to know more about our solutions

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It is early days yet, but some of the data coming out of the
Association of Translation Companies' 2016 UK Language Industry research
is looking very interesting indeed.

Our independent researcher, Konstantin Dranch, is reluctant to say too
much at the moment, but when I recently applied the thumbscrews, he
revealed that analysis of completed surveys to date suggests that the
average expected growth for UK LSPs in 2015/16 will be around 11.3 per
cent.  However, he was quick to say that some, especially smaller
companies, are more optimistic.  In that cohort growth is predicted to be
between 20 ­ 48 per cent.

He cautions that it is not all rosy though.  Whether this is a by-product
of the post Brexit uncertainty, he reveals that one in five LSPs is
bracing itself for zero or negative growth in 2016/17.

Other nuggets prised from Konstantin suggest that gross margins for UK
LSPs average 45 per cent, but again he warns that the research has thrown
up a few company performances at either end of the spectrum.  Some LSPs
are showing margins as high as 65 per cent, while others at the other end
of the table are reporting them at 25 per cent.

As I released the thumbscrews Konstantin let slip that the final results
will have some revealing data on earnings before interest and tax (EBIT).
He says findings so far suggest that the average EBIT for UK LSPs is
15.45 per cent.

All of this suggests that the analysis of the research, once it is
completed, will provide UK LSPs with hugely valuable data by which they
can benchmark their performance against their peer group, as well as
start making informed decisions about future strategies.

It is not too late to contribute to the research study.  If you are a
UK-based LSP we want you to participate and you can do that up till 10th
September by clicking HERE.

Happily Konstantin Dranch is going to be far more forthcoming when he
presents a summary of the research findings during the 2016 Language
Industry Summit taking place in London 22/23 September.  I am sure that
you will not need thumb screws to get him to sing like a canary and
elaborate on the findings.  However, if you want to quiz him in person
you will need to move fast.  There are just five days left of the
early-bird discount scheme, you are urged to book your place at the
Summit before delegate rates increase by as much as 30 per cent after
midnight on 31st August.

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Many people think about innovation in terms of a radical change that disrupts an industry. While many of us dream about disruptive innovations that totally change the way we do business with our clients, the reality is that many of us engage in the practice of changing and improving the way we do things‹we are innovating our business models every day without even realizing we¹re doing it. .

W. Edward Deming once said, ³It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.² Companies that fail to innovate will fall victim to irrelevance, and ultimately to extinction. Such examples abound in the business world. Just think about Sony¹s Walkman. The once indomitable brand, introduced in 1979, became synonymous with portal music players. Yet, the iconic brand was eventually discontinued in 2010 as the iPod and the Apple Music Store upended the music industry.

Netflix, on the other end, is a good example of a company that changed with the technology and consumer tastes and constantly reinvented itself. It began as an online, mail-order video rental store. As the video streaming technology matured and audience¹s viewing habits changed, Netflix transformed itself into a streaming service. And now, it has reinvented itself yet again to become a media content provider and a legitimate alternative to TV and cable TV. Surveys and studies across different industries show that small businesses are most concerned with growing their business. Not surprisingly, this is true in our industry, as well. Business model innovation is necessary when either we feel that the existing model is not working (obviously), or when we feel that the existing model is not creating enough value or not creating value fast enough.

Yet, change is scary. Change introduces to the unknown. To make a change when revenue and margins are declining is one thing. To make a change when the business is healthy and prosperous takes courage‹the courage to do what is necessary.

The conventional wisdom is, ³don¹t fix what¹s not broken². I propose to turn the conventional wisdom on its head. Fixing what¹s not broken is not only necessary but also desirable. It is not change for change¹s sake, but the aim to change for the better. 

As business owners and executives, we must embrace the unknown and be willing to fix a problem that has yet to happen. To paraphrase Deming, for us as business owners and entrepreneurs, change is mandatory; growth, on the other hand, is optional.

Business model innovation is not an exercise of throwing darts in the dark. There are sound, proven methodologies for facilitating and managing change. One such methodology is the business model canvas. The canvas is effectively a framework to gather and mix a palette of ingredients needed for success. These ingredients include, among other things, customer, revenue stream, resources, channels, value proposition, and cost structure. By taking a structured, methodical approach to business model innovation, language companies can increase their prospect for introducing positive changes.

Steve Chu is the President of Treehouse Strategy, an integrated management consulting firm specializing in helping translation companies grow and get to the next level.

Steve will be speaking on the second day of the 2016 Language Industry Summit taking place in London 22/23 September.

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Machine Translation (MT) has been around for decades, but enterprise funding for research in TMs and CAT tools began to garner renewed interest towards the end of 1980s, with increasing tendency of MT being bundled with Artificial Intelligence (Lawson). Many forward-thinking translators who tried out MT during this period recognised two important things about MT: First, this strange thing might work after all. Secondly, it is unlikely to work well enough to threaten them (Lawson, emphasis mine).

Though back in 1980s this attitude and perception was true, the use of MT has drastically changed in the past decade. With globalization, multiculturalism, multilingual governance, technological advancements, and the age of the Internet, there is an immense amount of content from companies as well as individual users. Even if a fraction of this content needs to be translated, the use of machines is inevitable. That is why MT has proliferated the translation and localization industry.

This is turn has led to a problematic relationship between the users, proponents, and providers of MT on one hand, and traditional translators on the other. The fact is that translators are still the linchpin of the localization industry. Even with immensely improved automated translation output, translators will always be vital to the language quality review process.

As MT stands today, it needs the translator¹s skill to improve the output quality. What technology can do however, is develop a process, which will help translators increase their productivity and reduce the tedious, repetitive errors. For example, the Language Quality Review (LQR) process that helps improve the MT output is generally rife with collaborative difficulties for Project Managers. However, an automated language review tool that helps streamline and formalise the workflow would not only help reduce frustrating, repetitive MT errors, but also substantially increase translation productivity.

I will talk about innovations in the field of translation quality management in detail during my presentation at the ATC conference in September. For now, it is sufficient to point out again that with the introduction of new technologies, the translator¹s role has metamorphosed into more of a contributively dynamic part.

MT today has come a long way from its inception and developers are tirelessly striving to bring the quality of automated translation closer to the standard of professional human translators. However, most translators will argue that MT output can never match the multifaceted and nuanced translation style of the human brain. While this is true, recent innovations and developments in the field of Deep Learning and Neural Machine Learning at Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms and KantanLabs, our very own R&D department makes me feel confident that machine will soon be able to deal with translation more ³intelligently² than ever before.

MT is here to stay ­ the basic technology may evolve and improve, but in a world where we are inundated with information overload, embracing automated translation technology is the only way forward for anyone in the language industry.

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