Sunday, December 12, 2010

What I expect to see in 2011

This is the time of the year when people start making predictions for the next year. Well, as I have already been asked several times what I see in my crystal ball, let me share it with you.
  • Content. Let me start with a quote from futurist Ray Kurzweill in a recent interview for Time Magazine: "Our intuition about the future is linear. But the reality of information technology is exponential, and that makes a profound difference. If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion."

    So content is growing exponentially and that's not news, but for the language industry there will be two trends that will accelerate in 2011. First is the atomization or chunking of content, i.e., translation projects will come in smaller sizes (in line with the trend in the software industry to move to apps). Second is velocity of content, i.e. clients will want these projects faster. These two trends will drive increased demand for productivity gains.
  • Voice. I believe that there is going to be an increase in demand for voice translation. Not only on-site and over-the-phone interpretation, but also dubbing and subtitling. Everybody talks about the ascendance of video, but video means very little for the translation industry; what needs to be translated is what people say, hence the increase in video will lead to an increase in the demand for voice-based translations. (Note to translators: Learn interpretation skills).
  • Languages. Be prepared for increased demand for Indonesian (Indonesia is right after the U.S. in numbers of Facebook users), Vietnamese, and African languages. I also expect increased demand for Brazilian Portuguese as the predictions for growth in the Brazilian economy are very positive.
  • Business. Acquisitions will happen. Expect several announcements and some consolidation at the top. The main discussion will be once again the fair valuation of companies. Naturally Welocalize will lead the charge, but I expect to hear from SDL, Moravia, CLS, HiSoft, and the Scandinavian companies like Semantix, AAC, and LanguageWire. Either as aquirers or targets of acquisition.
  • Pricing. It is true. Price pressure is really a fact now. Mature clients are shopping around for better prices in order to translate more with the same budget. For many years I have said that prices had been stable in the industry, but I believe that in 2011 companies will succumb to the haggling of the big buyers. The only way out of this is to dramatically increase productivity using technology at levels never seen before. This will be especially important for Single Language Vendors. Freelance translators should think about measuring their income per hour or per month, instead of their price per word.
  • The year of interoperability in the cloud. All this talk about privacy and how Google Translate breaches confidentiality clauses will disappear. Translation memories will be shared in the cloud and the chatter of the last two years will become just that; chatter. The big winners in technology will be  the MT solution providers and Kilgray, with its MemoQ technology (that works very well with files generated by their competition and thus achieves de facto interoperability). It is not surprise to me that MemoQ only has raving fans. Asia Online stands a good chance of growing a lot this year as the last stalwart of independent MT. I predict SDL will still grow out of pure momentum, not because of its "innovative" solutions.
What I don't expect to be news in 2011, even though there is going to be a lot of talk about it still, is the adoption of Machine Translation and the impact of Social Media as a source of more translation and localization.

In my opinion, MT crossed the chasm in 2010, and Social Media content is generated almost exclusively in local languages, with very little impact on the demand for translation and localization. Social Media might be a driver, but not demand generator in itself. However, I wouldn't be surprised if a few startups come up with the idea of creating companies focused on localizing Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

Now I need to catch a plane....


  1. Thanks for this Renato!

    Do you believe 2011 is still too soon for translation cloud applications like XTM Cloud?

  2. Other independent MT vendors include PangeaMT from Pangeanic (statistical), Lucy Software (rules), ProMT (rules) and even Systran. At least the first 3 are also having good results, too:)

  3. As you once said quoting "The Visionary’s Handbook", "The closer your vision gets to a provable future, the more you are simply describing the present. In the same way, the more certain you are of a future outcome, the more likely you will be wrong."
    Your prediction now seems very near to the present.
    Actually, prices have been plungig for years, as they hold to the same level as twenty years ago.
    I hope in a new tech-twist sweeping the smallest LSP's, the pop-and-mom agencies, the one-man shops. I hope in tech-driven disitermediation that could shorten the supply chains, and reverse the downward trend in production prices.
    I agree with Kirti as to OpenExchange. It could prove a hard blow for independent software vendors, and a step backwards for interoperability and standards.

  4. "All this talk about privacy and how Google Translate breaches confidentiality clauses will disappear"


    BTW, apart from rare situations, most documents that I translated in my 10 years career were already published on paper and/or on the Web, so much ado about nothing

  5. Otmar Filipe4:30 PM

    Otmar Filipe. Thanks Renato. Very insightful indeed! The prediction of increased demand of African languages in 2011 was especially interesting for me. I strongly believe that translation plays/will play a critical role in promoting African Languages locally and internationally. Technology will also give its contribution. I would like to hear more from you on this in the future. I will also send you a very interesting study on the use of African Languages. With regard to acquiring interpreting skills to complement our translation skills, I would reinforce the idea that the former complements the latter (or the other way around), although they are different "sciences"/"arts". With both kills we have good chance of expanding our client base, increasing our subject matter knowledge and we may enhance our reputation as language professionals.

  6. Manuel/Renatto, do not forget us: Ta with you (our TText! is mainly statistical + rule-based pre- and post-preocessing). We are independent, selling our solutions to LSPs.

  7. From AutomaticTrans we agree in most of this predictions. We have been working to develop our products in this way since 1999.

    Perhaps the market is adopting this perspective in a slower manner (at least in Spain).

    Quality and productivity... those are the key points. Technology is the only way to succed. Since 1999, we are working to install our platforms in big customers in Spain and Brazil (more than 30.000 million words translated).

    For sure, customers would go to: multichannel, multimedia and multilingual. A lot of formats and integration problems that we know well how to solve. So, we would be very happy to see this evolution next year;)

  8. Chris Durban8:54 PM

    Renato, I enjoyed your post but once again you are taking your market segments (big/bulk) for The Market.
    That's fine as far as it goes.
    But there are many (many) other segments, and many other strategies.
    Take your comment "The only way out of this ['companies succumbing to the haggling of the big buyers'] is to dramatically increase productivity using technology at levels never seen before."
    Hmm. Er. Yeah. Well. That's pretty categorical.

    I'll get back to you in December 2011, but throughout this year have felt no pressure at very comfortable rates, and I'm a freelance translator/single language vendor.

    You also note that "Freelance translators should think about measuring their income per hour or per month, instead of their price per word" and there FA&WB (and I) agree absolutely.

    But freelancers should also be tracking markets (other than big/bulk :-)) carefully, honing their writing skills, identifying hot areas, and *specializing*. That's where the high prices are (per word *and* per hour).

    Chris Durban