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In this article, we’ll have a look at translation and localization industry trends. We’ll learn the difference between the two, how they help companies connect with customers globally, and trends in both areas.

Translation and localization services are changing rapidly as a result of new technology. Emerging translation industry trends are disrupting the traditional market for professional translation services in various ways. Let’s find out what’s new on the scene and what it means for global communications.

1. Translation vs. Localization: How Do They Differ?

What is a translation service? It’s a service that converts text from one language to another, either through human translation or by using technology. Now let’s define localization. A brief localization definition is ‘adapting materials to suit a specific locale.’ That could mean changing an image in a marketing brochure to reflect the local population or changing the keyboard on a computer to include special characters used by a particular language. What is the difference between translation and localization? In short, translation deals with language; localization addresses practical and cultural details.

2. Innovations in Translation

When it comes to professional translation services, there are plenty of exciting techs to consider. We look at three recent innovations that are exciting language specialists around the globe.

A. Neural Networks

Little has more potential to disrupt the industry than neural networks. A neural network is a computing system that mimics the human brain’s ability to learn. Neural networks can ‘learn’ to undertake a task without being programmed to undertake that specific function.

When it comes to translation, this means that computers can learn to translate without relying on the resource-intensive statistical machine translation (SMT) process, which has been the basis of largely underwhelming machine translation efforts for the last 60 years.

What’s particularly exciting about neural networks when it comes to providing translation services is their ability to enhance the quality of the translation through end-to-end training, well beyond that which is achievable through SMT models.

B. Camera Translation

It gets better. Ever sat in a restaurant on holiday and been stumped by the menu? That’s where camera translation comes in. Blending the inbuilt smartphone camera with the latest machine translation technology, camera translation apps provide an instant, on-screen translation of what’s in front of you. Popular with business travelers and holidaymakers alike, this blending of optical recognition with machine translation is opening up foreign countries like never before.

C. Two-way Voice Interpreters

Not satisfied with the near-instant translation of what you’re looking at? How about real-time voice interpretation then?

Voice recognition technology has come a long way in recent years, as companies race to perfect voice search. Almost a by-product of that focus, two-way voice interpretation allows people who speak different languages to converse in real-time.

Two-way voice interpretation is available through both apps and dedicated devices, making this a flexible language solution for businesses as well as holidaymakers. It’s also really easy to use.

Say you want a Swedish to English translation in order to meet with a business client in Sweden and neither of you speaks the other’s language. Previously, a Swedish interpreter or Swedish translator would need to assist with the communication process. Now, however, your phone is capable of handling the Swedish to English interpretation in real-time. The Swedish translation might not be word-perfect (you’ll still need to use professional Swedish translation services for any important documents), but you should be able to converse well enough to get by as a result of two-way voice interpretation software.

3. Innovations in Localization

Innovations in localization services have also been coming thick and fast in recent years. Why is localization important? Because it can help businesses connect with new audiences in other countries. What is a localization strategy? It’s a well-considered approach that defines the purpose of the localization work to be undertaken, how it’s going to be achieved and what the outcomes should be.

A. For Websites

Localization platforms have transformed the process of efficiently creating local language versions of websites in recent years. While previously a translation company was the only option, now language translation and localization can be automated to a significant extent.

Website localization adapts a website to suit a specific language and audience. It involves the use of Unicode, hreflang tags, flexible design, and colors that will suit a global audience. The site is first internationalized, then localized. At least, that’s the old way. Now, cloud-based localization platforms have eliminated the need to internationalize code and build website copies, instead of delivering SEO-compatible localization solutions with almost 100% uptime.

For busy companies that are looking to expand rapidly overseas, this kind of universal translator and localizer can be a real game-changer.

B. For Software

It’s much the same with mobile apps and other software. There are various software localization platforms out there that are compatible with GitHub, Python, Django and the like. Many of them serve as a language translator as well as a localization platform, thus almost eliminating the need for a translation agency. At least on the surface of things…

4. Human vs. Machine Translation: Who Owns the Future?

In reality, a skilled and experienced human is still the best translator when compared with a machine. It’s why professional document translation services still use human translators. Machine translation has come a long way, particularly since the use of neural networks. However, humans still have the edge at this point – so don’t expect your local translation company to disappear any time soon!

About the author

Ofer Tirosh is CEO of Tomedes, an innovative translation company that has been serving business translation customers around the world since 2007.