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Extent of the Pandemic’s Impact on the Translation Industry

Towards the end of 2020, governments and authorities eased restrictions a bit. Businesses are reopening. While many are still working from home, some employees have been allowed to return to their offices. As every industry is returning to a semblance of normalcy, it is easy to surmise that the language industry will be doing the same thing.

Indeed, things seem to be back to normal on the surface, at least. But if you look closer, you will know that things have changed. The pandemic, which is still ongoing, has affected the way people do things.

Impact of the pandemic on language translators

The effects of the pandemic on LSPs differ. Most translators were not that affected. They could continue accepting projects since they are used to working remotely and have the style guides and translation tools they need to complete a translation order. The projects’ volume has become lower, though.

Some clients temporarily closed shop, while some continue their business operations. Many literary writers – screenwriters, artists and authors – work ceaselessly. They found that they have more time to work, finding new topics, including the coronavirus. Many translators translate news articles dealing with pandemic politics. There are scripts for animated features for children teaching health protocols.

There was an urgency to release information, particularly those that can affect thousands or millions of lives. Organizations, facilities and governments urgently needed translation services to share information, particularly in the healthcare, financial, law and business sectors.

Impact of the pandemic on language interpreters

While many translators continue to receive projects during the pandemic, the situation is different for language interpreters. Many businesses remain closed, especially in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors. High-profile events, local and international trade fairs, conferences, concerts, sports events, seminars and symposia where interpreters have to be physically present were canceled or postponed. Most interpreters work face-to-face. Thus, they are not ready to move their services online.

But the pandemic also opened more opportunities for interpreters with subject matter expertise who provide their services remotely. The majority of language services providers saw higher demand for interpreting services in the health sector, particularly in the pharmaceutical, medical and life sciences sectors.

Virtual or remote interpretation services thrived, including phone-in and video remote interpreting services. Many language services providers are encouraging their interpreters to update their skills and learn to work with other tools to offer their services via online interpretation and video conferencing platforms.

Overall impact of the pandemic on the language services industry

There are still so many things to consider before the economy returns to normal. Everything depends on the company’s structure, location, and how it manages to respond to the situation.

  • Remote working, at least for many more months going into 2021, will remain. LSPs with technical capabilities and organized work processes will continue to survive. While other businesses are closing, there will be an increase in online trade and entertainment, which will be a big boost to translators.
  • There is a huge possibility of increased demand for Chinese translators. China will be working hard to recover from the epidemic immediately to regain its position as a global exporter and producer. Moreover, they need to actively share their experience of fighting the virus and treating COVID-19 patients.
  • LSPs will likely help handle information exchange between researchers in epidemiology, immunology, virology, healthcare, and others. The number of subject matter experts in the medical and scientific community is not that high. Thus, they may be swamped with work unless others who know the specific fields shift to this specialization.
  • The outlook is rosier for translators. But the interpreters could be at a disadvantage because authorities may still impose protocols on social distancing and mass gatherings. This means that face-to-face meetings will still be rare. International travel will still be limited; therefore, international conferences will still be impossible. One of the most viable solutions is to provide online interpreting services.
  • There will be small and large changes that will occur in the language services industry. There will be an increase in translation for specific languages, such as Chinese, but there will also be a lower demand for other languages.
  • There is a foreseen demand for other translation services. Document translation remains popular, and there will be a higher demand for document translation from governments, non-governmental institutions and various industries. Recovery efforts will push many companies to look for other business partners to broaden their offerings of multiple goods and services. Seeking new partners will mean signing many new agreements and business contracts.
  • Marketing translation will see an increase, and more businesses will shift to online presence to reach more customers, locally and internationally. It can provide more opportunities for additional business translation and localization projects.
  • With the pandemic and the continuing fight to contain the virus’ spread and safeguard the global community against other health crises, there will be a higher demand for medical translation for health protocols and patient treatments. There will be a higher demand for certified medical translators and online translation of articles in scientific publications, research results and other medical publications.
  • Demand for on-site interpreting may be at an all-time low, but there will be a huge demand for remote medical interpreting services. With the increased use of video conferencing platforms, interpreters will need to learn the technology to offer their services during international online conferences and multinational meetings.

Anticipating and adapting to the new normal

Despite some businesses’ closure and the cancellations of events, the language services industry is here to stay. Language services are more critical today. Translators have to adapt to the changes. Most of them are used to working remotely, so the changes are minimal. More affected will be those translators who are not used to remote working conditions, and working in a home office can be challenging because they might find it difficult to concentrate when at home. It will take a bit of adjusting to embrace the new normal and remain productive. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Develop a schedule. You should equally distribute your work throughout the day and set limits on your work schedule. Sticking to a new work routine will be easier if you carefully lay out your plan.
  2. Establish your own deadline. Make sure that your deadline is ahead of the actual client’s deadline. Break down a big project into smaller chunks to have a natural workflow that will not cause you to cram and spend more hours working to meet the deadline.
  3. Find the perfect workspace.Choose a place in your residence where you can work comfortably, with minimum distractions, so the place is quiet. You will have more energy and drive if you dress up like you’re working in a regular office. Do not work while wearing a bathrobe or sleepwear. Working comfortably does not mean wearing clothes in your home office that could easily induce you to take a nap instead of getting productive.
  4. Stop multitasking. Although there were pundits who say that multitasking makes one productive, an equal number say that it prevents you from finishing something. You can start working on several things, but the question is taking these tasks to fruition.
  5. Keep a work-life balance. When you are taking a rest, try not to do any work. You will have more work done if you keep a balance in your life. Concentrate on the task and forget the other things that need your attention. Forget your grocery list while you are translating, and vice versa.
  6. Adopt new technologies. Besides your style guides, translation memory and CAT tools, you should learn to use new technologies, such as video conferencing and content reuse platforms.
  7. Skills update and continuing education. Use the lengthier time between projects to update your skills. Check out what new skills clients want. Likewise, you can improve your credentials but taking short courses related to your profession. You may have forgotten to sit for a certification course due to a more hectic schedule. Now is the time to do that. Use the downtime wisely so you can have more opportunities when the industry picks up speed once again.

For language services companies, agility and adaptability are keys to continued success. Review your client list and learn what they want now and the new opportunities they will offer due to their redefined business strategies and portfolio. Similarly, you should review your existing business model since it is essential to adapt to the new norm by increasing the use of digital technology and remote working conditions, at least for interpreters. Look into e-commerce and remote payment facilities and how they can apply to your business.

It is vital to understand the new demand patterns for services and products across various business sectors. Simultaneously, be strict about protecting your professional standards and client/data privacy and security. Likewise, continue to provide the best value for money, but do not succumb to lowering your pricing scheme and rates just because there is a pandemic. You provide accurate and high-quality service, so lower your rates only as a last resort. Think of alternative ways to help clients struggling financially, such as setting priorities on translation projects and creating monthly budgets.

Allow us to help you adjust to the pandemic-burdened economy with translation and localization.

Although the global economy is still reeling from the pandemic’s effects, there are already signs that it will be back to normal, with some changes. With more people going online, they discover products and services that were not available to them before. The companies and businesses that remained open now serve more customers and produce new products due to the changes in the demand. Business partners and suppliers are bound to change. Let eTranslation Services keep your communication going and reach more business partners and new customers through professional, high-quality and accurate translations in more than 200 languages. You can quickly reach us by sending an email at [email protected] or calling (800) 882-6058.


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