Why translation is more important than ever in 2021

Over the last year, Covid-19 has completely transformed the world. The way we perform our jobs, interact and communicate day-to-day has radically changed. Yet, in a world that seems so suddenly disconnected, translation has played a crucial role in maintaining normality and keeping things moving. In 2021, translation is more important than ever.

Staying connected with customers

Before the pandemic swept the globe, as a result of increasing globalisation, translation services were booming. The industry has seen colossal growth over the last decade, as companies have broadened their horizons into emerging markets.

Through using translation services, multinational companies and corporations have had the opportunity to reach new audiences. While this kind of global expansion and connectivity had given us the impression that the world had shrunk – things changed when Covid-19 came along. As borders closed, many of these new avenues seemed more challenging to access, especially on the communication front.

In a time of such crisis and unease, companies must maintain effective communication with their clients globally. However, research shows that many companies struggled during the pandemic and, as a result, lost business.

Software provider Pegasystems commissioned research firm Savanta to look at how companies coped with communication challenges worldwide. The results showed that 37% of companies had delivered at least one message to customers, which was poorly received and negatively impacted their reputation. Meanwhile, 36% had lost customers due to communication failures throughout the pandemic.

Ultimately, customers and clients need to feel they are using reliable and genuine services during this time. Therefore, customer communication needs to be seamless.

So, how can companies achieve effective communication in the future? Well, for one, invest in quality translation services. Offering a localised digital customer experience ensures that customers continue to feel catered for and looked after.

Localising online support and providing multi-lingual support teams to customers can help companies ensure continued relevance and maintain their competitive edge. Localised support should extend past company websites, too; businesses should seek to provide this through social media and multimedia, including videos and PDFs.

Fighting the virus

In a year full of confusion, translation has also proved to be a vital tool for providing clarity to millions of people. The diffusion of important information has been essential for keeping employees, clients and the community safe and informed. This will continue to be integral throughout 2021 as we all adapt to new rules and regulations.

Of course, living in such a linguistically diverse world, distributing this information has been a significant translation challenge, potentially the biggest translation challenge yet!

There are over 300 languages spoken in London alone, and according to government figures in the UK, as many as 726,000 people do not speak English well.

These people have all needed to have access to medical information, public health guidelines and vaccination updates.

As a result, translation services have been used as a weapon to fight the virus.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some hiccups. The Japan Times highlighted the impact that poor translation services can have last year. The publication reported that the Japanese Health Ministry had failed to provide Covid-19 updates in foreign languages at the beginning of the crisis.

This failure led to many non-Japanese speakers struggling to find specialised support, leaving them feeling ill-informed and isolated. Similar safety fears were experienced in the UK when the government failed to provide sufficient translation services to millions of people who don’t have English as their first language.

So, translation services will remain essential for communicating key policy changes and medical information as we go forward.

The human touch in a digital world

The past year has also emphasised that human translation still reigns supreme even in an increasingly digital world. While machine translation can generally provide speedy translation in some circumstances, the technology is not yet advanced enough to account for context or linguistic nuance. These are two factors that are essential for clear communication in Covid times.

Wired magazine gives a perfect example of what can go wrong when individuals rely too heavily on machine translation. Using Google, the translation it provides for ‘wash your hands’ in Japanese is 手を洗いなさい (te o arainasai). Although this would be the appropriate phrasing to use when speaking to a child, it would not be applicable in a formal setting. Subsequently, this translation would be less likely to encourage compliance with rules.

Moreover, the Neural Machine Translation (NMT) provided by the likes of Google Translate and Baidu Translate, can only offer 60-90% accuracy. That’s a pretty significant margin of error to risk in such a serious situation of providing medical advice and safety instructions.

The key to innovation

While the vaccine rollout has undoubtedly put us on the right track for recovery, epidemiologists forecast that the virus will be with us for the foreseeable future. As a result, translation services will continue to play a crucial role in communicating, especially at work!

Although international business relationships used to be built and maintained through face-to-face events and international conferences, these relationships now exist in a virtual space. So, translation services will serve as the key to innovation in work and business, integral for formulating and communicating dynamic and groundbreaking ideas.

So far, Video Remote Interpretation (VRI) and Telephone Interpreting (TI) services have seen a surge in demand since the pandemic began. Arguably, this success is due to their ability to keep things running while adhering to social distancing guidelines and their cost-effective nature. This trend will likely endure throughout the next year and beyond.

Moreover, while Covid-19 has been the catalyst for substantial digital transformation, it has also made waves ripple throughout the workforce. The pandemic has changed the business landscape, and many people are seeking to retrain and enter new careers. Here, translation services will be essential for aiding companies with staff training and e-learning. Providing translation services here will also mean companies can broaden the scope of whom they attract into these new roles.

Final thoughts

One thing is for sure, although the way translation services are delivered has changed, these services are critical for keeping the wheels turning globally.

In the future, these services will remain an indispensable component of the ‘new normal’ and, essentially, act as a way to preserve human connection.

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