I'm certain that everyone here has noticed the dramatic decrease in the number of jobs lately. I don't know how many legitimate competitors there are to Gengo's business model, but I suspect that, among other reasons, the advent of chatGPT and other accessible AI platforms has a good deal to do with it.

I recently took on a nicely dense job (would have been a good amount of pay), and after researching, checking and re-checking my work, submitted it. Nothing happened for 4 days, but on the 5th day, the customer sent it back with a Revision request, saying that it sounded unnatural and that it was unnecessarily complicated. I would beg to differ, but they weren't challenging the accuracy of the translation. They simply didn't like it, for lack of better terms. The customer went on to say that they had run my translation through an AI, and came back with what they decided was a better translation, more to their liking, and requested that I make it more like theirs (they provided a few examples, but not for the entire job).

After working for a few years in this business, I'd like to say that I've developed a sixth sense in detecting when a job starts to go bad, when a customer begins to feel combative, and that I'm sinking into a deep hole. In that sense, these Revision requests can be a lifeline, because I have the option to decline the job, rather than go down with a sinking ship. However, the downside is obviously that I forfeit my pay. I put in the requisite amount of work, checked and double-checked it, and even ran my translation and the source text through AI to see what results would come out, compared it to mine, and made revisions if I thought the AI came up with something better or a wording that I hadn't thought of.

Despite all that, I decided it was better to decline this job, because I could see the writing on the wall. This customer didn't need to trust that I would do a better, more nuanced translation than an AI. But based on their comments, I felt that they were determined to make me "prove" that I could outdo what they could accomplish in a matter of seconds on their computer.

If this is the attitude that customers have, then maybe it's time to hit the bricks and find a new line of work, because if a guy comes on to the car lot thinking they know more than the salesman, there's no way to make that sale unless you capitulate to the customer's every demand.

I don't blame the customer necessarily for having this attitude, because if the world gives them such tools to wield and abuse, then this is the reality we live in. But I feel that we now have to understand that this is the new normal, and we'd better be prepared for drastically fewer jobs, not only here on Gengo, but in the wider world as well. Because if a good portion of the population looks at AI (as they did with Google Translate and other such tools in an earlier generation) as giving them the upper hand and ability to not have to pay for services, then the providers of that service need to, as Hillary Clinton once conceived, re-educate themselves for a new line of work (she was talking about coal miners, but you get the picture).

I'm betting that more than a few of you out there have been seeing this sort of thing taking place, and are feeling the squeeze. What do you think Gengo and businesses like it should do to adapt (because I seriously doubt that they can survive without making adjustments)? And what do we need to do ourselves?


  • 11
    Facundo Martin Pallero

    Hi there,

    I completely understand your concern and frustration. It's clear that the landscape of our industry is changing, and that presents both challenges and opportunities. I agree with you that Gengo, like any other platform, needs to adapt to these changes in order to survive.

    That being said, you've mentioned a problem that has been present at Gengo way before the advent of AI. We should focus on ensuring translators get paid for their work. Just as with traditional agencies, a customer simply "not liking it" should not be grounds for rejecting a translation or requesting a revision. Traditional agencies charge extra for such changes, and perhaps this is a model we could consider.

    In the traditional model, agencies employ a wide range of workers who provide PMing, proofreading, QA, DTP, and other services to guarantee quality. This model serves large clients who demand top-tier quality, and I haven't observed a decline in this kind of work so far. For now, the issue here at Gengo seems to be with smaller clients who want more than they are willing to pay for or, at worst, clients of any size who simply act in bad faith.

    It would be nice if Lionbridge looked at Gengo's pool of translators for their traditional translation operations. Maybe fostering some movement between the companies could help generate new models that are better adapted to the times, and it would certainly be much deserved for those of us who have collaborated with Gengo for years.

    As for AI's role, it's has been bringing and will continue to bring significant changes to our industry. Larger agencies have been using Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE) for a long time, and post editing distances are getting shorter. In my experience, however, this hasn't been negative. It's created new jobs for people who have to train and calibrate translation engines. And it allows for an increased output, lowering prices for customers while maintaining per-hour rates for translators. Looking ahead, new roles might emerge for translators, perhaps more akin to "AI prompters". It would be interesting to see Gengo explore these new possibilities and roles for its linguists.

    AI, for all its capabilities, still requires human intervention for validation. You need someone who can understand the source and write well in the target language to verify AI's output. If someone has these skills and opts not to pay for a service, that's their prerogative. However, when a client engages a service, they shouldn't whimsically demand alterations based on an AI's output, just as they wouldn't arbitrarily request changes from professionals like architects or lawyers in specialized fields they know nothing about.

    So, it would be beneficial for Gengo to vet its customers more thoroughly. This would ensure that transactions are conducted in good faith, and protect translators from those who might try to take advantage of the system.

    Thank you for starting this important conversation. It's crucial that we discuss these changes and look for ways to adapt and thrive in the new landscape of our industry.

  • 3
    Rica Tero

    Hi @ggggg313, thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts here in the forum. Also, thanks to @Facundo for adding up some meaningful comments in this thread.

    I understand all your sentiments and will share them with the team. We are grateful to both of you for sharing these, as this can help us improve our system processes. Thank you!

Please sign in to leave a comment.