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Last month, many of us shared our personal and professional aspirations for 2021 in a post which you can read here. This month, we’d like to take a look at the wider industry and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities for translators in 2021. 

 

Despite a challenging 2020, one of the most encouraging things that we have seen in the last year has been the level of international cooperation in areas such as scientific research and health care, something which can only be a positive development for those of us working with languages. Other key areas for growth that are relevant to translators are new forms of entertainment and interaction. E-commerce has, unsurprisingly, become huge in the last twelve months, and with online shopping becoming increasingly international in character, this seems likely to be an area in which multilingual content becomes more and more important, particularly for companies looking to reach new or emerging markets. Streaming services have also experienced significant growth in recent months, and with services like Netflix providing us with more international series than ever (plus foreign-language series becoming more mainstream), it seems fair to say that this will lead to new opportunities for subtitlers. Video game translation and localisation is another promising avenue of activity. 

 

At the same time, many of the social and economic changes of the last year have posed new challenges for translators. With increasing numbers of people now looking for work-from-home opportunities, it seems fair to expect that competition for freelance work of any variety will be tougher. In addition to this, many businesses are now operating under restrictions or working to a reduced capacity, and this decrease in commercial activity is likely to have a knock-on effect on other industries, including translation, as well as impacting on the wider economy. Finally, there is the ever-present spectre of machine translation hovering over our industry. Artificial intelligence is disrupting virtually every area of life, and translation is no exception to this rule. With technology redefining the role of humans in many industries, we have to consider that the overall character of the translation industry is likely to change, as will so many other aspects of life.

 

Translators tend to be creative and highly adaptable people who are good at seeing every angle of a situation. What’s your take on the challenges and opportunities that 2021 could bring?

4 comments

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    rocypa

    I think that that the tendency to 2021 will be to increase the number of people who are working at home. Not only because of the coronavirus disease but also because the costs become lower and people become more productive.

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    Katrina Paterson

    Yes, it certainly seems like home working is a huge trend at the moment! However, I also wonder whether people will start to miss working in physical offices from the point of view of being in close proximity to colleagues and having more of a social environment. Do you think that co-working spaces, or office spaces that are rented on a flexible basis, might become more of a reality, too? I wonder whether we might start to see more of a 'hybrid' model where people work two or three days a week from home, and then work the other days in a more 'office-like' environment. If this were the case, then companies would not need to rent expensive city centre premises, and instead they could hire smaller spaces on a more short-term basis, but still have the advantage of being able to meet with their teams, share ideas, and work on projects together.

    I feel that maybe offices will continue to exist, to a certain extent, but not in the same way that we're used to. What do you think? 

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    gunnarbu

    I think that after the pandemic many will return to the traditional office, but at the same time an increasing number will choose more hybrid solutions like Katrina says. There is a lot of money to be saved in office space costs here - specially with free seating. When home office becomes too permanent employers are faced with  a lot of new cahallenges like who is responsible for good ergonomics in the home office, do the work insurance schemes sufficiently cover work from home, how can you monitor that the work from home is efficient etc. I am all for both home office and a hybrid model, but I suspect that company and national rules and regulations are lagging behind in such an evolution. Gunnar.

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    Katrina Paterson

    I think the question of what the offices of the future (if there are offices) will look like is fascinating, as is the question of what the cities of the future will look like. As you say, Gunnar, the concept of home working has not really taken off until many of us were forced to do so because of the conditions of the pandemic, but a lot of people are saying that these conditions have merely accelerated a change in working habits that was inevitably going to happen anyway. I'm not sure whether I entirely believe this, but there's no doubt that our work places have changed now. As you say, I can see how working from home raises a lot of questions about who is responsible for a home worker's set-up, and also for how they conduct their work during the day. This last point is fascinating, I feel, because it seems like a lot of people are saying that they have never been more productive now that they're working from home, but then others say that it's difficult to focus in the same way and that with home working, the boundaries between work and private life are a lot harder to draw. I think the question of how to train up and integrate new employees on a remote basis is also one that is very important, and that I think we'll hear more about as time goes on.

    It will also be interesting to see what happens to city centres if either home working or hybrid working continues to be the norm. Although some people of course live in city centres, it seems that for the large part these places are geared up for office workers and for services connected to these workers, such as sandwich shops that service people working in office blocks. If there is a permanent move towards working from home then I think it will have a knock-on effect on a lot of industries, and on the general character of city centres. On the other hand, though, there's also talk that people will become more locally-minded in their shopping habits and in their socialising, which is probably good for those running small businesses, and also for the environment, of course. Perhaps we will see a revitalisation of the suburbs, even if not the urban centres.  

    As you say, Gunnar, a lot of these questions remain to be resolved, and it will be really interesting to see what developments are still ahead of us. Thanks as always for your kind comment and your reflections!

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