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The End of the Translation World as We Know it
December 14, 2012 - By: - In: Translation - 24 comments

Since it’s the world is scheduled to end next week with the end of the current Mayan b’ak’tun ,  I thought it would be a good time to make some predictions about the future of the translation business.

You may have heard that the ancient priest kings of the Yucatán predicted the end of the b’ak’tun to fall on Dec 21 this year. And since that marks the end of time, it’s a red-letter day of doom for the human race. So I wanted to do my business planning while I still had a chance.

So, in keeping with the apocalyptic spirit of the season, I thought  the best way to read the fortunes of the translation business would be with some Mayan-style priestly divination. But then I was having trouble finding stingray spines, which made me think about where I would have to stick them if I did find them, and, I started having second thoughts.

Plus, the translation business already has a high priest, Kirti Vashee of Asia Online and the eMpTy Pages translation technology blog.

So I skipped the blood-letting and sat down with Kirti in his sacred cenote, where we took turns blowing powdered hallucinogenic mushrooms in each other’s face while we talked shop. Or maybe I saw that in a movie, and just cribbed all the translation stuff from his last post… I’m not sure. (I was hallucinating, for Pete’s sake.)

Kirti tosses a handful of copal on the brazier, and through the sacred smoke a glimpse of the translation future appears, a monstrous shadow flickering on the wall of Kirti’s cave, this  navel in the center of the world.

He proposes that the translation business is no longer intermittent for most business purchasers. The old “localize it and forget about it” strategy no longer applies. Multilingual communication is now a two-way street, an open channel.

More content is getting translated. And since translation decisions are no longer being made top-down, technology makes it easy for everyone to participate and drives translation efforts.

Automation and collaboration will increase. Automation is more than just machine translation. It will all be about streaming content through creative and distribution channel.

Kirti waves his sting-ray spine. “And everything is going to be in the cloud.:

I look up from my own jabbing. “Everything is already in the cloud, Kirti.”

“My point exactly.” Deep.

These are known knowns, shared beliefs. Kirti has a lot more to say on his blog, with summary of the thinking of many industry opinion leaders. Very nicely done and worth a read.

Kirti claims that to meet these challenge requires an agility the industry is currently lacking. The old project management model is becomes a model of process integration, heavy on collaboration and automation.

Lean, quick, and cost-effective is the future, and innovation is coming outside the industry. This compared to ” the traditional LSP sales and TEP process hype, where the customer is often treated like an idiot that needs to be slapped into shape.”

What!!?? Talk about a buzz-kill. Traditional LSP sales hype is my core competency. But I haven’t yet managed to slap any customers into shape. Often overlooked in analysis of the translation business is project manager value-added. The partnership that emerges between client and PM take a long time to develop. The stickiness of these relationships is the source of the only profit and pleasure this business affords. Customer experience is the brand builder, Service is what a service business is all about.

But on the other hand, the end of the world tends to minimize the importance of customer retention.

I’d write more on this, but time is running out. Best wishes for the end of the cycle on 13.0.0.0.0, (Dec. 21st) and a happy new …. umm… never mind.

Apocalypto, Mel Gibson’s version of the last Mayan apocolypse, is spoken entirely in Yucatec by a very talented amateur Mayan cast.

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