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Trends in Translation: AI is Here, but Transcreation is on the Rise

According to independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA), the global translation industry is set to grow to USD 56.18 billion by 2021. For an insight into the form this growth is most likely to take, the Budapest Business Journal spoke to a couple of industry experts.

Tünde Gál-Berey, founder and CEO of  Villam Language Services.

Founded in 1990, Mother Tongue, an international translation agency with offices in London, Long Beach California and Singapore primarily works with advertising and marketing clients directly and through agencies.

The company’s core services are transcreation, translation, community management, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) translation, voice-over and audio and video production as well as some content production.

Transcreation is adapting a message from one language to another while sticking as closely as possible to the original tone of voice. It’s primarily used in marketing and carried out by writers with a background in writing for a particular sector.

Community management is related to social media. If a company or organization operates social media channels in a number of languages but doesn’t have the capacity to manage these and engage with users in their own language, Mother Tongue will do so.

For James Bradley, operations director of Mother Tongue, the trends to watch are machine translation, increasing integration of systems and greater supply chain transparency.

“Everyone’s talking about artificial intelligence and machine translation and where they fit,” he says. “They are driving the increasing commoditization of translation, for example, for big, international brands who constantly need large volumes of content in other languages. This is driving down pricing for simple translation,” he explains.

“But, done properly, transcreation is as much a creative act as conceptualizing a product and developing marketing around it. So, although AI is the long dark cloud that hangs over our entire industry, I’d say the day that more creative translation becomes purely mechanical is a long way off.”

The other two trends Bradley identifies are influenced by the rise of machine translation.

Pain Point

“A big pain point in any translation or localization project is how you move content around in an efficient way between languages and platforms, so you need to have good ecosystems. Companies like Mother Tongue are exploring the most efficient ways to create these,” he says. Bradley says he is also seeing a response to greater automation but in the opposite direction.

“In the past, translation was a bit of a black box. Clients gave us source copy and it came back translated. They didn’t concern themselves with what was going on inside the agency. Increasingly, we’re finding that clients want to know who the individual writers working on their account are. Previously, we would have resisted this to prevent our translators being poached. But, now we’re aware our clients understand that getting a good service also means working with great project and relationship managers, we encourage supply chain transparency.”

How about the growth in transcreation? “Up to a point, there is greater demand for transcreation from clients. But it’s also being pushed by agencies as a response to the commoditization of translation. Traditional agencies know they need to offer something other than just word for word translation. Transcreation is one way to deliver something machines can’t do.”

One agency growing the transcreation side of its business is Budapest-based Villam Language Services. Founded by Tünde Gál-Berey, the company has more than 1,400 translators on its books. The agency offers translation from and into Hungarian as well as language pairs. It also offers data extraction services.

The Villam Language Services approach is to use its website as a webstore where clients order translations with fees calculated automatically. These clients are mainly SMEs in the business, legal and medical sectors.

Although 90% of the agency’s business comes from translation, Villam Language Services also offers interpretation services as part of a framework agreement with certain clients but doesn’t actively promote these. But it is beginning to raise the profile of its transcreation service.

Taking Time to Fly

As Gál-Berey explains, “We offer transcreation for Hungarian companies wanting to market themselves globally. While transcreation is not new, it’s taken time for companies here to realize that this is what they want, especially if it’s related to marketing. It was initially a challenge to sell transcreation, but we now have some pilot projects.”

Why was it such a challenge? “Hungarian companies are used to working with prices for translation that are calculated per character – usually HUF 4 per character, including spaces – but transcreation is priced per project, based on an hourly rate and works out as more expensive. We had to convince Hungarian companies that transcreation really can add value. To sell it, I had to place the price somewhere between translation and interpretation.”

Villam’s target audience for transcreation is Hungarian companies that sell their products online to an international audience. She begins by selecting between five and 10 translators for a project and asks them to provide an example of their writing. From these, the client chooses two or three writers. These are then trained in the company’s products and culture onsite. They will write social media posts and advertising, blog posts and interviews.

Although Villam Language Services is changing its approach, there’s no question that the translation industry in Hungary faces the same challenges as it does globally.

“It’s at our door as well,” Gál-Berey says. “We’re starting a machine translation pilot project with a Hungarian university and looking at where it can fit into our business model. But there always be a huge client base for transcreation and other value-added services such as offering expert advice.”

Find out more about Villam Language Services at villamtranslation.com and Mother Tongue at mothertongue.com.