Is a translation company still an organization with an important role? Or are all of them getting replaced? To answer these questions, we first must start with another.
What are the languages with the most speakers? This is an easy question to answer. The number one language in the world is English, with 1.4+ billion speakers, both native and non-native, with 372.9 million native speakers. The second language is Mandarin, with over 1.1+ billion speakers and 929 million native speakers. The third one is Hindi, while the fourth one is Spanish, and the fifth one is French. Considering this, why do you need translation? Shouldn’t you just be able to communicate in English, the most spoken language? Couldn’t you train AIs to translate for you, especially between these five top languages? While there are a few languages out there that are spoken the most frequently, it’s not quite so easy. So, translation agencies still has a lot of work to do.
While there are a few languages that make up most of the communication online and in person across the world, each of these is incredibly complicated. A language is a system that is full of nuance and detail, where there are many expressions with different meanings depending on how they are stated or used. The nuances are often difficult to explain, much less turn into code, because they rely on the keen sense of language that we all seem to have naturally but that machines have not yet developed. This is meaningful for fiction and literary writings. However, there is also the work that a technical translator does.
Technical writing and translation are essential because a small mistake or inaccuracy can lead to costly and dangerous problems in real life. Imagine incorrect translations made by IAs that lead to errors in the use of medication, medical equipment, heavy machinery, or many other things that require care and attention.
But coming back to the question of the most popular languages, why not have people learn English or Mandarin? It’s not viable at this point. Products and services that are meant to go to specific markets, as well as artistic projects like series and movies, need to be adapted not just to the culture but also to the language. That is the only way in which people will be able to engage with the works or services that are being offered.
A translation agency in the UK or in the US, as well as anywhere else in the world, is unlikely to run out of work because language plays a huge role in how well we are able to understand what’s in front of us, whether it’s a website, an instructions manual, a novel, or a product with a fun title. And to achieve this connection through language, we need to use translation and find a translator that is aware of all the nuances.
Language is not just about speaking. It’s about understanding the world on a deep level, and this comprehension comes through complex mechanisms that people, for the most part, have an intuitive grasp of, while machines do not. Translation sure seems to be here to stay.