The Findings from the Translation Technology Insights 2020 survey and its implications for the industry

This is a guest post from one of's advertising partners, RWS Group.

In 2016, RWS took the pulse of the translation industry in a large, in-depth survey - the Translation Technology Insights (TTI) survey, and in the years since, we’ve been exploring these findings to build on our understanding of the industry we serve.

In late 2019, we launched a new evaluation - partly to return to some of the findings from the 2016 TTI to see if anything had significantly changed, and partly to address some of the new perspectives that have arisen in the years since. In this article, I am going to briefly outline some of the top findings made when we re-took the pulse of the industry four years on.

Group of people working with laptops, tablet and smartphones together and making financial report

The 2020 Translation Technology Insights survey scope

We invited thousands of translation participants to complete an online survey and over 3000 responded from 111 countries. Thank you all so much for your input.

We had three groups of respondents:

  • Freelance translators – 75%
  • Language service providers – 10%
  • Corporate translation teams – 15%

Right from our initial figures, it was immediately noticeable how experienced the survey participants were, with 64% having spent more than 10 years in the industry, and 81% having a total of 5 or more year’s industry experience. This pattern held true for all three of our respondent groups, although more strongly for freelancers. These figures were an excellent indication that our respondents could provide valuable insight on how the industry and its challenges have changed and evolved over the last decade.

The pressure and the complexity to grow

We asked our participants about the changes they had experienced in the last 12 months, and across the board, all had experienced an increase in workload and pressure. Demand has increased across all axes of the translation workflow, but it is the increase in the number of project files that has been deemed the biggest change.

As a result of this, translation professionals have been finding the need to scale, change their processes and even widen their capabilities to cope. Many insisted they needed to do all three at once, and it is this sustained pressure everywhere that appears to be so pervasive in the industry.  

Where do translation professionals feel the most pressure?

The results from our 2016 survey revealed that quality was considerably more important than speed and cost, yet there was a noticeable change in our new 2020 survey which indicated that translators clearly feel that cost and speed are much greater sources of pressure for them now.

This finding doesn’t necessarily negate the expectation of quality, but rather the indication is that quality is now simply expected by clients, and it is the tightening of purses and time-frames that has been felt the most by our respondents. Get it done quickly... and cheaply too.

So the pressure to deliver quick and cost-effective translations, with no sacrifice of quality, has been a challenge, no question - but why has expectation evolved in this manner?

Our research has revealed that the main components driving this change are as follows:

  • A wider range of content needs translating now
  • Translation is now required for a wider range of channels
  • Different and new file types need translating
  • More languages need translating than ever before


How to meet these new challenges

Almost three-quarters of our respondents acknowledge that they need to improve and adapt their ways of working, with LSPs and corporates being at the sharp end of the percentage, stating that they were planning to make changes to their workflows in the next 12 months.

Inescapably, we live in a technology-driven world, and the translation industry, in particular, has not been shy about embracing industry-specific technology to improve translation quality and productivity. To be specific, 64% of our total respondents expressed that they are going to adopt the use of more translation software in the future. 

But what kind of tools are translation professionals looking to invest in this year? We asked our survey participants to choose up to three categories of translation software (from those they’re not already using) as their next step towards meeting the growing challenges – can you guess the responses?

Terminology management was the top choice for both corporates and freelancers, (42% and 50% consecutively of those not using it) with machine translation being the top choice for LSPs (50% of those not using it). These findings indicate that maintaining translation consistency across all levels of business and the ability to translate much higher volumes of work are the most prevalent concerns for today’s industry.


Technology should be empowering

Back in 2016, our original survey found that only 50% of respondents felt they knew how to get the most out of their translation productivity tools, and this is no surprise. The more sophisticated technology becomes, the more users are going to require help to understand it and get their desired results from it.


In our recent survey, we asked what translation technology providers should be doing to help today’s translation professionals and, unsurprisingly, making the technology easier to use topped the charts. Offering greater levels of support came in second, which further emphasized how technology needs to be sophisticated, yet equally intuitive, to make for happy users.


Ultimately, technology should empower the people who use it. Translation project managers, for example, often want to spend less time doing administrative tasks and seek out technology to help with this so they can spend more time building relationships with their clients, and freelance translators want to be able to translate quicker, so rely on technology like translation memories to remove the need for repeating the same translations in different documents.


Different professionals want different things, so there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model to drop in the industry’s lap. Cloud technology in particular has been a great cause for debate, with some translation professionals championing its use and some showing considerable resistance.


RWS and cloud-based working

The benefits that cloud-based working gives its users, such as the flexibility in how and where you work is a very attractive model for those who appreciate a more transient way of working, and, interestingly, it was our corporate participants who demonstrated the biggest interest in potentially working in a purely cloud environment.

Overall, however, there was a resounding preference for the proposal of ‘hybrid’ working; the ability to opt between working online in the cloud and offline in the more traditional on-premise desktop environment. This potential hybridized method of working was most enthusiastically embraced by our LSP respondents, with 65% stating that it was the model they would invest in today. 

The resounding preference across the industry for the ability to choose is something that the RWS team has listened to intently, and with the upcoming release of Trados Studio 2021users will have the option to work with Trados Live, our new, integrated and secure cloud option. Studio patrons will be able to move seamlessly between working offline on desktop or online in their browser, providing them with the opportunity to work on an array of devices and in the setting of their choice.

Learn more about Trados Studio 2021 and Trados Live in this easy-to-digest preview brochure.


The impact of machine translation

With the recent advancements in neural machine translation there has been a divide in how this technology has been received. Is this a threat to translators’ livelihoods? Or a tool that frees them to focus on more nuanced, transcreation work that machines cannot handle?


This is an ongoing debate, yet our findings from four years ago suggest that only 26% of translation professionals feel that machine translation threatens their existence. We also found that translation professionals who had utilized machine translation and witnessed first-hand the amount of time it saves and the higher volumes of work it enabled them to get through had a much more positive opinion of it. Have you tried it yet?


Download our full Translation Technology Insights report below to discover, in full detail, what new challenges are being faced by the industry, what this might mean for its future, and how cultivating a human-centric approach to technology can help you stay ahead.


Topics: translator tools, translation industry, language industry, productivity, guest post, machine translation, technology, terminology management

RWS Group

Written by RWS Group

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