A Decade in Review: The Language Services Industry and the 2010s

A Decade in Review: The Language Services Industry and the 2010s

A Decade in Review: The Language Services Industry and the 2010s 2560 1707 Atomic Scribe

Welcome to 2020! To celebrate, let’s looks back on how the 2010s changed the language services industry, for the better and worse.

The Rise of Machine Translation and Transcription

One of the biggest impacts on the language services industry in the 2010s was the growing use and accuracy of machine-generated transcriptions and translations. Companies, freelancers, and consumers can use software (like Google Translate) for free or very cheap to get language services, and many companies are developing their own software. Even here at Atomic Scribe we’ve introduced an automatic transcription option for $1/audio minute that combines human quality with machine efficiency.

The good news is that this is helping speed up services, and a lot of software is widely accessible. The bad news is that the accuracy for most files and texts is nowhere near 100%, which can especially be worrisome if the software is used on medical records, legal documents, or other files that need to be correct. It’s also hard for software to offer nuance and localization instead of a direct translation of content, which can cause problems (like in the case of Norway’s Olympic team mistakenly ordering 15,000 eggs).

So what can we expect next? The use of such services will surely rise, though some fear that computers will erase humans from the equation entirely in this service sector. Fortunately, the ability for machines to be 100% accurate on every transcription and translation is far from a reality, as humans are still needed to ensure accuracy. But we can leverage the positives of this software to help human workers perform better and more efficiently.

Increased Outsourcing

Outsourcing for transcription and translation definitely grew in the 2010s. However, where it grew to is troubling to some.

With the internet making communication so easy, globalization is taking hold in the language services industry as well. While before companies would outsource to local U.S.-based companies, now many are finding much cheaper alternatives in countries like India and the Philippines. Some U.S. companies are also using non-American labor that they pay peanuts to avoid having to pay Americans a living wage. While that’s great for a company’s bottom line, U.S. workers and service accuracy is suffering.

Take Rev, a popular company in the industry that was recently exposed for their poor pay and treatment of workers. While this allows them to charge little for their services, it also means their quality is far below Atomic Scribe’s, and that their workers have little incentive to do proper work. Unfortunately, the lowering of rates was a common theme throughout the decade, but it was promising to see more speak out about workers’ rights.

“We suggest building a relationship with a business or freelancer that you get to know, can hold accountable for their work, and that you trust.”

“We suggest building a relationship with a business or freelancer that you get to know, can hold accountable for their work, and that you trust.”

Loss of Quality Control

The problem with outsourcing on the internet is that it requires a great deal of trust. If you pay a company to translate an English advertisement into Korean, you need to trust that they will provide you a translation that is both accurate and localized. So how do you know it is correct if you don’t speak Korean and have no means to double check the work?

That should be a question we all have in mind in the 2020s, because the standards for quality control are diminishing. While now the cheapest option is usually seen as the best, that means there is likely no or little money spent on a second editor or translator checking the accuracy of a translation.

Because of this, we suggest building a relationship with a business or freelancer that you get to know, can hold accountable for their work, and that you trust. A nameless person behind a huge company that is paid very little has no incentive to provide you great work. But someone you trust and can speak with and ask questions about their work will.

Easier Access to Services

So far everything we have reviewed has had both positives and negatives. However, we will always celebrate how the 2010s ushered in a new wave of accessibility for those seeking translation and transcription services.

For example, while there is still work to do, YouTube provided an option of captions on their videos. This has helped Deaf and hard-of-hearing people enjoy more videos, and it makes translating of content easier. Google Translate has also been successful at helping people with basic translations or has been used by travelers to foreign countries. This helps with communication and accessibility worldwide.

As we’ve said, accuracy is still an issue. But the increased normalization and importance of accessibility is helping people worldwide, and we hope this trend will grow exponentially in the 2020s.