How Does the New Age of Protectionism Affect the Translation Industry?
There’s certainly no doubt that the concept of protectionism – especially in the United States and United Kingdom – is being taken to a whole new level. Nations around the world are rapidly moving forward, putting plans into action to do what they feel is right for the future of their country, and in the case of the US and the UK, this means a greater level of isolation, and a distinct lack of global outreach.
In the United States, Trump’s vision for an ‘American America’ means that, realistically, we need to consider how the US turning its back on the rest of the world could impact certain sectors. It is, of course, reasonable to assume that recruitment and hospitality could be greatly affected, but there are other, not-so-obvious industries which could experience a massive shake-up, too, such as translation.
In the United Kingdom, the situation is remarkable similar. The British people voted to leave the EU; a decision which still isn’t entirely understood in terms of its impact, as this is something that has never been done before. The aim of Brexit is to free the UK from the EU ‘open door’ policy, closing the nation off from the rest of Europe. This is expected to have a big impact upon the UK’s relationship with its neighbors.
Uncertainty in the Translation Sector
The United States and United Kingdom have the highest number of native English speakers in the world, so it’s possible that, should these two nations turn away and close themselves off, the importance of the English language on a global scale will drastically diminish. In fact, should the UK be successful in moving off on its own, there will no longer be any EU member states that have declared English as an official language (and no, we didn’t forget Ireland and Malta – they opted to formally register Gaelic and Maltese respectively as their official languages for EU Commission purposes).
On the surface, it is easy to think that, during a time of such uncertainty, the effects of the new age of protectionism on the translation industry would be largely up in the air. However, by considering how needs are likely to change as a result of the implementation of new measures for protectionism, it appears that specific communication skills, such as quality translation services, will be in high demand. It is anticipated that such changes could play a key role in making the translation industry stronger, although the sector will need to evolve to stay on top of the latest translation trends and requirements.
The Future of Translation in the UK
With a diminished importance and focus on the English language, there is the potential for a number of new investments to be made in non-English speaking countries, resulting in a raised number of requirements for non-English translations. In the UK specifically we can expect an influx of new trade agreements outside the EU, leading to more work in more diverse languages; languages that may be more unfamiliar and may require expert translation skills.
We are already witnessing businesses pulling out of the UK due to the possibility of regulation changes; after 122 years of trading in the United Kingdom, costume firm Smiffys moved its headquarters to Europe following the vote, and earlier this year Microsoft announced plans to pull its UK-based setups over future uncertainty. Perhaps some of the biggest changes so far, however, have involved US banks like JP Morgan potentially moving operations away from London. JP Morgan has reportedly considered moving staff to Ireland, Germany, and Luxembourg, which would increase the need for translation services in other languages.
We must also consider the possibility of foreign students moving out of the UK. While they may not be granted permission to study in the country, we cannot – and should not – be removing access to quality education. Students studying English as a second language, or students choosing to study separate subject matter through an English medium, will likely require translation services in their native language if they are to continue with their studies from alternative, overseas institutions.
The Risk of Brexit
The biggest risk to the translation industry as a result of Brexit will undoubtedly lie in the loss of EU translation requirements. More translation and interpretation is undertaken in English by the European Commission than in any other language. Should the requirement for English translation be significantly reduced, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation, which employs 500 full time translators and an additional 200 freelancers, could cut jobs dramatically, and a reduction in the £800m per year spent on translation by the EC could significantly hinder the future growth of the industry.
The Future of Translation in the US
In the United States, the situation is a little different. Prior to the Trump Presidency, the US translation industry was anticipated to be the fastest growing sector, creating more than 12,000 new jobs between 2014-2019. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also expected 29% industry growth in the 10 years from 2014. Of course, the driving force behind these predictions was the growing number of non-English speakers in the US, but with Trump’s plans to address immigration, this may no longer be the case.
However, at the same time, the shutting down of the Offshoring Act is encouraging more and more US-based global corporations to seek administrative support – including translation services – on their home turf, which could be a good sign that the US translation sector is still on track for growth.
On a more lighthearted note, translators around the world are said to be rolling in job opportunities following Trump’s inauguration, with Government agencies and media sources requiring the most talented language experts to provide localized translations of Trump’s comments! The President’s rather… shall we say ‘unorthodox’... methods of communication – his blunt, straight-to-the-point, and sometimes a little offensive comments – are proving to be somewhat of a challenge to translate into other languages, with the sometimes-rude undertones being amplified with direct translations.
The Evolution of Translation
There is absolutely no doubt that this new age of protectionism is going to have a significant effect on translation services, not only in the United States and United Kingdom, but across the world. However, it would be irresponsible to say that these effects are going to be wholly negative. While there are risks, and there is definitely a degree of uncertainty, it is also possible that the translation industry could use this as a chance to grow, and take advantage of new opportunities that are undoubtedly going to arise in different areas of translation. If the translation industry can adapt, there is no reason why it can’t thrive.
Teck Language Solutions Inc. with seat in Miami, FL, provides professional translations in numerous language combinations, including all languages of the EU and all major languages. More information: www.teck-translations.com
Teck Language Solutions, Inc.
444 Brickell Avenue, Suite 51132
Miami, FL 33131, USA
phone: (786) 408-5672
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