How language intelligence affects the interpreting market

Nimdzi, an international market-research consultancy that surveys the entire language-services industry, recently released the Nimdzi Interpreting Index 2019, in which Semantix is ranked as one of the Top 5 Global Interpreting Leaders. The report ranks the biggest players in the industry, as well as giving details of the size of the interpreting market and summarising what is currently going on in this market.

Jellyfish lit up by neon lights

The key buyers of interpreting services are sectors such as immigration, MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), justice systems, government and healthcare – sectors you might not associate with technological advances. However, looking at the report you will find several signs of the emergence of the use of language intelligence within the interpreting market. In this blog post we have summarised three manifestations of this.

1. The rise of Virtual Interpreting Technology (VIT)

It is becoming more and more common for interpreting customers to take advantage of VIT, and the technology is starting to shape the market in various ways. Most big interpreting companies have introduced remote interpreting of some sort. Currently, over-the-phone interpreting still dominates the remote market, but Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is gradually becoming more common. By making it possible to read visual cues, VRI enables users to take in a wider range of human interactions.

The advantages of VIT include facilitation of interpreting at smaller meetings for which interpreting services would previously have been too expensive or technically impossible. Another advantage is that it allows interpreters to provide their services across time zones. In short, VIT facilitates affordable solutions that can increase efficiency and be used in new ways.

2. Machine interpreting becoming a reality

Machine interpreting, also known as automated interpreting, is no longer just a notion. Whilst machine interpreting isn’t as advanced as machine translation just yet, it has developed a lot. The technology still has its minor problems, but it exists and works, and some solutions are even available on the market for free. One example is Google Translatotron, a system that can directly translate speech from one language into speech in another language, without any interim conversion into an intermediate text, as has previously been the case. Furthermore, the system translates not only the words coming out of your mouth but also the tone and cadence of your voice. So far you might not get a fully accurate interpreting, but in informal settings it might still be useful. And one thing you can be sure of is that the technology will continue to evolve and improve. This is an area it will certainly be interesting to follow.

3. The consumer market as a forerunner

In Japan there has been a great deal of technology hype in the interpreting market. With the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in mind, several language‑technology companies have started to turn to the Japanese market, targeting individual consumers rather than the public sector or private companies. This is quite an unusual trend, but according to Nimdzi the reason is most likely twofold:

  • Japan is a country where the use of modern technology is widespread. Japanese people tend to really enjoy having the latest gadgets, and language technology is no exception.

  • Japan is still a mainly monolingual society. However, tourism is expanding, and with the Olympic Games coming up, tourism is expected to increase even more. The call for on‑demand language solutions will most likely increase in line with the growth in tourism.

This combination of circumstances has given rise to a boom in machine‑interpreting devices. Only time will tell whether the hype will last, and whether this is a development that will spread across the globe and into the public and private sector.

To sum up, language as a strategic asset is assuming more and more guises, and if there is one thing you can be sure of, it is that the technology will continue to develop at a fast pace.

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