When Sean Hopwood was growing up in Florida in the 1980s, many of his neighbors were from Mexico.
At 8 years old, the young Hopwood taught himself Spanish by listening to Mexican music, conversing with his childhood friends and practicing pronunciation using Spanish language tapes.
“In high school and college, I enrolled in Spanish, French and Arabic classes,” said Hopwood who eventually graduated from the University of South Florida. “I even traveled to Spain to perfect what I’d learned in school.”
After immersing himself in an intensive Arabic course while visiting Fez, Morocco for the summer, Hopwood was sure of his destiny and acted on it. He launched Day Translations in 2007 and never looked back.
“After starting my business, I signed up for courses in Hebrew, Chinese and German simply to expand my knowledge,” Hopwood told Newsmax Finance. “I’ve learned languages mostly through music and intensive language courses, which I believe are the best ways to learn.”
The need for services, such as Day Translations, is on the rise as communication between foreign countries intensifies and the development of artificial intelligence technology accelerates.
“We serve clients in all industries, as well as private individuals and the majority of our revenue comes from law firms and medical institutions out of the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Europe, the UK and other major foreign economies,” said Hopwood.
The global machine translation (MT) market is expected to hit $1.5 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights, Inc., with artificial intelligence fueling the growth.
“AI reduces the cost of translation services and accelerates the process so that the work is completed much more rapidly,” said Jaime Carbonell, director of the Language Technologies Institute, a research initiative that invites collaboration between linguists, computational linguists, single process speech pathologists, computer scientists and engineers of machine learning and software.
“Before clients would only translate higher ticket items but now they are asking for translation services for smaller items such as the instructions that are packaged with electronic products that come from China, India or Japan.”
Players operating online in the MT market include Google, Microsoft, and IBM.
“Translations online can be risky, though, if you don’t know the right provider to use,” Hopwood said. “The Internet has given a platform to anyone with a connection and an idea. Sometimes, it can be hard to know whom to trust when you need accurate documents.”
Although MT is the translation of words by a computer from one language to another, it’s unlikely the translator’s job will be completely eliminated.
“Yes technology is speeding up everything but I don’t think robots will ever deliver a 100% accurate translation like the one delivered by human translators,” said Hopwood.
“Translating doesn’t just involve knowing a language but rather also being familiar with the subject of the text, the dialects spoken by the target audience and the variations in different countries that use the same language.”
A much more realistic threat to the translation services industry is President Donald Trump’s proposed protectionist trade policy and his recently revived Muslim travel ban involving a Supreme Court appeal of the 4th circuit’s ban on blocking the entry of immigrants from six Muslim majority countries.
“If we create trade barriers, then other countries will also impose trade barriers for exports,” Carbonell told Newsmax Finance. “One way this could play out is less demand to translate literature associated with products and services.”
During his campaign, President-elect Trump pledged he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), refuse to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), declare China a currency manipulator and potentially withdraw from the World Trade Organization. Most recently on June 1, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement.
“If there is less freedom of movement and fewer opportunities for immigration, we may see an impact on our certified translations, but we’re not too worried,” said Hopwood. “There will always be a need for translation services in all areas. We have daily requests for certified translations for immigration purposes.”
Communication between foreign countries continues to intensify while the world waits to see if President Trump will follow through on curtailing imports. Regardless, Hopwood isn’t worried about a new trade policy descending upon his steadfast translation business.
“What will have the most impact is technology and our ability to capitalize on it,” Hopwood said. “With the world becoming more and more connected, there will be a higher and stronger demand for translation and localization services than ever before.”
Localization is the process of crafting a message that feels as if it were written for a local audience rather than a translated version of the original. Localization takes into account more than words. As a result, the color scheme, images, date and time format and cultural references will change. In China, more than 90% of iPhone apps are re-written and localized in Mandarin.
“Clients can use our Free Translation app for small translations that they may need, or they can use our services for a more professional and thorough translation, or the localization of their content,” said Hopwood.
Despite the political uncertainty, the ability to translate different languages in specialized fields is keeping Hopwood and the overall translations services industry busy.
Juliette Fairley is an author, lecturer and TV host based in New York.
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