Language as the “New Oil”: How Multilinguality Is Indispensable to Global Activity
A Summary of the Language Industry Round Table
Edited by Hans Fenstermacher and Huang Changqi
In the age of 24/7/365 connectivity, information in the cloud, and mobile access from anywhere, language has become critical to every activity around the globe. Multilinguality is the “New Oil,” the lubricant for all global interactivity; without translation and localization, everything comes to a halt. Some companies have embraced this new context and made language a core requirement for success; others are lagging behind or don’t know how to position themselves.
On May 30, 2014, nearly two dozen business executives from global multinational companies (Accenture, Johnson & Johnson, Huawei), language service and technology suppliers (Lionbridge, SDL, CSOFT, AlphaCRC, Star, China Translation & Publishing Corp., Interverbum, LAN-bridge, Master Translation Service, Moze, WOW translation), and globalization consultancies (Rockant, Localization Institute) gathered in Beijing to share viewpoints on key issues of common concern, examine case studies, and share experiences about the business of language. The Language Industry Round Table was co-hosted by Translators Association of China (TAC) and the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), following their co-organized forum “Language – Key to Global Success”, one of the high-value forums of the China (Beijing) International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) held on May 29 in Beijing.
The Round Table critically explored some key questions about the language industry today. The major questions and takeaways are summarized in a report now available on GALA onDemand.
A summary of the key takeaways are below:
Is the language industry really an “industry?”
Key takeaways: Language service and technology providers need to change their mindset to offer a critical business service (globalization and localization) no different from legal services and design services. We need to emphasize the value of our offerings in terms of outcomes for the clients, not on mechanics of the work. Increased valuation of our contribution will then follow.
Do we really need government recognition as an industry?
Key takeaways: It’s important for policymakers to recognize the language industry for its value and contribution to global success. This sends the right message to global commerce. Collective representation though associations like TAC and GALA is critical to this effort.
What are the characteristics of the new multilingual world?
Key takeaways: The multilingual world is digital. Content and the quantity of devices (especially in the “internet of things”) are forcing us to rethink systems.
What about Machine Translation? What role does that play?
Key takeaways: MT is a trend, not a fad. We must embrace it and understand its limitations and applications. The human-machine hybrid approach is here to stay.
Do customers care how the translation is produced? Do they care about quality?
Key takeaways: The language supply chain may not be the most important thing on clients’ minds. New business models are needed to address clients’ interest in outcomes, rather than process. The concept of “quality” still produces more questions than answers.
Round Table Participants
- Huang Changqi, Assistant to the President, TAC
- Hans Fenstermacher, CEO, GALA
- Ulrich Henes, CEO, Localization Institute
- Kevin Carl, Managing Director, Accenture
- Fred Hua, Beijing Moze International Cultural Company
- Chen Qiaoqiao, Johnson & Johnson, Translation Manager, Medical Writing & Translation Center
- Pollyana (BFSU), translation student
- Michael Li, CTO, SDL China
- Henry Huang, Business Development Director, Lionbridge China
- Li Hongxia, WOW translation company, Nanjing
- David Orban, CEO, dotsub
- Andrew Lawless, CEO, Rockant Training and Consulting
- Bengt Sjögren, CEO, Interverbum Techonology
- Eric Yu, General Manager, Global Tone Communication Technology, Deputy General Manager, China Translation & Publishing Corp.
- Frank Wei, Master Translation Services (MTS)
- Ben Pinney, Director of STEPS, CSOFT
- Peter Stumpf, General Manager, STAR Shanghai
- Michael Zhu, CEO, LAN-Bridge
- Tom Jiang (Jiang Yanfei), Huawei
- Fernando Blasi, AlphaCRC
- Li Jie, AlphaCRC