The Language Industry in the Trump Administration
By: Bill Rivers (Executive Director) - Joint National Committee for Languages & National Council for Languages and International Studies
11 April 2017
Having just returned from my sixth GALA Language of Business Conference in Amsterdam, I’ve had time to reflect on all of the conversations there with GALA members and attendees. One theme recurred: what does the Trump Administration mean for the language industry? More accurately, what do I think it means, given the role I have at the Joint National Committee for Languages, working in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Language Enterprise?
The short answer – that it’s far too early to tell what the impact will be on our industry – doesn’t satisfy, and elides a number of basic underlying factors which drive our businesses.
Two factors stand out. First, the remarkable growth of technology continues apace, as an accelerant to the localization, translation, and increasingly, interpreting workflow, as a tool for quality assurance and quality control, and as a driver of demand for high-quality, high-touch human translation and localization.
In short, the technological transformation of our industry helps align us for continued growth. This isn’t my opinion, so much as an observation based on discussions with many of you and many observers outside of our space.
Second, the global economy as well as the US economy remain fundamentally sound; coupled with the increasing penetration of our industry into new sectors globally and in the US, this implies that overall we will continue to see growth in a space that is far from mature, even if some of our verticals see a downturn.
That doesn’t mean everything is rosy; the political climate in the United States may well deter overseas visitors, which may affect some of our verticals.
Those of us in health care, community, and social service interpreting may feel that this same political climate might turn out to be damaging, but early reports from heathcare-focused LSPs indicate continued growth.
This brings me to a third foundational factor for the US-based parts of the language industry: language access, the civil and constitutional rights behind it, and the demographics triggering it, are unlikely to change substantially, or quickly. There are sound reasons for saying this: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 remains the law of the land, as does the Affordable Care Act. In other words, the obligations required for language access under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and §1557 of the ACA remain. Moreover, as long as social service providers continue to see improved outcomes and reduced costs overall thanks to the provision of language access, they will continue to support it regardless of the legal framework behind it.
What does all of this mean for us as GALA members?
First, it’s vital to stay informed. Sign up for the JNCL-NCLIS newsletter at www.languagepolicy.org for news on policy and advocacy; follow us on twitter @jnclinfo, and follow all of GALA’s feeds.
Second, as always, bring value to our customers and passion to what we do. The Language Enterprise has always been dynamic, innovative, and forward-looking. These qualities will serve us well in the years ahead.
Dr. Bill Rivers serves as the Executive Director of the Joint National Committee for Languages, representing more than 110 organizations from all sectors of the Language Enterprise in Washington, DC. A long-time researcher, strategic planner, and business leader, he advocates for language with the US Government and the business community. Having received his Ph.D. in Russian, Dr. Rivers has lived and worked in more than 20 countries.