Translation trends for 2020

Four areas to watch over the next 12-months

It’s that time of year again where we look at the trends that are shaping both the localisation sector and where translation is set to make an impact over the next 366 days (2020’s a leap year if you didn’t know already!)

In their annual survey, The Association for Translation Companies (ATC), in association with Nimdzi Insights, reported that the global translation and localisation market had reached 35 billion GBP in 2018, and although it’s growing at a slightly lower rate of 5.52% per annum than in previous years, it’s still an industry to be reckoned with.

At the start of the year, we identified the following as the translation trends to watch in 2019

  • Blockchain
  • AI
  • Collaboration for Standardisation
  • Specialisation vs. diversification
  • Interpreting technologies

Although some of them are still paving the way as we go into the next decade, it’s also clear that technologies like Blockchain still have a long way to go before they stop being a buzzword and can be utilised across the whole industry.

So, what’s next for the industry?

Technology plays such a huge part of everyday life for localization professionals and the future of our industry truly depends on how well we, as a community, adapt to new innovations. In fact, the theme of next year’s Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) conference is “Globalization 4.0: Shaping the Future of the Language Industry.”

In their call for papers, GALA continue to promote collaboration across the industry, stating:

“instead of just adapting and adopting, we can drive the future and have a say in the creation of the processes and tools of our trade.”

This was also supported at a translation technology round table hosted by the Localization Institute, where WeLocalize reported the following:

“We came to the conclusion that in the next 10 years, translation tools will disappear into other technologies such as Content Management Systems (CMS) as a subfunction of a greater offering.”

It’s developments like this that excite us here at Ultimate Languages and we look forward to hearing similar ideas and developments at the San Diego conference in March, including an overdue update from GALA’s TAPICC initiative which we reported on in last year’s trends.

We have picked out four areas where tech is sure to make an impact on the localisation of content for organisations worldwide.

  • Multimedia translation
  • Multilingual customer support
  • Speech technology
  • Domain adaptive neural machine translation

Let’s look at each of them in more detail now.

Multimedia translation

As highlighted in this year’s ATC survey of the UK language industry, “organisations digitize their content to make it readily available to their consumer base regardless of language or location”.

As part of this digitisation, there has been a huge increase in the need to localise multimedia content such as eLearning modules, video and mobile applications. This is an area that is sure to grow in 2020.

“According to Cisco, by 2021, 80% of all traffic online will be from videos”

“Around 85% of the video content on Facebook is often played without sound, meaning subtitling is essential.” Wordstream

“According to Forbes, the market for e-learning will be worth $355 billion in 2025”

It’s a guarantee that the need for multimedia translation will continue to grow, but organisations must think about this strategically – always taking the end-user in mind from both a language and culture perspective.

To maximise ROI it is important that content is carefully selected by region, purpose and audience. In our experience, it may also be necessary to adapt the source content prior to localisation to ensure a truly local UX.

Multilingual customer support

Anyone involved in sales or account management knows that it costs significantly less to generate business growth from existing customers than it does to acquire new ones.

As international businesses grow, therein lies the challenge of keeping a global customer base happy.

Truly global companies already have a multilingual strategy in place to deliver high-quality customer support, so to keep up with the competition this is one area to focus your attention on in 2020.

Example touchpoints

  • Knowledgebase
  • Communities/forums
  • Real-time chat/chatbots
  • Ticketing systems
  • Email marketing
  • Social media
  • Customer service centres

The first place to start is to map all the touchpoints that your customers come across when interacting with your organisation. The next step is to use data to identify trends between your global customers and these touchpoints. Then, come up with the best approach based on either language or content type. Find the right balance! Finally, decide where technology can be applied to the localisation process to help streamline translation.

Speech technology

We touched up speech technology in our 2019 trends in relation to AI, but this tech is really coming into its own.

Areas we think that are set to grow over the next twelve months are voice search and speech to speech translation.

There are many predictions around how fast voice search will grow, however, the reality is that it hasn’t really gained the traction that people expected. At Ultimate Languages, we believe that this is set to change since more and more languages and local accents are being added to popular voice search assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. We’ve summarised the latest array of languages per assistant in the table below thanks to

It’s important to note though, that voice SEO is considerably different from traditional on-page SEO. We see that there will be a need for both in-house digital marketing teams and specialist agencies to invest a lot of time and effort into not only understanding the algorithms behind voice search but how best to optimise this for their potential global audience.

2020 will also see the 32nd Olympic Games be held in Tokyo, Japan. Over the last four years, there has been a considerable amount of time and resources invested in translation and interpretation ahead of the games to ensure that both athletes and audiences can manoeuvre around Japan with a little more ease. This is where speech-to-speech translation comes in, particularly in the form of wearable technologies such as Pocketalk and Arrows Hello.

And if you haven’t seen it already, Microsoft’s festive advertisement spreads season’s greetings in multiple languages – including Reindeer! – through the promotion of their own speech-to-speech advancements as we close the year. Check out the heart-warming clip below.

Domain adaptive neural machine translation

Another AI application we briefly touched upon in our last trend report was neural machine translation (NMT). This time we’re going to focus in on one area of NMT which looks set to shake up the machine translation space in 2020; domain-adaptive systems.

“Neural Machine Translation with an automated customisation using domain-specific corpora, also known as the domain adaptation” (Intento, 2018)

Domain-adaptive NMT is proving to be a much more cost-effective and efficient solution for companies looking to investigate machine translation as part of their localisation strategies. Before several MT vendors started to work on domain-adaptive systems, custom-built NMT engines were considered the “most reliable” solution for adopting MT processes, but with this came a cost.

The table below is taken from a report published by Intento in November 2018, which was the first independent comparison of domain adaptive NMT systems. The table illustrates a few benefits of selecting a domain-adaptive model, which we think will drive more organisations to investigate this latest incarnation of NMT over the next year.

And there we have it! Our top four things to keep an eye on over the coming months when it comes to translation and localisation. If you have your own trends or predictions that we haven’t mentioned then please comment below or send us an email at

If any of these areas are of interest to you and your organisation and want to know more, then do not hesitate to contact a member of the Ultimate team and we will be able to support your international growth in 2020.

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