Many countries in the world continue to suffer from the effects of COVID-19 and the widespread impact of the pandemic on their economies. But how can businesses get along with this situation?
Many people have lost their jobs and businesses have closed amid the coronavirus outbreak. Despite these closures, there are a few bright spots on the horizons. One is adaptation of businesses to allow and encourage working from home.
Another is the increasing use of new tools and services for digital commerce and online marketing. We’ll focus on the fast-growing niche of language tools and services – specifically localization, translation and interpretation – which promise growth for businesses and employment for citizens.
Localization, Translation and Interpretation – How Do These Fields Differ?
The terms localization, translation and interpretation are often used interchangeably. All are concerned with the conversion of content from one place or language to another. Localization is the broadest term, covering all the changes required to adapt content from one location to others. Sometimes but always this involves language changes, but not always. Sometimes but not always there are changes of date and number formatting, currency and measurement units. Often cultural nuances must be taken into account and adapted to reflect local preferences.
Translation is the most substantial component of localization. Translation services involve the conversion of text from one language to another. Sometimes it is not a language but rather a dialect or version of a language that needs to be converted, such as American English to British English. There may be different reasons that translations services are needed, especially when conducting business. Translation, strictly, refers to conversions of written texts whereas interpretation refers to adaptations of the spoken word. The distinctions among these terms become important in the context of business opportunities, especially in the wake of the COVID crisis.
Localization, Translation, and Interpretation as Business Opportunities Now
Driving the increasing importance of these service sectors since the pandemic are the following factors, including the need to:
- Open international markets to compensate for closed domestic markets
Localization is key to marketing, sales and support for businesses. As borders shut down and the opening of air transport slowed, companies are resorting to digital commerce. For example, Iranian businesses seeking to sell abroad must translate their products and services into foreign language since few foreigners speak Persian.
- Replace face to face meetings and services with remote, digital services Conferences and business meetings are few and far between. In their stead have arisen video conferences and virtual conferences. This in turn has given rise to the need for online interpreters to bridge the language gap between participants. If participants cannot speak a common language, then interpreters are being hired to bridge the gap.
- Provide rapid on-demand services for healthcare and public health needs
With the increase in infectious disease and the length of hospital stays, face-to-face interpretation is increasingly difficult to provide. Instead, international translation companies are providing Video Remote Interpretation (VRI) services on demand. In poorer communities, there is the option of Over the Phone Interpretation, although studies have shown the older people and children have difficulties understanding interpretation over the phone. For example in the case of Iran, there is a need to provide Farsi interpretation services in foreign cities boasting Iranian migrants and expatriates.
Challenges and Prospects the Iranian Translation Industry
Unfortunately, the domestic translation industry remains relatively undeveloped compared to Western societies. Although translation has been practiced in Iran since prehistoric times, an academic study by three Iranian linguists, published in 2018, highlights the difficulties in the domestic translation sector. Among the key challenges cited by the authors are the local absence of:
According to almost all the interviewees in this study, the main challenge for the development of the translation profession in Iran is the lack of a representative translation guild. Similarly, Sook (2015) claims that there are currently no professional translation bodies in Korea and Malaysia. Also, Setton and Liangliang (2011) found that in Taiwan, very few professional translators are member of any local or national translator
- a representative translation guild or professional association
- an agreed-upon translation and interpretation code of ethics
- local translator and interpreter training or certification programs
- low pay and low social status for local translators and interpreters
Local shortcomings can be compensated for by access to international associations and marketplaces. According to Internet World Stats, Iran at the end of 2017 had 56.7 million Internet users, some 69.1% of the population. While this percentage is generally understood to include most younger smartphone-armed Iranians, and especially those with college education, access restrictions keep many sites off-limits, including social media for interpretation and translation services.
Practical Suggestions for Using Translation and Interpretation Services
Businesses that seek to localize the marketing of their products and services have several paths from which to choose to access translation and interpretation:
Professional translation and localization companies
Typically translation companies can be contacted easily via the internet. Simply search using “translation” or “localization” including Farsi in your query. Translation agencies will usually respond within 24 hours with a free price quotation or request for additional information. Prices for translating text documents are typically measured by price by word, with the range being from $0.01 to $0.30/word depending on language and urgency. Interpretation is typically measured as a price per minute or hour. Transcription of recorded material or subtitling is typically measured by the length of the media to be transcribed. Localization services, such as translating a website from Farsi to one or more foreign languages, are usually fixed-price projects agreed in advance.
Freelance Translation and Interpretation Services
There are professional marketplaces like Upwork and Freelancer.com where you can find translators and interpreters fluent with Farsi and a foreign language. These resources can be evaluated and hired directly, usually at a fraction of the cost of translation agencies. The disadvantage is that working with freelancers involves more risk and demands more personal time. Bilingual Iranians may be able to find work here as well. Professional agencies often tap these marketplaces looking for linguists to staff their teams.
Machine Translation as a Free or Lower Cost Option
Online translation software like Google Translate and Microsoft Translator are increasingly capable and therefore increasingly used to translate to and from “Persian”. However, unlike many other languages, voice output is not yet supported. It’s advisable, however, to use such services with caution, as the software has been known to make embarrassing errors in translation and interpretation.