An EC-backed study called Size of the language industry in the EU was published. This hefty study (the PDF is 426 pages long) is heralded as "the first to analyse the size of the language industry EU-wide, covers translation, interpreting, localising and globalising, subtitling and dubbing, language technology tools, multilingual conference organisation and language teaching".
The report contains some eye-catching data, chief among them the claim that Europe's language industry is worth €8.4bn and is set to grow by 10% annually.
Unfortunately, the report's credibility is undermined by some obvious problems, including:
- On a couple of occasions, the report makes unsubstantiated claims about unfair competition in the translation business. This is not to argue that unfair competition doesn't exist but such an important claim warrants an explanation or reference.
- ISO 9001 is mistakenly referred to as "ISO 2001" - several times.
- The report contains contradictory conclusions: The authors remark on the low barriers to entry to our industry. This is accurate but doesn't jibe with the report's statement that "the currently fragmented nature of the language industry will continue to consolidate into larger commercial entities". M&A activity may continue but until some company puts up defensible barriers to entry, acquisitions are unlikely to result in consolidation.
- Finally, the report's non-standard font encoding greatly complicates its use.
"Entry barriers to the field of translation and interpreting are low. The main consequence is increasingly fierce and sometimes unfair competition, as well as a decrease in prices combined with a decline in quality levels. The new EN15038 certification designed to counteract this trend ... appears to require amendments."We have already seen this "decrease in prices combined with a decline in quality levels" in action: A tongue-in-cheek comment in the proz.com forum wonders weather or not "...0.00 per word is a fair price for a Portuguese-English translation done by a native Italian residing in India."
On a more serious note, Jose Henrique Lamensdorf's concept of an X market for translation addresses the same question: What is the price/quality ratio of a given translation?
For medical device and pharmaceutical buyers of translation services, this changing landscape requires them to define (really define) their quality expectations. Simply requesting "good" or "perfect" quality will, sooner rather than later, lead to unacceptable quality. Similarly, translation service providers will finally need to define the quality and the value that they provide.
And all of this is good news for clients and providers alike. More effective segmentation around quality and price will make translation service providers more effective and help clients find appropriate translation suppliers.
ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation services to the world's largest medical device and pharmaceutical companies.