e-learning is rapidly gaining popularity, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has contributed to the complete or partial movement of many activities to the online space. You may be surprised to hear that e-learning as a phenomenon has, in one form or another, been around for quite a long time.

In 1920, Sidney Pressey, a professor at Ohio State University, created the first testing machine, with a capacity of 100 questions. Although it could not teach, it allowed quick testing of knowledge.  The first real computer-based electronic learning system, called PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations), was created in 1960 by Donald Bitzer at the University of Illinois. The PLATO system was continuously improved and was in use up to the year 2000. The world’s first school of online learning—Whitemore School—was founded in 1994 by the educational organization CompuHigh. The term e-learning was first used and introduced to the professional environment over 20 years ago, in 1999, at a computer-based training seminar (CBT Systems) in Los Angeles.

A lot has certainly changed since then. Like any phenomenon, e-learning embraces new trends, which means that as a product it is becoming even more complex, multidimensional and multicomponent, and as a result, more interesting and in-demand in many countries around the world. This all leads to the requirement that e-learning courses be localized, often in many languages.

What are the particularities of e-learning course localization?

An e-learning product is always multicomponent: as a rule, it combines images, video, sound, animation, text, and special effects. Each individual component must be localized, i.e., it does not just require translation, but also adaptation. Then all the components of the product have to be combined in such a way that they appear unified and are an inseparable whole, in other words, that they coexist harmoniously.

In the process of localization, it is important to bear in mind that we are dealing with an educational product that will be used in the education process and serve the ambitious goal of teaching people new and useful things, so the preparation of versions in new languages must account for the cultural and other characteristics of the target countries. This means that the specialists involved need to have a broad outlook and even, to a certain extent, be psychologists.

High-quality localization and proper final “assembly” of a product require a large team of skilled professionals—linguists, programmers, testers, engineers, designers, and others—and the application of modern technological solutions. In addition, it is often necessary for the team working on the project to include experts in particular subject areas, depending on the topic of the e-learning product.

Thus, such an ambitious, serious task demands:

  • A team of specialists with both professional knowledge, as well as a variety of knowledge that allows them to navigate the vast sea of countries and cultures.
  • A strong technological basis—in-house and/or acquired tools and solutions to properly optimize the process of implementing an e-learning product localization project.
  • Solid experience accumulated in this area.

This is why it is best to use to companies that have proved themselves in the market in the localization of e-learning products. It is absolutely unacceptable for your education product to contain errors or inaccuracies, or to not correspond to the particular cultural parameters or other features of the target countries.

Large MLVs (Multiple-Language Vendors) generally have great potential in terms of turnkey implementation of various substantial and complex projects. The ability to scale up quickly, well-established relationships with in-house staff and external vendors and partners, handling adaptability, and well-established business processes by no means comprise the complete list of the strengths of such companies. Localization tasks for e-learning products are often outsourced: in cooperation with proven and responsible vendors with the necessary knowledge and experience in virtual education, the possibilities are truly limitless.

Technology is present in every sphere of life, and the most important thing is not to be afraid of it and to apply it properly. The translation and localization industry is no exception, as it is permeated by various technologies. Many translation companies are not merely using technology in their day-to-day activities, but are becoming technologically savvy and developing their own solutions and tools. Obviously, this was not always the case. Technology has evolved, and today it enables us to translate faster, better and more efficiently.

One key technology is technology that speeds translation. This, of course, refers to machine translation, which was pioneered by American scientist Warren Weaver. The history of machine translation goes back to the 17th century, and the first significant results in this area can be traced to the 1940s. Rule-based machine translation appeared in 1949: literally meaning that such machine translation uses numerous rules and various dictionaries. Nearly half a century later, in 1993, statistical machine translation appeared, which learns to translate by analyzing existing non-machine translations. A decade later, in 2013, neural machine translation emerged, which uses artificial neural networks simulating the neural connections in the human brain to predict the probability of word sequences.

Today, there are various machine translation systems—standard (for non-specialized translation), configurable (which undergo training using specific data and products) and adaptive (self-training in real time). Machine translation as a phenomenon and technology definitely has its pros and cons: it can provide translation at an incredible speed and in several languages simultaneously, but in some cases the system may have difficulty interpreting multiple words, determining word order, etc. It is thus important to learn how to apply this solution at the right time and in the right places.

One more important technology is translation automation systems, or Computer-Assisted Translation tools (CAT tools). Machine-assisted translation is not to be confused with machine translation. They are completely different. Unlike machine translation, CAT tools do not translate, but help with translation. One of the main advantages of CAT tools is the creation and implementation of translation memories (TM). The use of CAT tools allows the translator to save time, create subject glossaries, and manage translation quality, and allows teams of linguists to work on joint projects efficiently, ensuring terminological consistency and maintaining stylistic unity. The use of CAT tools is especially efficient with technical, financial and legal texts full of specialized terms, because in many cases entire sections of text are repeated within a set of such documents, and the specialists do not need to work with them again, since the CAT tool finds and uses the repeated text segments.

Today, there are different types of CAT tools. Some are installed on desktop computers (until 2012 all CAT tools were like this) and some are cloud-based solutions. The most well-known and respected CAT tool is SDL Trados Studio, but MemoQ, Across, and others are also popular.

Another useful technology worth mentioning is Translation Management Systems (TMS). A TMS is software used to automate many stages of the translation process. The non-automated tasks are those that require a special, creative approach and the involvement of a specialist. Ubiquitous automation helps everyone involved in the translation process—clients, project managers and teams of linguists. Simple and highly transparent interaction, guaranteed confidentiality, and 24/7 access to all information related to a project make it possible to effectively implement even the most complex tasks.

As is apparent, the range of technological solutions that translation company specialists resort to today is quite wide. There is growing interest in process automation, application of artificial intelligence, and new technologies, which means that in the foreseeable future we will witness (or even develop) new intelligent solutions serving the translation and localization industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of these force majeure circumstances that are mentioned when concluding contracts, but fortunately happen very rarely in real life. Sadly, last year, we all experienced a real force majeure. The pandemic overwhelmed the world in its entirety, shocked everyone, and sometimes it even seemed that the world would not be the same again. However, we are returning to the way of life we were used to, step by step, even though a range of restrictions still applies. Humans tend to forget bad things quickly and mostly keep the good ones in their memory. It’s a great habit, but it’s also important to learn lessons from difficult situations. To do so, we have to analyze them.

In this article, we’ll discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the translation and localization industry. Frankly, its influence is ambiguous, and it’s easy to explain that: translation companies work with organizations that belong to a vast range of industries, which in turn were impacted by the pandemic in different ways. For example, medical, pharmaceutic, e-learning and online commerce companies have been experiencing rapid growth since the beginning of the pandemic, while tourism, catering, dining, aviation, and many other companies have been facing dire recession. The position of a translation company in the market and its financial status changed depending on what pool of clients this company worked with.

It should be noted that the translation and localization industry remains rather fragmented, and the companies in it are quite multi-faceted and can provide a range of services that is broad, and even somewhat unusual for a linguistic business. Let’s take a look at the data published by Nimdzi research company.[1] Most market players are still focusing on provision of “traditional” services, such as translation and localization (97.5% of companies), machine translation and postediting (71.5%) and subtitling (68.4%). Still, this does not prevent them from offering DTP and graphic design (61.4% of companies), copywriting, transcreation and content creation (58.2%) in the range of services they offer. These latter services may be considered somewhat innovative for a linguistic environment. The ambition to go beyond being a linguistic company has been somewhat provoked by the pandemic, and this trend is going to gain a foothold in the future. It’s truly important to persuade clients to trust companies that offer services “untypical” for a linguistic organization.

What about companies that are active in certain industries? According to Nimdzi, top 10 of such industries are as follows: technologies, IT and software (72% of companies), medicine, healthcare and pharmaceutics (67.7%), finances and law (66.5%), marketing (63.4%), education and e-learning (62.7%), manufacturing (61.5%), consumer goods (54.7%), media and entertainment (54.7%), automotive and aviation (52.8%), and the government sector (49.7%). It’s obvious that the translation and localization industry provides services to a large number of other industries, and that’s why its representatives are able to push through difficult times with help of competent strategical planning if they possess decent flexibility and varied experience. The pursuit of change and multiformity of industries that linguistic service providers work with is another consequence of the pandemic. However, companies with a distinct specialization are not going to go extinct. They just follow their strategy, and are in no way less (and often, even more) successful than their business rivals that follow a Jack-of-all-trades principle. We do not want to offend anyone by such comparison, each business model has its advantages and drawbacks.

Some companies go the way of mergers and acquisitions, which is a widespread trend in translation and localization industry. It persisted in 2020, as companies struggled to grow organically. This has been confirmed by Slator experts: growth is significantly fueled by mergers and acquisitions.[2] According to results of a poll by Nimdzi, more than a half of respondents (52.2%) show their interest in mergers and acquisitions. Despite that, the industry remains fragmented due to low entry barriers for this market.

It’s worth mentioning some key trends of the industry: companies’ transformation from LSP (language service provider) to BPO (business process outsourcer); positioning as a strategic partner to global business; development of a powerful technological component; use of artificial intelligence; access to virtual space, such as popularization of online learning and e-commerce, telemedicine as a growth point, and development of video remote interpreting etc.

It is also worth noting that the pandemic acted as a catalyst for companies that expressed concerns about successful implementation of remote format of interaction with colleagues, clients and partners, as well as efficiency of use of digital marketing tools for the purpose of business promotion. For these companies, enforced egress from the comfort zone was a reason to reconsider such an attitude towards these occurrences in the business environment.

In general, the pandemic did not result in a declining situation in the industry: more than the half of interviewed companies registered growth. Nimdzi experts forecast that the industry size is to reach 73.6 billion dollars by 2025. Impressive numbers indeed! We hope that this forecast will prove true.

The pandemic has taught us important lessons: it’s necessary to always see new opportunities, be flexible, constantly learn new things, and embrace leading technologies and solutions. Companies that have learned this continue to grow successfully and open up new horizons.

[1] https://www.nimdzi.com/nimdzi-100-top-lsp/

[2] https://slator.com/the-slator-2021-language-service-provider-index/

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on almost all industries, and the translation and localization sector is no exception. Nevertheless, the worst-case scenarios anticipated by many industry representatives at the very beginning of the pandemic turned out to be highly exaggerated. For example, according to research company Nimdzi, while 2020 is generally considered to be a year that the whole world would rather forget, for the language industry, it may still be one to remember.

Periods of economic crisis can influence the translation and localization industry in two ways, since translation companies work with businesses from a variety of sectors. Some of these may experience explosive growth during a particular crisis, while others endure a serious recession. During the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic a number of industries, such as tourism, aviation and HoReCa, found themselves in a critical situation. At the same time, the healthcare, pharmaceuticals, online learning and e-commerce sectors saw growth. Overall, the translation and localization industry has grown during 2020, despite the economic instability.

Let’s take a look at the data published by Nimdzi.

The authors of the 2021 Nimdzi 100 rating noticed that the 100 largest language services providers (LSPs) did see a slowdown in annual growth, which stood at 6.8% between 2019 and 2020 (as opposed to 11.5% for the previous period). The market was worth $55 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $58.3 billion in 2021 and $73.6 billion by 2025.

Although there is a continuing trend toward consolidation, the industry remains very fragmented. The 100 largest translation companies in the world as listed by Nimdzi account for just 15% of language market players.

It is also worth noting that LSPs often provide not only linguistic, but also related services. For example, 71.5% of companies offer machine translation and post-editing services, 68.4% – subtitling, 61.4% – desktop publishing and graphic design, 58.2% – copywriting, transcreation, content creation and transcription, 54.4% – interpreting and dubbing, 46.2% – remote interpreting, and 41.1% – linguistic testing and quality control. Relatively “new” services provided by translation companies include cross-cultural marketing (offered by 15.2% companies), video production (13.9%), and publishing (8.9%).

The highest demand for translation and localization services comes from companies in the following sectors: information technologies and software (72% of companies), healthcare and pharmaceuticals (67.7%), finance and law (66.5%), marketing (63.4%), education and e-learning (62.7%), and manufacturing (61.5%). The results show that regulated industries still “manage” a significant part of the linguistic industry business, but it is clear that more and more companies from different sectors also need linguistic services.

Mergers and takeovers are still a frequent occurrence in the market, but now they increasingly have quite a different purpose. In the past, they were largely driven by a desire to expand a company’s geographical reach, range of services or presence in new tiers, but now they are mainly about competition between relatively large companies striving to attract new clients and retain their market positions.

Key industry trends include the development of a strong technological component within LSPs, an expansion of the services offered, a shift beyond exclusively linguistic services, and the growing popularity of remote video interpreting.

The effect of the pandemic on the localization industry cannot be ignored. Nimdzi’s data show that for 76.5% companies, the pandemic resulted in a transition to working from home. For 60.8% it led to a reduction or loss of existing business, and for 33.3%, to the suspension or termination of working relationships with clients. On the other hand, 28.4% grew their business and 27.5% managed to reduce costs.

Data published by the Translation Rating research agency sheds some light on the situation in the Russian market. The cumulative turnover of the largest Russian translation companies listed in the rating, which reviewed data on 91 companies, was 11 billion rubles. The crisis caused by the pandemic has had very little impact on the Russian translation and localization industry: revenues have remained stable and, by some estimates, even risen. This is mainly thanks to the successful materialization of deferred demand in the second half of 2020 and reduced expenditure on business travel, supporting office spaces and organizing events.

The key trends that have emerged in the Russian market share many similarities with those seen globally and include the development of proprietary products and technological solutions, further diversification of the translation business and the growing popularity of remote video interpreting. There has also been significant growth in translation volumes for the healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and games localization industries.

Translation companies are actively looking for opportunities to broaden their offer with non-linguistic services, such as international marketing and business consulting, copywriting, testing, graphic design, and more.

Overall, the impact of the pandemic on the Russian market is similar to the global situation. For example, almost all companies switched to working remotely at the height of the pandemic and still have not fully returned to offices. Moreover, 31% of the companies listed in the rating have downsized their teams and outsourced staff.

To sum up, it is evident that the industry has passed the test of the pandemic, showing its resilience and ability to adapt to new, challenging conditions and instantly identify new opportunities for development. We hope that this year, 2021, will be a favorable one for the industry, offering opportunities to bring to fruition the plans that had to be put off in 2020 and to breathe life into new products.