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WorldSpeak: A Recap of the Canadian Language Industry Association Conference

Picture of By Claudia

By Claudia

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the WorldSpeak conference, hosted by the Canadian Language Industry Association (CLIA). This event brought together translation professionals and industry experts to discuss the current state and future outlook of the translation sector. The conference featured presentations from multiple organizations like The Translation Bureau, memoQ, and Alexa AI, and included three fascinating panel discussions with several industry leaders:

  • Renato Beninatto, Co-founder, Advisor, and CEO of Nimdzi Insights & Co-owner of Multilingual Media
  • Jean-François Lymburner, CEO of the Translation Bureau, Government of Canada
  • Betty Cohen, President of OTTIAQ
  • Nazanin Azari, COO of NATIONS Translation Group
  • Elisa Schaeffer, Associate Professor at McGill University
  • David Lyons, Principal Partner in Consulting and Advisory Services at BDC

Here’s a summary of these discussions, highlighting the most relevant ideas.

The Future of Translation Education in the Age of Technological Advancements

One of the most compelling topics was the future of education in the translation field amidst the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLMs). With fewer young people interested in studying translation due to fears of AI replacing human translators or academia not aligning with professional world needs, it is crucial for educational institutions to reassess and adapt their curricula. They need to go beyond language teaching to integrate training in advanced technological tools, which are becoming increasingly indispensable in the professional realm. This adaptation will not only better prepare students for today’s job market but also equip them to meet the future challenges of an evolving industry.

Social Needs Driving Translation: The Industry’s Resilience During Crises

Translation has emerged as an indispensable social necessity, crucial for disseminating content across cultures and ensuring minorities inclusion. In bilingual countries like Canada, the demand for translation services is especially pronounced due to legislative mandates. Similarly, in the United States of America, waves of migration have fueled a surge in the need for translations into languages such as Spanish and Arabic. Canada is also experiencing an increased demand for translations in indigenous and sign languages. Yet, the scarcity of professionals skilled in these languages presents a significant opportunity in the market.

Renato Beninatto insightfully remarked, “When times are good, we translate contracts; when there’s a crisis, we translate lawsuits,” highlighting the industry’s resilience and adaptability. This resilience underscores the critical role translation plays in social inclusion, particularly in the healthcare sector, demonstrating its enduring value irrespective of the global economic climate.

Integrating AI in the Translation Profession

Currently, Language Service Providers (LSPs) and organizations like the Translation Bureau of Canada are incorporating AI into their workflows to streamline repetitive and administrative tasks. These technologies enable auto-assigning projects, scheduling milestones, sending automatic notifications, and generating communications (chatbots, emails, etc.). However, while these automations are highly beneficial, they can only handle completely linear and standard processes, which is not always possible in the translation industry. Thus, human intervention remains necessary to adjust processes according to each task’s specifications.

Nazanin Azari made an interesting analogy comparing AI to a baby that will grow and learn on its own, while humans play the role of parents, providing guidance and establishing structure to raise a well-educated child. Azari also highlighted the importance and encouraged tool creators to document processes and functions in detail, as this allows for easier adaptation in the future.

The Environmental Impact of AI

Another important topic discussed was the environmental impact of AI. Elisa Schaeffer called for greater awareness of the natural resources required to operate these massive computing systems. The discussion included predictions for making AI use more sustainable, such as developing smaller, personalized, and democratized language models, and implementing regulations to quantify the carbon footprint of large language models.

Economic Landscape of the Translation Industry in Canada: Trends and Predictions

David Lyons shared interesting data about the economic landscape of the translation industry in Canada, expecting it to continue growing by up to 6% annually over the next five years. He also mentioned the demographic situation in Canada, where it is predicted that in the next ten years, 20% of the population will be retired, creating a labor shortage. For the translation industry, the increase in content creation and the proliferation of social media platforms promise market growth.

During the debate, Renato Beninatto shared his reflections on the quality of translation. According to him, quality should not be a matter of discussion but a mandatory standard. He argued that all companies in the sector should be offering high-quality translations, so this should not be used as a competitive differentiator. “Quality is only news when it is bad,” he pointed out. In his view, LSPs should focus their efforts on discussing the implementation of best practices, service improvement, and price optimization. He concluded by saying, “If you understand your value, you can negotiate.”

Conclusion

The translation industry is experiencing a fascinating period of transformation. Disruptive technologies not only challenge the way LSPs, and freelance translators work but also drive us to adapt and evolve, continually seeking innovative and effective ways to serve our clients. The primary goal of translation is to facilitate effective global communication across all industries. In this context, it’s essential to recognize that artificial intelligence is not going to replace translation professionals but those of them who embrace and master the AI tools will certainly lead the way. I also want to thank CLIA for providing an excellent space for these important discussions and industry insights

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