Stemming the rot of commoditization

I have been toying with the idea of whether to post this blog for some time now… It was drafted a few months back when I was sat at a crossroads about what to do with my career.  The localization industry hasn’t been particularly kind to me in recent times and I found myself doubting my continuation in this industry.  By far the largest concern I had, and still have, is the state of the commoditization of the services we provide and as a seasoned solutions sales professional this goes against every fibre of my being.  It was only when I came across Empowerlingua that my eyes were opened to how to make a real difference.  The company is a young LSP with a great deal of experience and linguistic pedigree in the management team and being part of that team means that I can help stop this rot of commoditization and make a real difference to an industry which is on the verge of becoming another victim of corporate greed. 

Over the last few years there has been an ever increasing requirement to have things larger/smaller, louder/quieter, faster/slower  but here’s the thing….CHEAPER.  The service industry is one of the ones which has been hit the hardest by this and with numerous “TOOLS” to help facilitate this, fuel has very much been poured onto the fire.  It is only when things go remarkably wrong that the masses stand up to listen to all those who, with hindsight, purport to have warned everyone about it.

Well I’m here to to shout out from the roof tops before this happens!  With the increase in demand for multilingual material everybody wants it faster and cheaper than ever before, in fact if you listen to some of the industry giants they think that previously translated material should be freely available for everyone to access.

The fact remains, regardless of whether you use Google, Bing or any other freely available MT  tool, some poor soul (a linguist) has actually sat down for hours translating that material at some point.  In no other industry is it widely accepted that you can plagiarise somebody else’s work and call it your own!  Even the music industry has got 30 year royalty credits on songs and riffs that the musicians and artists create.

So I’m not going to be able to stop that happening, I am a realist after all, but what I can do is open up the debate.

A qualified linguist spends at least 3 years at university studying linguistics, in most cases it is considerably longer.  Quite often this is not the only degree they graduate from, in fact if they want to specialise in a specific subject matter they will most likely have studied and worked in that area first.  So tell me, if you’ve graduated from university after studying for 3 years, paying up to £27,000 in fees + accommodation and money to live from… Are you going to be happy just giving your talent away for free?  I very much doubt it, so why should the linguists of the translation industry do just that?

  • I believe that all linguists should be paid a fair price for the work they do
  • I believe that ALL translated material should have a price
  • I believe that if somebody has already translated a word, sentence, phrase, document that it should NOT then be freely available for anybody else to use. 
  • And I believe that we need to stop the rot of commoditization in an industry where all too often the only question that is being asked is “how much per word?”

One thought on “Stemming the rot of commoditization

  1. I could not agree more. The properly qualified linguists do spend years training, not just at uni, but in life, often living and working abroad, doing CPD and spending a fair amount on professional memberships, accreditation, etc. This has a cost in time and money and they buy their working tools tool. These tools are great but only in the hands of those who know how to use them properly.
    To me, the main problem we have is the non regulated status of the profession. In fact, because it is not regulated, and any Tom, Dick and Harry with a BA in languages or less can practice legally, so we have no profession. In the eyes of most, we just ‘speak an language or two’ so we can translate. The market is overcrowded with people who do not have the skills nor the talent to call themselves ‘linguist’ and they constantly undermine us. All the ISO standards in the world mean nothing if you don’t work with a properly trained and qualified linguist.
    If only real linguists could practice, there would be a lot more room on the market and the prices would not be dictated by those who haven’t got a clue, but mainly decided by us.


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