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Impacts of immigration on the UK translation industry

ATC Conference theme

As discussed at this year’s Association of Translation Companies (ATC) annual conference, brexit, currency fluctuations and immigration were key concerns for UK Language Service Providers (LSPs)

History of immigration in the EU

Europe has a long, rich history of immigration and since the formation of the European Economic Area legal immigration has in many ways become easier and more accessible. Despite a day not going by without the current European migrant crisis being sprawled across the headlines of newspapers, featured in documentaries or, being discussed on news channels; the addition of different cultures and populations has enriched European culture and way of life. Planes, boats, trains and cars have made travel safe and the development of mobile apps and the internet has sped up the immigration application process as well as simplified the way people find the right forms and information. With this increase in movement of people to and from countries across the world, the demand for translation services has grown. In 2015, the Association of Translation Companies showed the sheer size of the United Kingdom’s language translation industry stating that it was one of the world’s top three language translation markets worth over £1 billion and provided more than 12,000 jobs.

Entrepreneurial immigrants and language barriers

With the flow of immigration, culture and business ideas are often brought with and immigrants may tie their businesses into companies from their country of origin, forming international businesses. As reported in The Telegraph in May 2016, immigrants in the United Kingdom are three times more likely to be entrepreneurial than those born in Britain. Nearly half a million people from 155 countries that have settled in the United Kingdom have launched businesses, are trading with at least £1 million and are responsible for creating 14 per cent of British jobs. This is all of course despite the extra challenges immigrants face on a daily basis, including access to finances, cultural differences and language barriers. The language barrier is made evident when looking at the last census in the United Kingdom with almost a million people living in Britain barely being able to communicate in English and the most common languages other than English being Polish, Punjabi and Urdu.

Professional human translation Services

As the number of immigrants is expected to continue to rise and with the growth of the global economy, the need for professional translation services will increase in importance. While the figures mentioned above are specific to immigration in the United Kingdom, it is worth noting that a similar pattern can be seen in many countries across Europe and the rest of the world. At the beginning of 2016, the United Nations reported that the number of international migrants which they define as, people living in a country other than where they were born, reached 244 million in 2015 for the whole world and this figure also includes the almost 20 million refugees in the world. While technology developments have eased the strain caused by the rise of globalization, technology has fallen short in terms of providing an adequate replacement for professional human translation services. Machine translation in the form of free mobile applications and websites provide a level of translation services however, if accuracy, appearance, readability and quality matter, they have proven to be no replacement for human translation services.

Growth in demand for documentation translation

A rise in immigration has a direct influence on the demand for the translation of any number of documents ranging from medical documents and healthcare information sheets to legal transcripts and other necessary documents needed to be translated into and from the language of the receiving country. The arrival of a large group of immigrants into a particular area will change the local demographic and consumer base. Having several multicultural communities located near to or next to each other will only increase the need for translation services in order to allow these communities to not only interact with each other but also the local population. Each community is going to require business, legal and medical documents to be translated or written from their native language into the local language and vice versa which will only lead to an increase in demand for professional translation services.

Localizing on a more local scale

The arrival of new communities and cultures also provides a number of new marketing opportunities. Local businesses may want to reach out to this new customer base with advertisements and marketing materials translated into their native language. While the idea of localizing content for a foreign language within a local area may seem strange, it can turn out to be highly profitable. When a business is expanding into a new foreign language market they will more often than not localize their website and materials. This is as consumers prefer to purchase products and services presented in their mother tongue and the same applies to a business looking to attract foreign consumers in the immediate area. Immigration brings both new ideas and concepts with the cultural exchange that follows adding a new and interesting flavor to the receiving country. Effective and accurate communication is necessary in order to further break down the cultural and language barriers and a business can put itself on the right track to achieving this by using professional human translation services.

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