USD 40 billion is approximately the value of trade between the EU and Malaysia, the US electrical machinery exports to Mexico, or, considering individual companies, it is a revenue the size of Oracle, Tata Motors, American Airlines, or Coca-Cola.
While these are practical examples of forms that USD 40 billion in global trade revenue can take, they neglect to mention one key factor. As we all know, in order for global trade to occur, there needs to be open communication, an understanding of market, culture and regulations, and, finally, a way to efficiently move goods and offer services to a foreign market. Arguably, the most important USD 40 billion in global trade doesn’t involve any particular well-known company or, indeed, any major global economy; it involves an industry that facilitates global trade itself, the translation industry.
Think about it. Whether discussing trade between nations, between industries or that of a single company competing globally, professional translation services are essential. When it comes to trade though, this essential cog is hardly ever mentioned, often taking a backseat to more visible top-note factors, such as exchange rates, logistics/shipping, and general marketing efforts.
Moreover, if USD 40 billion was removed from global trade in the form of one of the aforementioned examples, such as if Oracle didn’t exist or if the US stopped exporting electrical machinery to Mexico, global trade would still continue to function normally, albeit with a slight, temporary disruption. On the other hand, without the translation industry to assist in forming or expanding overseas relationships, assure relevant and applicable marketing, and aid in navigating regulatory and logistical burdens, it’s difficult to see how global trade, as we have come to know and understand it, would continue to exist.
Quoting a Chinese proverb, “会哭的孩子有奶吃”, which means, “The crying baby gets the milk,” typically, we are taught to notice the obvious aspects of global trade. Fundamentally, most business decisions in this realm revolve around how to move a good or offer a service in the most cost/time effective manner and best market it to a foreign destination, but, lost in this point of view is what drives the overall venture to be successful: effective communication.
And while the translation industry rarely makes the headlines, it is big business, with the worldwide language services market growing at an annual rate of over 5.50%, with the size estimated to surpass USD 45 billion by 2020, and the interpreter and translator career ranked – last year, by the University of California San Diego’s Extension Center for Research – as the top emerging career for college graduates, with an expected growth rate of over 30% in the next 8 years, over four times more than the average job growth rate in the US of 7%.
Despite the predicted growth, bright future, and the fundamental role the translation industry plays, it is often underrepresented, and its economic value and importance are underrated by global business, that is actually highly dependant on its services.