This blog post (Japanese) tells us that one of Japan’s largest toy companies, Bandai-Namco (they have the cult classic Ghost in the Shell), is retreating from retailing anime products in the U.S. market, due to sluggish sales. Bandai blames their failure on on-demand streaming of pirated videos with cheap, quickie subtitles.
The blog author, a translator himself, warns that the Bandai case is an example of a long-term trend in the translation industry: translation is becoming interpretation. The market is demanding fast, real-time bridging of communication, than time-consuming but accurate reconstruction of the original content.
I have converted into a “streamer” myself. Long gone are the days of devouring shelves in a suburban outlet; YouTube and Pirate Bays are the new HMV and Tower Records. They have the fastest, latest, and most exciting videos (We can’t find gems like the one below in a DVD shop, can we?) with practically zero cost.
Well, as a technical writer and occasional translator myself, this is also MY business: how can translators make living in the 21st century, if no one is paying for translation? The aforementioned blog proposes the inevitable: add value. I agree (or to be precise, I have no choice but to agree). Ask Thomas Friedman, the guru of the flattened world. He has posted a thoughtful column.
In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.
- Faster: Bring the Just-in-Time process into your work system.
- Wider: You may format, design, or print the document in addition to translating. Hey, why don’t you write the original content too?
When the dead-end called “more” is the only solution, we are usually asking the wrong question. The real question is not “How can we translate better?” Take a look around us: Everybody speaks, or at least listens, to English. The English language is becoming that single language used by biblical people to build the Tower of Babel. There will be no need for translation in the long term, period.