Podcast: The State of the Interpretation Market

Today’s discussion

In this episode of Globally Speaking, we invited Jonathan Downie, Alexander Drechsel and Alexander Gansmeier, aka the “Troublesome Terps,” to discuss the current state of the interpretation market. We also discuss how interpreters need to market and price their services, setting proper expectations with clients and the latest interpretation technologies.

Jonathan Downie is an interpreter of French and English and the owner of Integrity Languages, an interpreting services company in the UK. He has both a Master’s Degree and a PhD in Interpretation from Heriot-Watt University.

Alexander Drechsel has been an interpreter with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Interpretation since 2007. His working languages are German, English, French and Romanian. He holds a Master’s Degree in Conference Interpreting, Language Interpretation and Translation from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Alexander Drechsel has been an interpreter with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Interpretation since 2007. His working languages are German, English, French and Romanian. He holds a Master’s Degree in Conference Interpreting, Language Interpretation and Translation from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Where to listen

The full podcast can be downloaded and listened to on all major podcast platforms, or from the Globally Speaking website. If you prefer to read the full transcript, we have provided that below, as well!

About Globally Speaking

Globally Speaking Radio isn’t just about how we as language professionals can improve our skills. It’s also about building awareness of how important translation and localization services are in helping global brands succeed in foreign markets—no matter where their business takes them. Globally Speaking is an independent podcast that does not necessarily represent the views of Nimdzi Insights or any other sponsors.

Host: Renato Beninatto

Renato is the co-founder and CEO of Nimdzi Insights, one of the language industry’s leading analyst and consulting firms. He has over 28 years of executive-level experience in the localization industry. He has served on executive teams for some of the industry’s most prominent companies, and he co-founded the industry’s first research analyst firm. A dynamic speaker and communicator, Renato is a highly regarded thought leader in the language industry, and is known for creating innovative strategies that drive growth on a global scale. He has also served on the advisory board for Translators Without Borders.

Host: Michael Stevens

Michael has 10 years of experience in the localization and IT industries. He is the Growth Director for Moravia, where his primary role is to assist companies who are inspired to create global software that changes the world. A well-networked entrepreneur, Michael’s main interest is in connecting and bringing people together. He not only enjoys learning about a company’s exciting ideas and developments, he also has a keen ability to add value—and fire—to new and innovative thinking.

This is an episode of the Globally Speaking Radio Podcast. Globally Speaking Radio is sponsored by RWS Moravia and Nimdzi.

The Transcript

Michael I’m Michael Stevens. And today on Globally Speaking, we have something, in the words of the great comedy group Monty Python, something completely different. Today’s episode is a mashup with some fellow podcasters who are on the journey with us and talking about issues that are related to the localization industry, the interpretation industry. I think you are going to find it highly entertaining.
Alexander My name is Alexander Drechsel. I’m German. I am a conference interpreter. I work for the European Commission during the day, doing this during the night time, if you will, in my own private capacity, so I’m not speaking on behalf of the Commission. I guess I have to…
Alex Those vigilante podcasters.
Alexander …point that out. Exactly. The guerrilla podcast. And I’m part of a trio that’s called The Troublesome Terps. And this is an interpreting podcast that we’ve been doing for, gosh, is it three years already, roughly?
Alex Mm-hmm. And we’re going on 40 episodes, but guys, don’t…this is not a competition, okay?
Alexander Yeah, exactly. And you’ve heard two other lovely voices, so I’m gonna let my co-hosts introduce themselves as well. Alex, why don’t you go next?
Alex Yeah. This is Alex Gansmeier, the other Alex. Guest number two. I am also German. I’m also a conference interpreter. I do not work at the European Union, however. I do work in Munich; I’m a freelancer. And, I don’t know, at the moment, it’s Oktoberfest, so I’m quite, quite partial to wearing lederhosen at the moment.
Alexander Such a cliché.
Alex I feel like that’s a USP.
Jonathan It’s certainly something. I’m Jonathan Downie. I’m a consultant, conference and business interpreter and an interpreting researcher. I’m the third Troublesome Terp. And I work mostly in the UK, or wherever work takes me. And I’m trying to take interpreting from being the kind of service that clients book at the last minute to being kind of strategic partners with clients when they’re looking at exporting or growing their business. So, trying to get in with helping them see the usefulness of interpreting while they’re still imagining their export strategy.
Renato How did you get together to organize it, this podcast?
Alex It’s basically Alexes who is to blame for all of this. For the whole mess.
Jonathan The way that I remember it is, I was on the ITI board with Alex Gansmeier and we got on really well. And we were the only two interpreters on the board at the time. And then, Alex Drechsel had invited me on his other podcast, LangFM, because I got a reputation of being a bit of a troublemaker.
Alex Controversial is the word you’re looking for.
Jonathan I’m never controversial! And so, realizing that the two Alexes actually seemed on the same wavelength, I sent this email with a really kind of 1970’s, what is it, “Hey, guys,” greeting or something. Or “Hi there,” or something. And so, I don’t know if these guys know each other, I should introduce them, and I think from that, the podcast idea just came out of the blue. Must have, didn’t it, Alexes?
Alexander Yeah. I mean, Alex and I, we knew each other as well.
Alex Yeah.
Alexander From Germany and the sort of interpreting bubble, if you will. And he had been on the other podcast as well. And then, I think the three of us just had sort of online discussions about all kinds of topics. And Jonathan at some point suggested, you know, we should turn this into a podcast because three white dudes talking to each other, that needs to be a podcast.
Alex Yeah, absolutely.
Michael The world has not had enough of that.
Alex Exactly.
Alexander Definitely not. Definitely needs another podcast.
Renato Yeah, wow. Today, there will be five white dudes talking.
Alexander Yeah. Exactly.
Alexander Oh, man. [Laughter]
Renato So, the idea that brought us to talk to you is that interpretation is this fascinating world. Michael, you told me once that, what’s the story, what, a translator and interpreter…?
Michael Many of the translators I meet often are there because they’re failed interpreters.
Renato Yeah. So there, there is a little bit of a spat between translators and interpreters. I am a translator by nature. I was born in a family that made me live in seven countries while I was growing up and I had to learn languages.
But I tried to be an interpreter once. I was asked to be, to do chuchotage or whispering.
And I have a big voice, as you can notice. So, all the other participants in the room were complaining that, who is this guy who doesn’t shut up? [Laughter] And I realized that it was Michael Porter, the famous economist from Harvard, that was making a presentation in Brazil. And I was interpreting for a client. And I came out of one day of interpreting. I didn’t know that you shouldn’t do, interpreted for eight hours straight. And my brain was fried.
But then my biggest frustration was that I don’t remember a single word of what the guy had said. And this is one of the most brilliant people in the world, doing a private session for ten people. And I am interpreting every word that he says. And I never again tried to do it. I stuck to paper translation.
Alex But I think we all have these stories, right? I mean, Jonathan, you have one as well, I think.
Jonathan Yeah, I mean, I once got less than fully truthful information from an agency and ended up doing a day and a half chuchotage on my own for a conference in an industry. And so, I get to about three-quarters of the way through the second day. First half day was just an AGM. It was a nightmare for reasons that a lot of AGMs have in common.
And then the second day was a full-on conference. And I was doing chuchotage for the entire time. And about three-quarters of the way through, my brain just stopped working, and, you know, I understood everything that people were saying, but no sounds were coming out of my mouth. And anyone who knows me will tell you that’s not a normal state for me to be in.
Alexander Definitely not.
Jonathan I couldn’t speak French, or English, or anything. And I was just, uh. That’s when I realized about being ultra-careful with things. And I now actually have a reputation that, you know, I won’t take on…I will be very, very clear about what is expected, what is going on, because I don’t want that to happen again. Because I think it’s unprofessional to be in a job and, for whatever reason, be in a condition where you can’t deliver.
Michael Yeah. Overextending yourself personally.
Jonathan Yeah.
Michael It’s too much. And then, do you think the interpretation world is benefiting from so much remote interpretation now? There’s less travel stress on people. Is that a help or are you still finding people who lose their minds?
Alex People lose their minds even more easily when they’re doing remote, I find. Because I think with, like, the travel stress…
Michael Oh, wow.
Alex … like, you can get kind of used to it. And also, it’s actually, like, for me, a lot of the times, the travel time is my, like, preparation time.
Alexander Yeah, exactly.
Alex And for the remote, like, you burn out quicker because there’s just so much more stuff that you need to compensate for. Like, there’s a lag, there’s bad sound quality, bad video quality, they’re not in sync. I don’t know, you’re chatting to the technician on the other line because of something that’s—
Michael Your kids are coming through your office door.
Alex Yeah, exactly.
Michael The dogs are barking.
Alexander The BBC moment.
Jonathan I drafted ITI, which is a national association here, and they have, they called, a discussion paper, on remote interpreting. And I had the amazing opportunity to write the first draft of that, and basically, my job was to go through the research and say, what do we know about this? And from what we can tell from the research, from the 1990s up until a couple years ago is, that remote does some things very, very well: where there’s an element of danger, where there’s, you know, you want to reduce travel because that’s a two-hour job—why would you fly someone six hours to work two—where there’s a lack of local qualified support, great.
But for a lot of new things, and I think Alex got, both Alexes will support me in this, there are a lot of meetings where the act of being together is part of the meeting itself. So, if you’ve got, like, a sales meeting or you’ve got a press conference or you’ve got anything where it’s not just information that’s being passed—there’s something about the organization that they’re trying to get across—face-to-face interpreting does that so much better.
Alexander I don’t have a lot of personal exp-, actually almost no experi-, personal experience with doing remote, but it can be used quite well to provide some additional services to your clients. So, when you cannot make it or when it’s really a very sort of last-minute, short-notice thing to be able to still provide your services.
Renato And there sometimes are interactions that last six minutes on average. There is another space, which is the healthcare environment, [in] which it’s very helpful, and it can be done via video or via telephone to help in a consultation with a doctor. Usually, unlike civilized countries, in the United States, a consultation with the doctor is seldom longer than 15 minutes, so, it’s also a short interaction. Actually, the patient spends more time with the nurse that will use interpretation than with the doctor or for herself.
And then there is a third element, which is the conference interpreting, which the challenge as you mentioned before had traditionally been the reliability and the quality of the bandwidth and the quality of the contacts. The quality of the sound…
Alexander Yeah.
Renato -even-
Alexander Exactly.
Renato …and the delays, and challenges like that. But that has improved a lot, and in the conference settings, you have couple of technologies: there is Kudo, which is an American solution, and then you have Interprefy, which is a European solution, that were designed specifically for the conference setting.
And you can have fancy solutions and you can have cheap solutions, but the idea is not that it’s not only the interpreter that is remote, because in some situations, what happens today is that the delegates might be remote. So, you might have a conference in Paris or a board of director meeting or something like that, where the participants are in Frankfurt, in London, in Geneva, in Portugal, and the interpreters are onsite, interpreting remote speakers. And what these technologies are enabling is a situation that, it doesn’t matter where each of the parties is because location becomes irrelevant.
So, I think we’re going to get to some middle term where all these technologies and demands of convenience is not so much about the travel, but even the availability of the right type of interpreters. Naturally, for French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish or whatever major language combination, you’re always going to find enough interpreters to be onsite and participate.
Another area that we just started following where Sara Hickey, our expert in interpretation, just started the analysis in this space, is looking at machine interpretation. And we dismissed it as we dismissed machine translation and things like that when we want it to go away, but the reality is that Sara is a native German speaker, I’m a native Portuguese speaker, and we just on-the-spot connected on Skype. She spoke German and I heard Portuguese with a female voice. I spoke Portuguese, she heard German with a male voice. The conversation was fluid and we had a few laughs because names and some words that we can say with a funny accent or something like that turn out to be misinterpreted.
But I was quite impressed. It was pretty good. And if you haven’t tried it, I strongly recommend. It’s actually free. But it’s not ready yet for primetime, for professional use. So, if I were an interpreter, I wouldn’t feel threatened by it. But it’s something that is available, that is there.
Michael You need to be concerned if what you’re doing can easily be replaced by a machine. If you’re someone who continually is able to add value that the machine can’t catch, that you’re bringing a level of creativity and perspective in what you’re doing. Or even, you know, a level of security that you provide your clients, that you’re there on time, you’re prepared. You’re working hours…like, that conversation about burnout, if you have the inability to manage the amount of work you’re taking on, well, machines don’t have that problem. So, be smart about what you take on and don’t burn out. Do what you do, at your top in your peak performance, if you’re an interpreter. Give your best. Yeah.
Renato And the other point that I would make is that the reality is that language professionals in general are very, very bad at business and economics. Right? There is an element of supply and demand. And there is an element of scarcity. If you think of top-notch interpreters, the reality is that the market is…there is more demand for high quality interpreter than there is supply.
And you have the impression that there is an oversupply in the market because that’s your specific niche of the market. But if you look at the industry as a whole, the industry as a whole is growing. The industry as a whole is demanding for new language pairs, it’s demanding different time zone supply. It’s demanding more responsiveness. So, the supply is scarce. The demand is high. They can charge whatever they want.
For my favorite example as I mentioned before, Latvian to Swahili, and there is one guy in the world that can do that stuff, this guy can charge whatever he wants. But what is driving price? And this is one of the conversations that always comes into play, is actually the public sector. The biggest buyer of interpretation services in the world today are government entities and the different major geographies. And they are driving that price. Yeah.
Alex For example, in the UK, there was a very big controversy a few years ago when Capita actually received that framework contract for all the court work. And then they lost it to thebigword, and that’s what made thebigword the biggest UK language provider. I thought that was really astounding, and I remember how big of an issue it was back then, because Capita basically single-handedly…yeah, I mean, it still is an issue, because Capita basically single-handedly destroyed the entire court interpreting market for anyone who wanted to make a living doing that.
So, I think that was a really interesting situation. And that just shows exactly what you said. Like, they set a lot of the price benchmarks. And it’s very difficult for people then to say, “Well, I’m not working for this price,” when the client says, “Well, but this is what’s being paid in the public sector.”
Renato Do you know the story, how Capita got into that contract? The short story is that this guy essentially sold the contract for a very low price, and then he went to Capita, which is a company that specializes in providing services for the UK government. They didn’t do only interpretation. They do vendor management. They do jail repairs. They do a bunch of services for big government. And he went to them and sold the contract. Say, “Hey, I just won this 40-million-pound contract. Do you want to buy?” And then the guy says, “Okay, we’ll pay you, I don’t know, 20 million doll-, 20 million pounds for, for the company.” And they say, “That’s great. That’s a great price. I have the contract. It’s signed. It starts in three months.”
And Capita gave him six million pounds in advance and said that he would get the rest during the performance of the contract. And he said, “Well, I’m happy with six million dollars,” and he walks away.
Alexander Oh my god.
Renato So, Capita was stuck with this contract that was impossible to deliver. But they had a contractual obligation. So, the beauty, what we as language professionals, have to learn from this situation is that there is a threshold of low price. There is an amount where interpreters will say, “I had enough. I’m not taking this anymore.”
Jonathan I think the interesting point is the conference interpreting companies tend to be swallowed because the individual contract value is a lot smaller than a government contract. The other trend that I’m seeing in the UK, and this is a feeling I’ve only spotted in the past couple of years, is the growing trend for interpreters to think, “Well, if agencies can win those contracts, you know, if it’s a five-thousand-pound contract or a six-thousand-pound contract, if agencies can win them, why can’t we?”
And you know, the first event I went to to try and win new direct clients, chatting to some about three or four years ago, and they said, “Oh, we hire interpreters all the time, but I’ve never actually met one.” The last one I was at, I went to a stand, and they were getting fed up with the number of interpreters talking to them. And I thought, this is a shift, where people are going, “Actually yes, we’ll quite happily work with sound suppliers. Yes, we’ll quite happily work with, you know, conference organizers or whatever.” But those things bear an increasing thing here in the UK where interpreters are going: actually, we can look at what the clients are wanting for the next job and we can do that ourselves, because we tend to know who the good technology suppliers are. We know which venues are gonna be helpful and which aren’t. And we can say to the clients, “Look, if you haven’t got your sound supplier, then we already know a good one. We work with them all the time.” In that case, not taking the job of an agency, but certainly being able to interface straight with the client and understand straight from them what’s going on and what they’re after, it feels like a game-changer in the UK, even if it’s becoming a slow burner because of a certain B word, which I’m not gonna mention. But that is a trend that I think interpreters are beginning to turn around and say, “We don’t have to wait for the jobs to come to us. We can go find them.”
Renato It’s a business that is based on self-contracting. You get the client, you hire the translators, the interpreters, the resources that you need. You have a project management infrastructure. What clients are really buying is project management, vendor management.
Alexander Yeah.
Renato And scheduling.
Alexander And peace of mind.
Alex But I think, Jonathan, it’s kind of, and Alex, even what you were saying, of whether or not we can provide the volume, I think we can, and I think a lot of the times, in Germany, we do. And it’s funny, Jonathan, how you were saying that in the UK there’s this kind of a monumental shift that is currently occurring, because as far as I can remember, pretty much as soon as I came back over here to Germany, it’s kind of just a given. Like, people just…like, that’s just how it works. Like, you go and find your clients, either through word-of-mouth or you actually go out and actively look for companies working in the expert sector, working in this sector or that sector, where you believe this could be a viable client, and then you approach them.
And I mean, the thing is, not everybody wants to do it. Not everybody is necessarily good at doing it. But there are, I don’t know, I’m just gonna throw out a number, like, a hundred excellent consultant interpreters in Germany that do exactly the job that an agency would do. But the benefit that we always have, and I’ve sold this to clients many times, and you’d be really surprised at how well this goes over, is that when you book through us, when you book through me, I actually can tell you who I’m gonna send you. Or if you actually book me, I’m not just a random interpreter. Like, you actually talk to me. And then you know this is what you get.
Renato Another thing that I’ve been saying repeatedly over the years is that what customers buy is customer service. There are two things that haven’t changed in forever in the language business. We have changed technology. We have changed processes. We have changed the rates. A lot of stuff has changed. But the only two things that have not changed is that you convert content from one language to the other. And you deliver customer service.
Alex If you put it like that!
Renato The customers come back to you because you understand their business. Because you’re good looking. Because it’s all personal reasons more than business reasons. And the difference between 2,000 Euro and 1,800 Euro is not going to make them switch vendors if they’re happy with the level of service that you’re providing. Right?
Alex That’s right. I couldn’t agree more.
Jonathan I would definitely agree, and I would say, I’ve been surprised at how there’s two kinds of client that I’ve noticed that come around. You get the client that really just wants it to be right. I was talking to one client and they said, “Your USP is that as long as people are available, you can send me the same team every time.” And I said, “Well, I would default to sending you the same team every time because I would always want to pick who’s the best person for this job.”
You know, I know, like, six German to English interpreters. And I know what their strengths and weaknesses are because I’ve worked with them. And everyone knows that interpreter that you would say, you know, this is an AGM finder, fantastic at that, but I wouldn’t send them to a sales meeting or to a press event. We know what our colleagues are good at.
That kind of client are great to work with and are fabulous, and I love it when you get, you know, “Can you tell me how much this’ll cost,” and you know the price isn’t really the thing. But you get the other clients who, you know, from the get-go, the clients who send you in the first email, “Can I get a quote tomorrow?” You know what they’re doing: their boss wants three quotes from three suppliers. You know exactly where the job’s going to go. And it is almost…I was chatting to one interpreting technology vendor who said that his company has changed policy, that they just don’t bid for those work anymore. And one of the questions that they ask is, “Are you in contact with any other potential suppliers?”
And I thought, that’s actually a really good question to ask upfront. Say, you know, what is the buying decision based on? Is it based on you want high quality, you want the best? Or is it based on, “Boss says I need to get this as cheap as possible.”
Renato And that’s the concept of customer maturity, right? And the best kinds are the ones that have been burned before because they know what a cheap interpreter means.
Alex Hmm, yeah, they know.
Renato They know what embarrassment that can cause. They know that it’s not the price that is going to make a difference. It’s actually the qualification, the experience, the knowledge, the engagement, a lot of other variables. And one of the variables that I should mention is actually industry expertise. And I know that you interpreters are…and I really don’t envy interpreters, because I have very good friends who are interpreters, and they spend hours and hours and days preparing and studying. The client is buying six hours of interpretation, but in reality, they are paying for 20, 30 hours of study and preparation.
However, you still don’t want an interpreter who specializes in accounting to be working on a medical conference. Or a medical interpreter doing Formula One championships. Because they don’t really know anything about—
Jonathan It depends on what happens during the Grand Prix.
Renato Very good point! There is a low-price market, like, where all the scavengers are, and there’s this high-end market everybody should strive for. But the reality is that the keyword is market. The market is…you can’t manipulate supply and demand. You can’t manipulate availability and scarcity.
I admired what happened with the Capita situation. The interpreters organized themselves on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on social media, and they started rejecting the requests. Right? So, the quality started to go down. They had inquiries in the Parliament. And the contract expired and the lesson was learned and the Ministry of Justice went and got bids for higher prices. And the market seeks equilibrium always. It might take some time.
Alexander That’s what bothers me so much about this. Because, some administrations…
Alex I love it.
Alexander …in some countries have decided that they’ll go for the lowest price. And then, that usually leads to low-quality interpreting. And I just think it’s not fair because then a medical procedure, treatment in hospital, or a trial, I mean, that really matters. And if, in such a situation, you just get sort of the cheapest available interpreter or…
Alex Yeah.
Alexander I don’t know, machine interpreting at some point, that seems unfair. And the private company can hire Alex and his great team. And they do, you know, outstanding interpreting. It’s …
Alex Sure.
Jonathan It’s a myth that governments will necessarily always go for the lowest suppliers, because in some of these cases, not all of them, the people at the sharp end, or at least the people who are managing the people at the sharp end, have a say in how services are procured.
I think there is a way through where, if we can build a relationship with people who are in procurement at any level, those various levels of independence in different organizations, if we can be brave enough to build a relationship with the procurement people, understanding the pressures on them, that they’re being asked to do the impossible, they’re being asked to square the circle off, they want a cheap service, but they want perfect quality, everyone knows that’s impossible. The procurement people know that’s impossible. I’m sure the people giving them the money secretly know that is impossible. But if we understand those pressures, then actually we can have a much more interesting conversation. And I know there have been conversations in other sectors where consultant interpreters have said to clients, “Okay, you have, you know, four things that you’re doing. Let’s look at where the best places to deploy high-quality interpreting is. “
Maybe there’s a case for saying to the client, “Well, if you’ve got a portfolio of five events in the next year, let’s look at where we’d deploy remote, where we’d deploy machine interpreting, where we’d deploy human interpreters.” And as we practice getting good at that, we can have a similar conversation with the big public service buyers. And we can work with them, rather than seeing them as the enemy and going, “Oh, no, they’re trying to cut costs,” say, “Okay, you’re trying to cut costs. Let’s find a safe way to cut costs.” And that’s a much more mature conversation than going, “Ah, how dare you cut costs!”
Renato I was just recently at the ATC conference in London, the Association of Translation Companies in the UK, and they invited procurement people from the Crown Services or something like that, and they are government procurement people. They invited these people to participate in round tables, to discuss and so on, and I had an opportunity to speak to two of them.
And the feedback that I received from them was essentially, “I had no idea. I didn’t know the level of professionalism. I didn’t know all the things that are involved in delivering high-quality service and the procurement and the project management and the vendor management and the qualifications,” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So, once they see the complexity of what it is—because they think it’s just buying toilet paper or cloud services or something like that that is quite unit-based and is not talent-based—so, the more we can, as an industry, educate buyers that what they’re buying is talent, is years of study, education, training, practice, and they will understand.
There are three things that every professional needs to have if they want not to be replaced by technology. They need to be findable. They need to be relevant in what they do. And they need to be knowledgeable about what is going on. They need to be current about what is going on in the market, right?
Alex I think it’s important that we have to kind of see ourselves as a business, and, you know, I sometimes make this analogy with some clients: like, yes, you can buy an iPhone for a thousand Euro, and yes, it’s expensive, but it’s also going to be an excellent phone. You can also get a phone for a hundred Euro.
Renato You can buy champagne and you can buy Sekt.
Alex Exactly. Exactly. Like, every, everything, you know, like, it…
Alexander There’s something for everyone, yeah.
Alex …functionally has, yeah. Functionally, it does the same thing. But it’s how it does it. And what you want. And for some people, the Sekt is fine. Some people want the champagne. So, I think for us as businesses, and that’s why I think it’s important to have these conversations and to have more of a business focus on the industry as a whole, we have to kind of take that same approach.
I mean, if I want an iPhone, but I go into the Apple Store and say, “I’m going to give you 500 Euro for your iPhone,” they’re gonna kick me out. And I think we sometimes have to do the same thing. And you just have to say, “Sorry, this is the price that I have. If you’re not willing to pay my price…
Renato Absolutely.
Alex …then I’m just going to turn around and, you know, do something else.” But if that’s the business, you wouldn’t go to a lawyer and say, “How much are you charging? Oh, it’s 400 Euros an hour? I’ll give you 20.”
Jonathan And we’ve also expected the client to understand what it is we do. And I recently had a…well actually, I was doing a presentation at a business networking event, and the business coach that I’ve been, that I’ve known for about six months came up to me and, I kid you not, at the end of my talk, said, “Wow, I didn’t realize that interpreting was so interesting and so hard.”
Renato Well, and it’s amazing that some people know that interpreting is different from translation, because in reality, it isn’t, but it’s our professional distinction. In reality, it’s all translation in the mind of the client. They see an interpretation job and they say, “Oh, let me talk to the translator.” Right?
And we joke about translators and interpreters and difference and so on, but in the mind of the layman, all we do is convert content from one language to another. Some people do it in writing. Some people do it speaking. Some people do it in sign language. Some people do it through machines.
And one of the things that I find fascinating is now, these video conferencing platforms. In my company, we use Google Hangouts. You can turn on subtitling. So, it does voice recognition and automatic subtitling, and the quality’s pretty good. So, I can record that, and if I’m deaf, if I can’t follow the conversation without, if I don’t have headsets, I can get a pretty good sense of what is going on in the conversation.
And you wouldn’t think about it a few years ago. So, what I think, what I believe, and I think that we can try to wrap this, in a way, that I think that the future is bright for interpretation. This is going to be a skill that is going to increase in demand. The market as a whole is rising, it’s growing. You might have these pockets of dissatisfaction. The main languages that have the most demand naturally will have price pressure and so on. But if you look at the industry as a whole, there will be more opportunities for interpretation to be used.
We’re recording this podcast on Zoom. Zoom has announced that it will have simultaneous interpretation available in the platform. Interpretation is not going to be something unique. It’s going to be a feature. It’s like a spellchecker. Right? It’s going to be part of every conferencing environment.
Another thing that we haven’t talked about, and I think it’s going to be the theme of 2020, everybody’s going to talk about it ad nauseum, is going to be 5G and how 5G is going to completely revolutionize communication. And how it’s going to completely change the way that we talk. Our headsets are going to be super connected with…now we talk about Bluetooth, but this conversation of the internet of things is going to be completely, completely changed.
And in 2025, we’re going to look back at what we’re doing today and we’re going to think that these were the Middle Ages. The kind of transformation that is going to happen in the next few years is going to be overwhelming because of 5G. We all tend to think of 5G as the next advance in speed to our cell phones, but 5G is actually an algorithmic improvement in the connectivity around the world.
So, be prepared. All these conversations that [we] are having are going to sound like jokes in a few years. Listen to me.
Jonathan You heard it here first.
Renato You heard it here before.

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