Inside Asia’s Growing Language Industry at SlatorMeet Hong Kong 2018

Jie Li, Senior Product Operation Advisor, Alibaba Translate presentation at SlatorMeet HK 2018

The drivers of growth in Asia’s language industry came into focus as Slator hosted its inaugural SlatorMeet in Hong Kong on October 11th, 2018. Forty five language industry executives gathered at The Hub in bustling Wanchai for an evening packed with insights on technology, eCommerce, and the dynamics of changing demand for language services in Asia.

Slator Co-Founder and Managing Director Florian Faes began the presentations by sharing Slator’s top stories for 2018 and looking at the fast growing markets of ecommerce, media, gaming, life sciences, language data, and remote interpreting. Reflecting on the strong multi-year industry growth, he challenged attendees to consider if we are at or near a peak in the cycle.

Faes advised that neural machine translation (NMT) continued to dominate the attention of Slator’s audience and the LSPs and clients to whom we speak. “They want to pick my brain on where neural machine translation is going right now because this really will have an impact, and is having an impact on this industry right now,” he said.

Big tech is also doubling down on their NMT bets according to Faes, and he detailed the impact it is having on pricing. He then shared where strategic and financial investors have been placing their bets on the future of language technology including NMT, TMS, CAT tools, media localization, and remote interpreting platforms.

Download Faes’ presentation here.

Security is Paramount

EVS Translations CEO Edward Vick, who since 1991 has built his company into a force in the financial, legal, and other premium verticals, followed Faes and explained how the rise of AI is leading his clients to become ever more security conscious, with many asking “what’s happening to my data?” To win some of the top law firms as clients, EVS has been through two-year onboarding processes to verify the right security arrangements were in place.

For Vick, an important part of the solution is employing in-house linguists, who account for roughly half of EVS Translations’ more than 200 employees. “If you’re only able to use specific translators” added Vick, “if you’re not allowed to use freelancers outside of a dedicated network, you may be able to increase the price, increase the quality, but for sure you increase the security.”

While Vick believes that the legal industry is “absolutely ready” for AI, EVS still offers clients their choice of solutions, human translation without AI and AI solutions with post-editing. For clients choosing the latter, EVS can tailor the solution down to the law firm’s client, practice area, and language pair.

To download Vick’s presentation, click here.

New Markets for Translation

The founder of Hong Kong-based startup LSP into23 Richard Delanty detailed several areas where Asia offers huge potential for providers of language services and tech. He sees demand for translation changing quickly with the rise and globalization of Chinese companies, saying “I see Chinese as important today as a source language as English and I think that’s something that’s going to continue to be important in the future.”

Delanty broke down how the expansion in Asia of Chinese smartphone makers and fintech companies in particular was helping drive the growth of regional commerce. He saw ecommerce and travel growth in the key markets of India, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia creating unique challenges for LSPs given the lack of qualified linguists in fast emerging, intra-Asian language combinations.

Delanty highlighted that Asia also had low technology adoption and remained fragmented as no major language service provider has captured significant market share. His recommendation for LSPs to succeed in Asia was to innovate an MT-first supply chain, collaborate with partners to fill human-talent gaps, educate customers on workflow automation, and compete to win.

Download Delanty’s HK2018 presentation here.

Cross-Cultural E-Commerce Solutions

Jie Li, Senior Product Operations Advisor at Alibaba Translate, walked participants through how language is a critical component in the ecommerce giant’s growth strategy. “My first task [at Alibaba]” said Li “is how to make language into a product. And also what I focus [on is to] mainly use AI, mainly machine translation to combine with other AI technology like speech recognition.”

Ultimately, Li’s mission is to shorten and improve the connection between Alibaba’s suppliers and end-users within Alibaba’s end-to-end ecommerce ecosystem. As an example, she demoed their recently launched neural machine translation powered live chat function, where buyers and sellers interact in real time. The underlying MT engine was trained on two decades worth of e-commerce content.

Alibaba’s language requirements go far beyond this with Li sharing a slide of their technology platform and product matrix. It featured more than two dozen areas in language services and tech where they are looking for partners. “We’re looking for vendors [to] not only provide language solution,” said Li “but user experience testing, user feedback, user surveys, and more.”

Power Networking

Slator Co-founder and Commercial Director Andrew Smart closed the session by reflecting on the key insights from the presentations, thanking attendees for their active participation, and sharing the timing of Slator’s upcoming research reports and events.

For insights into Europe’s growth markets, register now to for SlatorCon Zurich on November 29th and hear presentations from Google, Roche, Ubiqus, Raymond James, and more.