Language Industry Closes an Eventful Year at SlatorCon Remote December 2021

SlatorCon Remote Dec 2021 Summary

Over 330 delegates registered for the final SlatorCon leg of 2021. Representing more than 70% of the audience that gathered online on December 1, 2021 were North America (36.5%) and Europe (34.3%). The rest logged on from the UK (15.4%), Australia and Asia (5.3%), Scandinavia (3.8%), and other countries (4.7%).

As with previous legs, there was a good balance of roles among attendees with those from the buy-side comprising about 40% of the audience and language service providers (LSPs), 48%. Investors, advisers, and others made up the rest.

SlatorCon Remote December 2021 kicked off with the traditional language industry overview and outlook from Florian Faes, Co-founder and Managing Director at Slator.

One of the most interesting insights from Faes’ presentation had to do with M&A activities in 2021 within the current language industry supercycle. “Overall, a very strong year for financing and dealmaking in the middle of the market,” despite there not being another monster deal, he pointed out. Faes’ assessment: This level of M&A is very healthy for the industry.

Faes did a rundown of which LSPs in the Leader category (See Slator LSPI) are keeping up with Super Agencies by raising funds. However, what really stood out in 2021 was funding activity in the translation management systems (TMS) space. “Almost all of the bigger TMS players have raised funds,” Faes noted, adding which five TMS providers were active, with one, uncharacteristically, even buying another company.

The Slator MD also gave his fearless forecast on how he sees money being poured into adjacent spaces playing out. Case in point, transcription startup Verbit’s latest round; valuation: USD 2bn. (Hint: Verbit already offers multilingual transcription!)

After unveiling a graphical representation of how LSP Super Agencies, Challengers, and Leaders are jostling for control of the enterprise — and the roles of TMS and machine translation (MT) providers in the battle royale for the Fortune 500 — Faes concluded, “MT is the new TMS.”

It was fitting segue to the first guest speaker, Roeland Hofkens, Chief Product and Technology Officer at LanguageWire, who shared how they successfully deployed human-centric MT at scale. In a nutshell, it is a balancing act of different goals among all three stakeholders, clients, translator community, and LSP.

Hofkens highlighted the value of specialized MT; not working with third-party MT providers to ensure that customer data never leaves the LanguageWire ecosystem; the importance of metrics to “continuously measure, learn, and improve”; and how all the data generated by the business sits at the very core of the company’s decision-making.

After giving the audience a glimpse of the big project LanguageWire is working on, Hofkens ended by saying there is one question he gets asked once a week: “When will we get machine translation without human experts in the loop?” His answer: “With the current state of technology, it’s not going to happen.”

A Certain Future

On the Interpreting Tech panel moderated by Esther Bond, Research Director at Slator, three important players in the online conferencing space assessed the state of remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) moving forward.

Oddmund Braaten, COO at Interprefy, said that while there is a general consensus on the hybrid future (i.e., some remote, some onsite interpreting), “No one is looking for an extra platform to go on just to do simultaneous interpreting. So we have to be where the customers are; and the customers are on Zoom, Webex, and even Hopin.” Thus, he explained how they work to integrate with these platforms.

Virpal Singh, CEO and Founder of DigitalTolk, noted the disparity between interpreting services in the private and public health sectors and how a lot of it has to do with which services have been legislated into policy.

Meanwhile, Gene Schriver, CEO of GLOBO, said that mental wellness in the remote environment is something they pay close attention to and shared how they support GLOBO’s interpreters, helping them avoid burnout.

Tales from the Buy-Side

Forming the second half of the conference were insights from localization experts representing Canva, Mouser Electronics, Uber, and Subway.

Rachel Carruthers, Head of Internationalization and Localization at Canva, recounted the graphic design platform’s journey to becoming truly local — an ongoing process that currently involves four loc teams, five regular vendors, and more than 150 translators. Carruthers gave the audience a peek into the types of collateral Canva localizes and how they play into key growth markets, including Japan and China.

Hameed Afssari, Language Quality and Localization Operation Manager at Uber, recalled the reasons that led them to switch to MT, how the loc team evangelized it to stakeholders, and the ride-sharing giant’s journey to becoming vendor agnostic. Afssari also shared tips on collaborating with vendors and how Uber evaluates MT providers.

In segments that have become another SlatorCon tradition, two tracks featured a buyer-provider-led discussion between Mouser Electronics and Lingo24, as well as Intento and Subway.

In a panel moderated by Andrew Smart, Co-founder and Commercial Director at Slator, Mouser’s Director of Web Solutions, Matt Madderra, and Lingo24 CTO David Meikle spoke on how they worked to localize highly technical B2B content across 63 country-specific websites and 40 million web pages — plus some practical lessons learned during the journey. Madderra discussed the triggers that led them to key growth markets, while Meikle talked about Lingo24’s role in Mouser’s customer-engagement efforts.

Rounding up SlatorCon Remote December 2021 was a conversation on MT between Konstantin Savenkov, CEO of MT-integration platform Intento and Carrie Fischer, Globalization Services Manager at quick-chain food giant Subway. The duo touched on the machine translation lifecycle, how the right tools can turn even AI into craftsmanship, the use of MT in e-learning for franchises, and the gaps that MT cannot fill.

Missed SlatorCon Remote December 2021? You can catch the full conference via Slator video-on-demand here.