Reader Polls: Is 1,300 Words Per Hour Possible?

We recently began conducting weekly reader polls through our e-mail newsletter. On February 10, 2017, we published data from the first such poll.

Over the last four weeks, we asked readers to give us their take on what methods work best for lead generation, whether machine translation has actually moved the needle in their day-to-day business, which global markets are most attractive, and how fast linguists will be translating in five years.

Lead Gen

The most effective way for a language service provider (LSP) to generate new business is still the good ol’ cold call (34%), followed by word of mouth (24%), and content marketing (20%), so say our respondents.

The rise of content marketing as a preferred lead generation strategy was noted in a couple of recent interviews, with AdHoc Translations’ Pernille Frederiksen calling it “indispensable.”

Has MT Moved the Needle?

With the rise of neural machine translation, there has been a huge buzz in industry publications and mainstream media about MT reaching (supposedly) new heights. So we wanted to cut through the hype and ask respondents if this, at all, moved the needle in the real world.

Surprisingly, perhaps, 63% of respondents said MT progress has, thus far, had zero to very little real-life impact on their work or business.

Where Will the Market Grow?

Language services is a global business. Yet having an onshore presence in local markets continues to be very important for business growth.

Most global RFPs would ask for the number of local offices an LSP can service. And having in-country staff available in Singapore, Sweden, or Japan, may be what makes the difference.

LSPs with local operations will also be keen to go after local contracts, leveraging an infrastructure that was often built up to service global accounts.

But which markets are predicted to be the winners? Nearly two-thirds of our readers think North America and Asia will be the fastest growing regions this year and the next.

Translator Productivity

In private conversations, some freelance translators have argued that unless you produce more than 800 words per hour it is hard to make a living.

Of course, the productivity-profitability nexus depends on subject-matter expertise, language combination, physical location and markets, and tools used.

Still, almost everyone agrees that the productivity of human translators is on the rise. Opinions differ very strongly, however, on how far the journey will take us.

Roughly half of respondents see output per hour below 700 words by 2022 — this despite rapid progress in adaptive machine translation and related user interfaces.

Meanwhile, an optimistic 20% think productivity of over 1,300 words per hour is possible within five years. Happy typing!

Editor’s Note: Participation in these polls has, thus far, reached between 60 and 100 respondents. We encourage you to register for our newsletter and cast your vote.