Reader Polls: Covid Effect on Localization Budgets and RSI Traction

Slator Translation Industry and Localization Industry Reader Poll May 2020

The current coronavirus health crisis could lead to an 8% decline in the overall size of the USD 24.2bn global language services and technology market, according to the Slator 2020 Language Industry Market Report. Language service providers (LSPs) more exposed to sectors bearing the brunt of the pandemic, such as travel or retail, will, of course, feel the blow more than others.

While it is too early to tell what localization budgets across the board will look like six months from now, there are early indicators based on how demand from certain sectors is faring. Media, for instance, appears relatively pandemic-resistant.

TransPerfect, for one, saw an increase in remotely-serviced voiceover and dubbing requests. UK-based media localizer ZOO Digital, for its part, noticed an uptick in demand for localization (SlatorPro) of back-catalog content from OTT platforms in the wake of Covid-19, as clients postponed the production of original content. The company has since reported “a reassuring resumption in demand” in its latest trading update.

On the other side of the demand equation are sectors such as Travel and Hospitality or Onsite Interpreting, and even certain areas in Medical and Life Sciences that depend on physical access to medical facilities.

On April 24, 2020, we asked buyers of localization and language services how the coronavirus pandemic would affect their localization budget for 2020. While 29.2% reported a Strong Decrease, 25.0% said there was only a Slight Decrease in their localization budget.

More than a fifth of those polled said their budget actually increased, with 10.4% describing the increase as Strong and an equal number calling it Slight. A fourth of respondents said their localization budget has, thus far, remained unchanged.

More RSI Post-Covid?

As corona containment measures across the globe have heightened the demand for all sorts of remote conferencing apps — “nearly five fold since the start of the year,” according to Reuters — providers of remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) have developed the tech to connect seamlessly with these familiar platforms, such as Zoom and Skype.

Given the savings on travel time and cost, not to mention managing the risks that come from gathering a bunch of people together in a single place, we thought it interesting to poll Slator’s readers if they expect RSI to continue gaining traction in a post-coronavirus world.

On May 1, 2020, we asked readers if they expected conference interpreting to go back to the way it was pre-coronavirus, or if they saw a swift shift to remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI). Half the respondents were evenly split between those who said things would return to the way they were pre-Covid (25.5%) and respondents who saw a rapid adoption of RSI (25.5%).

Most, however, expect the continued, but slow, adoption of RSI (33.3%), while the rest said it was too early to tell (15.7%).

One indicator of why RSI adoption may take more time is the technology itself. On May 6, 2020 Canadian paper The Hill Times, reported a rise in workplace injuries among interpreters deployed during the Parliament’s virtual meetings — headaches, nausea, and Tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing in the ears) — such that 50% of injuries between the start of 2019 up until May 1 took place in the last three weeks. The reasons, “subpar equipment and spotty connectivity.”

The virtual Parliament’s interpreters (English speakers interpreting into French) have had to rely on “inconsistent audio and visual quality” as they try to get the job done. The report quoted Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) president Greg Phillips as saying, “the cognitive load is much heavier” as legislators continue video-conferencing over Zoom.

At any rate, the current adoption of RSI contrasts with last year’s, when more than 77% of polled readers said they had not used RSI apps on their phones.