Last month I received some positive feedback after I published my interview with Nancy A. Locke about the great divide between translators’ training and the real world. It’s clear that all parties in the translation industry are aware of the necessity for a better – more practical – training as well as a more intensive cooperation between the academia and the translation industry.
Costanza Marinelli has a varied background: A translation diploma, a political science degree, diplomatic studies from the University of Florence and an MBA from the Open University of Milton Keynes (UK). Currently based in Tokyo, Costanza has 20 years of experience in localisation project management for Medtronic, international human resources for Mallinckrodt Medical and market research for Sémaphore Conseil. She joined Larsen Globalization in 2013.
In 2012, The Big Wave, the online journal I was then editing, published an article by Inger Larsen (CEO and founder of Larsen Globalization), where she stated that the failure rate for translators passing professional test translations was about 70% and that it was in part due to the lack of practical training at university level. Do you think this still holds true today?
Five years later, the lack of translation training at university level is still one of the main causes for high test failure rates like Inger stated. The LocWorld Roundtable “Attracting and Developing Talent Initiative” and other projects are trying to bridge the gap between academia and business. However, a lot needs to be done and students seem to be unprepared for the “real world” all the same. To make things worse, translation tests get harder and harder. The industry seems to need more linguists with an outstanding command of their own language and/or very specific technical knowledge in fields like life science, digital marketing, IT, etc. University curricula could offer courses aimed at helping students develop writing skills in their mother tongue. Another recurring factor for failing is poor time management. I have seen even very experienced freelance translators struggling with stringent time limits and not passing tests. Project/time management courses could also be useful to prepare students for these tests and their future professional career.
You advise organisations of various kinds. How do requirements change from one industry to another?
In my experience, the biggest difference in requirements and recruitment practices can be found between language service providers and companies on the client’s side. On the client’s side, recruitment processes are much longer (4 interview rounds or more). Candidates are screened not only for specific skills but also for “cultural fit”, which seems to play a bigger role than in the language service provider’s case. On the client’s side, line managers, top managers, colleagues are involved in the recruitment process to make sure that the candidate has got the right “DNA” for the company. A high level of motivation is key to pass these interviews. On the language service provider’s side, technical skills and relevant professional experience are essential. Furthermore, there are typically fewer recruitment rounds (2 to 3).
Based on your experience, how have job selection criteria changed in the translation & localisation industry?
Differences between the job descriptions of different roles are getting blurrier and blurrier. The industry seems to be looking for linguists with coordination skills, project managers with sales skills, salespeople with project management skills, etc. Sometimes I have the impression that companies are looking for the same profile for all the roles: a multi-skilled, technical savvy candidate who might be able to switch roles (translator/project manager/business development manager/solution architect) to adjust rapidly to new market conditions and disruptive technological changes. Adaptability, flexibility and curiosity are key. Another hot selection criteria are great communication skills, which seem to be important for all positions including linguistic ones.
Has the technological wave been disrupting the translation industry? Is automation creating or sweeping out jobs? Are new profiles being set with new skills for the changing/emerging market needs?
The technological wave is disrupting – and will continue to disrupt – our industry. Thus, there will be an obvious growing demand for software engineers. The quest for engineers will be hard because we are competing with the big guys of the financial, automotive, life science world (just to name few examples), who typically offer higher salaries. Furthermore, automation will not eliminate sales positions. On the contrary, companies will become eager and eager to employ good business developers in a highly competitive environment. We are in a B2B industry, where long-term relationships and trust are key. In this context, I can hardly believe that e-commerce will play a major role and positions will be wiped out by technology. Transcreation will also be spared.
If machine translation will be soon good enough to handle a lot of translation duties, it will not be able to grasp cultural differences, what is going to work in a certain market and what is not, etc. On the contrary, transcreators, translators with copywriting and marketing skills, will be more and more in demand to meet the growing globalization needs. Furthermore, automation will generate the need for an “army” of post-editors.
What would your advice be to the new generation of language professionals?
I would recommend becoming a proficient user of translation tools and even attending some base programming courses. Another advice to language students would be to attend project management and presentation skills courses. Creative writing, digital marketing or basic copywriting might also be an advantage. Apart from formal education (at university level or private courses), there are many free webinars they could take advantage of to become those multiskilled flexible employees the industry is looking for.