Translation 4.0 – Evolution, Revolution, Innovation or Disruption?

and Peter A. Schmitt


The international translation industry is undergoing fundamental changes with the potential of disrupting the market and the business basis of many freelance translators. This paper outlines the present scenario in the field of non-literary translations, its development, reasons, symptoms and current trends. Analogous to the established concept of “Industry 4.0”, the philosophy of an emerging new translation industry can be called “Translation 4.0”. Challenged by a continuously growing demand for translations, increasingly volatile markets, fierce global competition and aggressive pricing, the translation industry is responding with fully digitized data handling, real-time project management, strictly organized processes, quality control, short response times and comprehensive added-value services for clients. Key variables in this new work environment are fragmentation of projects to accelerate turn-around times, outsourcing, crowdsourcing, teamworking, connectivity, cloud-based translation platforms, integrated – and often compulsory – translation tools and, last but not least, machine translation (MT) and post-editing of MT (PEMT). Due to the closing gap between the quality of human translations (HT) and neural MT (in particular of DeepL), MT will cover a growing share of the low-end translation market volume, with the consequence that translators who cannot offer a substantially better value (i. e. quality/price ratio) than MT will become obsolete. The future will be for translators who have the competencies defined in the EMT (European Masters’ of Translation) and who adapt to the changing translation ecosystem.

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Since its founding in 1956, Lebende Sprachen [Living Languages] has been the leading German journal for foreign languages in research and practice. It contains articles and reviews on language in general and also covers topics on specific languages and cultures, living languages and the life of language.