Reader Surveys: Translator Salaries and Translation Listeners

Translation volumes in the age of experience (fka mid-digital age) are simply too massive for post-editing machine translation (MTPE) or post-edited machine translation (PEMT) to have become the default method. Starting in 2020, in fact, as Memsource CEO David Čaněk pointed out.

Business interests (e.g., scalability) require automating more and more parts of the workflow, increasing the adoption of PEMT/MTPE. Of course, there are certain areas where translators will always be needed as experts in the loop. And a certain number of translators are not made to be post-editors and do not want to be.

Besides post-editing work requiring a specific combination of hard and soft skills, a significant number would likely avoid machine translation because they believe machine translation stifles creativity.

This was confirmed in a recent Slator poll where more than half of the translators surveyed said that, given the choice, they would prefer to work with No MV input (58.6%). A fourth, however, seems to have fully embraced the craft of post-editor. For the rest, MT or not MT, it’s the same.

Closed garden approach

Anyone who has ever been blocked by their technology vendor from accessing tools outside of that vendor’s own suite will understand the challenges of operating in a walled garden ecosystem.

In a recent episode of SlatorPod, Welocalize CEO Smith Yewell recalled a “fun debate” years ago where he took an opposing view to the walled garden approach. This opposing point of view has turned into initiatives, such as Interoperability now!which Yewell succinctly described as being all “about connectors”.

Interoperability allows customers to work in an open environment where they can connect to the best products, rather than being confined to the walled garden of a translation management system (TMS, for example).

The CEO of Welocalize cited their Pantheon TMS as an example, which provides 200 connectors to client systems, third-party systems (e.g. Microsoft, Workday), and even systems from Welocalize competitors. Of course, other TMS vendors, as well as CAT tools, etc., have also highlighted connectors.

In this kind of open environment, how much of their technology stack – TMS and CAT, but also MT and ERP – should language service providers (LSPs) still own and develop in-house? Only less than a quarter of respondents said that LSPs should no longer develop their own technology stack. The majority said language service providers should own and develop A little of (47%), The biggest part (21%) or All (7.5%) internally.

Decreasing T&I wages, increasing unfilled jobs

Stagnant salaries for translators and interpreters (T&I) have long been a problem in many countries. Some permanent interpreters in California, for example, have not had their salaries adjusted for the cost of living since 2017.

Sworn translators and interpreters in the Netherlands, meanwhile, have not had a salary adjustment since 1963 (for translators) and 1981 (for interpreters) – something unheard of in other Dutch professions.

Worse still, stagnant wages are falling, even as demand outstrips supply. The latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that only 52,170 non-self-employed T&Is were employed in 2021, despite 81,000 job openings available.

But the same data showed that non-freelance translators and interpreters received 6% less median annual salary ($49,110) and hourly salary ($23.61) in 2021 compared to the previous year. Which give?

When asked what they attributed the decline to, less than a third of Slator readers said it was the Structural change towards self-employment (32%), less than a quarter to one More competitive market (23%), and a fifth to Something else (20%). Others attributed the decline to less demand or one Statistical lucky break.

Who Uses a Translation Listener?

Translation headphone maker Waverly Labs recently funded $125,000, citing B2B trials with Disney, Hilton and Walmart.

It wasn’t Waverly’s first time at bat. In 2017, they raised a more impressive $4.5 million, also through crowdfunding.

We thought we’d check if translation listeners were widely used by asking Slator readers. Of those who bothered to respond, all but two said they had never seen anyone use them. One said he saw the translation gadget in use, while another said he was actually using the earpiece.