We have just passed the anniversary of the UK declaring its first ‘lockdown’ – scheduled to last a few weeks, but unbeknownst to us, destined to last for months. The drastic and unprecedented impact on business came as a shock across the economy, as it did elsewhere in the world – as well as creating a hotbed of change, innovation, and strengthened communities.
For the translation industry, things were even more uncertain by their very nature. Our entire business is predicated on the relations between different regions, countries and continents, so rather than dealing with COVID measures and office staff in just one country, we had to consider the safety and wellbeing of our translators in hundreds.
We pride ourselves on the fact that our workforce of linguists and interpreters are based not in an English office, but are embedded in their home communities around the world, intimately connected with the context and culture of our target audiences.
In 2020, we had to consider that being ‘intimately connected’ with anyone suddenly was not an unalloyed advantage, but also a possible risk. Unalloyed
Of course, in this day and age (as we’ve all discovered), connections can be as much digital as personal. Our feet on the ground could still take into account the conditions faced in their own countries – whether that was relative freedom or total lockdown – without leaving their house. Conveniently, the vast majority of our writers already worked from home, so there was relatively little interruption to workflows.
Although One Global found our ability to deliver quality work – and keep to our high standards - was thus relatively unaffected, the situation for translators globally has been at times precarious: with schools closed, parents have had to home-school their children, and care for shielding adults.
The economic slow down also meant that workloads for many writers reduced significantly – a survey for the French Society of Translators found in summer 2020 that 57% of participants thought the crisis would negatively affect their work, and many were considering taking a side job. A global survey carried out in August confirmed these trends were consistent elsewhere, as events, conferences and conventions are cancelled.
Equally, however, the demand for remote interpreting has skyrocketed, with more businesses turning to Zoom, Teams and other online platforms, providing opportunities for work. Specific platforms, hardly heard of before the pandemic, are now household names, and embraced by all ages.
Clearly, the ability of linguists in our industry to weather the crisis rests not only on embracing the broad digital future more firmly than ever before, but anticipating and adapting to the specific trends and developments in meeting and writing. The disruption has been great, and when things settle again, they may be almost unrecognisable: but there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
We’re hopeful that as we all return to the ‘new normal’ over the next few months, the causes for anxiety will become a lot rarer for everyone, and we can only wish for a happy, stable and prosperous future for all our staff and linguists.