How Coronavirus Is Impacting the Language Industry



Coronavirus and Translation

December 31st: China first notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about flu-like cases in Wuhan, and the virus is unknown.

March 11th: the WHO declared the epidemic, called Coronavirus or COVID-19, to be a global pandemic.

In this short span of 2-3 months, the coronavirus has infected hundreds of thousands of people and affected millions others. The outbreak continues to evolve spreading its tentacles across the world. However, governments around the globe are trying to protect the people and figure out ways they can curb the coronavirus from spreading – or at least slow the rate of infection. They have imposed several protective measures and restrictions including state of emergency, lockdowns, social distancing, remote working, banning mass gatherings, suspending schools and universities, and international/domestic travel restrictions, among others.

It is a tough time for the world right now, it’s a tough time for people, and it’s a dark time for the business and the global economy!

“It is unavoidable that the novel coronavirus epidemic will have a considerable impact on the economy and society”, those were the words of Xi Jinping, China’s president, in the wake of the outbreak. The health crisis that the world is facing right now poses serious threats to the global economy, with alarming signals about a new economic crisis that might be just as bad as the 2008 financial crisis. According to the CNBC, “The ongoing spread of the new coronavirus has become one of the biggest threats to the global economy and financial markets.” It’s affected an array of businesses and industries.

Although this includes the language industry, it seems a hidden silver lining has been observed

Disruption to Business and Economic Activities

Coronavirus Impacting the Language Industry

The fact that the virus originated and hit hardest in China, one of the world’s major economic giants and an important industrial and transport hub, has had its toll on the global economy. That’s because China’s economy is intertwined with the world economy; both depending on and acting on each other.

China has taken drastic measures to contain the virus, which led to several economic pressures and disruption. And just like China, countries have followed in their footsteps, prioritizing the safety and health of people, which from an economic perspective, resulted in financial losses. Things toppled down from there in a domino effect; big changes in stock markets and global shares while key industries and businesses have been massively impacted.

Perhaps the most affected industries are: investing, trading, aviation, travel, tourism, as well as oil and gas. With travel bans and restrictions as well as closing countries’ borders, travel, aviation, tourism, and global trade are going through severe disruption. Some factories have shut down and others may have yet to shut down, affecting manufacturing and production and posing supply-chain challenges, especially with people rushing to stores stockpiling and panic buying. It’s also expected that with the reduced demand for oil and jet fuel, oil prices will likely drop.

Here’s A Hidden Silver Lining: The Language Industry Is Doing Fine

While the situation around the world sounds dire and complex – a situation that we pray to overcome soon – a silver lining is always welcome. Several industries are currently facing some disruption, and the language industry is no exception – albeit much lower levels of disruption. In Italy, for instance, the industry is experiencing enormous fallout. However, in other parts of the world, the status of the industry isn’t that critical.

This could be for so many reasons but the most significant is that, unlike other industries, the translation and localization industry heavily relies on freelancers and more often than not accommodates remote working. It is helping the industry navigate the challenges of the current situation and continue to operate at normal capacity without severe interruptions to business availability and productivity. 

Coronavirus Impacting the Language Industry

Additionally, as a response to the outbreak, most language service providers (LSPs) have embraced and shifted to remote working, implementing flexible or full working-from-home arrangements, in an effort to curtail the spread of the infection. While this should drastically guarantee the continuity and consistency of translation and localization services, it wouldn’t be possible for LSPs to implement if they didn’t have reliable IT & infrastructure support.

Changes in Demand

However, a considerable change in services and industries in demand has been observed. Considering the travel bans and policies adopted to minimize face-to-face interactions, on-site interpretation has taken a huge hit.

In contrast, other translation and localization services have been running fairly normal, but with increased demand for some sectors more than others. On the one hand, travel and hospitality segments, for obvious reasons, are witnessing a drop in demand. On the other hand, the coronavirus has generated more demand for translating healthcare and medical content such as research, health information, manuals for medical equipment, hygiene and infection control policies, and online health platforms.

Moreover, since quarantine regulations are in place and people are confined to their homes, there are growing opportunities for e-commerce channels. More and more people are turning to online shopping and delivery for essential commodities, especially food and grocery. According to Sensor Tower: “Fresh Hema, Alibaba’s grocery delivery app peaked on February 8, reaching nearly 100,000 downloads in a single day”. Consequently, rising demand in e-commerce translation and localization services has been detected. Not only that but because people are forced indoors, there’s also been a huge surge in daily downloads for video and mobile games, resulting in the need for more localized games to cater to everyone around the world.

We are also anticipating a significant increase in eLearning services. With schools and universities suspended, educational organizations and online learning providers have been launching and providing online courses for everyone as the best alternative, which makes it more likely than ever that eLearning services will be increasingly in demand. 

The coronavirus situation is rapidly evolving creating a wave of impact, affecting the lives of so many people as well as costing the world economy. It’s an unprecedented situation of unpredictability and uncertainty. No business or industry is recession-proof or exempt from the impact of the pandemic. However, as language professionals, what we can do – and are doing now – is assess the impact, anticipate the needs, and focus on meeting demands.

bayantech is keeping everyone in our thoughts and prayers. We wish you and people all over the world comfort, safety, and peace.

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