Goodbye translators. And hello Language Specialists

Maria Schnell 13 Oct 2023 7 mins
It’s time to say goodbye, translators. And hello, Language Specialists.
Our world is moving fast.
The explosion of content. Extraordinary, almost daily, advances in technology and artificial intelligence (AI). A world that gets smaller by the day thanks to powerful, intuitive digital channels. These are just some of the factors having a profound impact on the way we live, work and connect with each other. Think back ten, even five years – how things have changed. Technology is now a major enabler, helping us all to become better at what we do.
In our world of translation, things are no different. The impact of technology on the role of the translator cannot be understated. Once tasked with the straightforward duty of bridging linguistic gaps and translating text from one language to another, today's translators are multi-talented professionals who must navigate a complex landscape of digital content, varying formats, cultural nuances and regulatory frameworks. And they must accomplish all of this at speed.
New skills, new tools, new ways of working. Everything has changed for today’s translators. Except for one thing: their job title. 
It’s time to say goodbye, translators. And hello, Language Specialists.

The DNA of a Language Specialist

The mainstreaming of AI-powered language tools means that training, developing, operating and optimizing AI tools and technologies has become integral to a Language Specialist’s work. Let's explore the dynamics and what this new title of ‘Language Specialist’ signifies and the various realities of their role: 
  • Creative linguists. Language Specialists are more than translators; they are creative linguists who engage audiences with a level of intelligence and imagination that is uniquely human. They don't just convert words from one language to another; they craft messages that resonate deeply with the target audience, capturing not only the words but the essence of the message.
  • Smart technologists. AI and other technology play a pivotal role in language-related tasks. Language Specialists have become experts in human-machine collaboration. They leverage AI-powered language tools to enhance their work, ensuring efficiency and accuracy in their translations. They don't just adapt to technology; they harness its power to elevate their craft.
  • Cultural consultants. Effective communication goes beyond words. Language Specialists bring cultural understanding to their work, ensuring that content is not only translated but culturally adapted to fit the target audience's expectations and preferences.
  • Content optimizers. Language Specialists are not limited to written text. They transform content for maximum impact across various media formats, channels and devices. Whether it's a website, image, video or mobile app, they ensure that the message remains powerful and effective.
  • Industry experts. To excel in their roles, Language Specialists need to delve deep into specific domains and industries. They are industry experts, understanding the intricacies and jargon of their clients' businesses. This domain expertise ensures that they get the details right, providing translations that are not just linguistically accurate but contextually precise.

Writing our own future

For a change in job title to be authentic, it should come from the people who will carry it. That’s why we engaged with our global community of in-house Language Specialists, and several academics through the RWS Campus, to understand their perspectives on the changing role of translators. The findings were insightful. Rather than a fear of advances in AI and technology, we found a resounding optimism and excitement for the future. The vast majority acknowledged that technology is valued, enabling them to be better and faster at what they do. They also acknowledged that the definition of a translator is outdated, and now is the right time for change.
Based on their insight, and our drive to push the industry continually forward, RWS is leading the industry with a new job title that's fit for the future. Let’s recognize and celebrate the extraordinary work they do. Say goodbye to translators and hello to Language Specialists.
Maria Schnell

Maria Schnell

Chief Language Officer
Maria is responsible for our Language eXperience Delivery platform, and oversees all localization and production processes for our client-facing teams. Over 15 years’ experience in localization has given Maria an unrivalled level of expertise. Not only does she drive the day-to-day activities of our language delivery teams, she is leading our transformation towards a data-driven, machine-first, human-centred localization process.
All from Maria Schnell