The $34 Billion Multilingual Business Conversation


By Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen

Published: 17 June 2013


From CNBC.com...


Article Excerpt: “Like many other rapidly growing, venture-backed Silicon Valley tech start-ups, Babelverse was born to address a universal problem. But Babelverse's universal problem is also a global one: dismantling communication barriers by enabling anyone in the world—tourist, tenant, corporate marketer—to access on-the-spot interpretation from any language and translation into another one. […]


“Covering about 155 languages and 912 language combinations, 5,000 multilingual speakers power Babelverse's network, which works via Web-connected device or VoIP-enabled phone. The technology has broken down language barriers, but is language the mother tongue of disruption in the business world—the site of a good portion of Babelverse's potential profits?


“Innovation or disruption, Babelverse is at the forefront of the tech-driven changes shaking up the $34 billion language-services market. Made up of multinational software companies that facilitate everything from machine translation to in-person interpreting, the industry is finally having its start-up moment. […]”


Link to full news story: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100765497


InterpretAmerica’s take: For most of its modern history, interpreting, particularly conference interpreting, has been carried out largely in the international public sector (e.g. UN, EU and foreign ministries) where efficiency and the bottom line are not normally the guiding principles for deciding how things will be done. For those who have made a living interpreting in the public sector, this CNBC article is a great window in on the way the business world approaches language and language services. It connects the dots of increasing demand for interpreting, mobile computing platforms and crowdsourcing through vast user communities in an attempt to find a cost-effective, rapidly deployable interpreting platform that is “good enough.” As Don DePalma from Common Sense Advisory points out in the article: “When you gang together hundreds of these devices into an intercommunicating network, all of a sudden you get all these benefits and economies of scale." Scalability is the key to growth in the interpreting industry. So, don’t expect this approach to meeting communication needs to disappear any time soon. Bableverse, the company highlighted in the article, is just the first of many companies to have recognized this potential market.

That said, InterpretAmerica is a little closer to this story than others we have commented on in Interpreting the News because Barry Slaughter Olsen, one of our co-presidents, was interviewed for and is quoted in the story. We are glad the article included the point of view of a practicing conference interpreter. Hopefully, the voice of the interpreter will be heard more and more in articles like these.

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InterpretAmerica, LLC was established in 2009 to provide a national and international forum for the interpreting profession.

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