Language service providers face strong challenges amid outbreak

[Photo by Shi Yu/China Daily]

The novel coronavirus outbreak has imposed severe challenges to some language service providers, especially small and medium enterprise (SMEs) in this sector, but they are seeking changes in business models with a slew of supportive measures from the government.

A recent survey focused on the impact of the epidemic on language service providers in China. The survey was co-launched by the School of Translation and Interpreting of Beijing Language and Culture University, the university's Institute of International Language Services and the Institute of Language Services of Hebei Normal University for Nationalities.

The survey covers five aspects, including the analysis of participants, recovery of work, performance concerns, the expectation of possible governmental aid and adjustment in business models on the agenda.

In the online questionnaire survey, the majority of the participants were SMEs. As they provide various services covering interpretation, translation, localization and language technology services, they are able to adapt to the market quickly and respond by providing online services and remote delivery via digital telecom networks. In other words, they can effectively block out some negative effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the survey, over 90 percent of language service provider businesses have resumed their operation by remote internet or cloud-based computer aided translation platforms. The companies in the language service sector are more advantageous in conducting online services as they are largely supported by information and the internet.

The resumption of work was well on track, but some concerns remains urgent, especially for SMEs. Nearly 80 percent of participants are worried about a decline in performance due to a sharp fall of on-site language services. According to the survey, 64.6 percent of the participants have thought of the"drop or loss of existing translation business" as the major challenge, as it will bring high uncertainty to their businesses.

Shortage of funds also has become a bottleneck for SME growth as they are more vulnerable in capital due to uncertainties or risks. Visa restrictions have an intense blow to English-related language service as countries, including the US and Austria, have taken such measures. The survey showed that overseas clients also are taking a lukewarm attitude or even a wait-and-see attitude.

Against this backdrop, all businesses are looking forward to government aid in which their urgent desire is to have their rent and tax cut. These hopes have been heard and many measures aiming to help companies to recover are well on the way.

This virus outbreak also has become an opportunity for these companies to restructure their business models, to make diagnoses and prescribe changes for themselves, and then adjust their strategies and business models to meet the challenges posed by globalization and the 5G era. Efforts may include strengthening capacity building in risk tolerance, strategic planning, human resources, technology development and crisis response.

Zheng Hao contributed to this story.