Forword Translations Blog
All things language and translation
How Do Elections Affect The Private Sector?
The past week has been interesting for Americans, to say the least. On Tuesday, Americans re-elected the incumbent Democratic president, Barack Obama, over his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. Whatever policies these two parties decide to implement during the next four years will surely affect the economy. But what about the election itself? How does it affect the private sector, including language services companies like Forword? The question is too large and complicated to tackle completely in a blog post; however, we can look at what issues generally affect language companies.
Language services companies do one or more of three things: Translation & Interpretation (translating documents or words from one language to another), Education (teaching English or a foreign language), and Transcription (writing down words from listening to audio). Surprisingly, immigration policy does not have much of an effect on these institutions.
First, the immigration policies under debate today largely have to do with illegal immigrants who are already in the United States, not with how many we legally let in to the country. Illegal immigrants do not frequently buy translation services; they will only need a birth certificate translated if they come legally.
Second, immigration policy may affect which languages are being taught at companies that teach foreign languages, but not necessarily the quantity of people learning them. As China grows as a trade partner, more people are learning Mandarin. But America is anything but xenophobic; we are already a hodgepodge of cultures and languages, which is why language learning companies are so popular and profitable here. We don’t expect that illegal immigrants being granted amnesty or being deported really affects who learns Spanish in New York.
Furthermore, international businesses that require translation and interpretation to operate will probably require translation regardless of how we protect our borders from illegal entry. A drastic situation would be a business that relies solely on this demographic for its sustenance – but then this is likely to be a supportive nonprofit rather than a language services company.
How much funding goes to education may affect companies like Forword, but not directly. We hire only the best translators and reviewers of documents, and we constantly seek highly educated people who have had the opportunity to go to college and travel the world. Experience in translation is also a highly desirable characteristic.
But we don’t expect that an increase or decrease in spending on education will affect our clients too much. It will only affect the people we hire in the next decade or two. The exception is businesses that deal internationally and will pay for their employees to learn a new language. Those businesses are more affected by tax policy.
Like all sectors, businesses in language services have to consider what tax policies are best for them. Larger companies may benefit more from a Republican tax policy; for small businesses, it’s a constant debate. More importantly, much of a language company’s revenue can come from the government or government-like institutions; the United Nations, Social Security, and the judicial system all demand our services. Although translation and interpretation will surely be used by governments no matter what, restriction of the budget will cause the frequency or length of government contracts to diminish.
This doesn’t mean that all language companies advocate large government. Indeed, we are also strongly affected by how much we do business with other countries, a characteristic of the private sector in large and small companies alike. We are affected by how much discretionary income that Americans have to spend on “luxuries” like picking up the French they learned in high school. We are affected by the decision of a larger company like Coca-Cola to expand or contract overseas, or to reach out to a non-English-speaking demographic. We are affected by a lot of issues, but fortunately we have a balance of government, private sector, and nonprofits contributing to our success.
It’s too soon to know what’s best for us here at Forword. We haven’t been around long enough to know which immigration, education, or tax policies are truly optimal. So we don’t endorse Obama or Romney. But a resurgent economy will be good for everyone, and that’s a policy we can get behind. We’re hopeful, of course, and always looking Forword.