How big is the translation services market? What are the most in-demand languages? What trends can we identify in the translation industry? In short, what is the size of the translation industry? We will address these questions, and others, in our "Knowledge" section about the translation industry.
The good news for translators who worry the technology may, one day, replace human translators, is that only parts of the translation job can be automated at the moment. Despite huge advances in technology, machine translation enables us to perform translation faster or is used for gisting, but not for final professional publishing. It is not expected that translations will be entirely automated in the near future.
In the fast-paced world of global communication, the translation industry plays a pivotal role. From expanding companies to connecting different cultures, translation has become a bridge linking people and organizations around the world. In this article, we will delve into the exciting universe of the translation industry and unravel its true size and impact on today’s society.
There has been a strong increase in the demand for professional translation services. Taking English as the source language, the demand for frequently translated languages such as French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish remains particularly strong. The most widely used Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean are also in high demand. Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages come in third position.
In the 21st century, companies and governments must regularly communicate and publish content (often in several languages) with existing and potential customers, business partners, and even employees working in other countries. This has shielded the translation industry and has turned it in a refuge from economic downturns.
Despite downwards pressure from worldwide recession, demand has actually steadily increased in the past few years. For example, multilingual online publishing has provided a tool for many SMEs to enter previously untapped markets.
What does the "Translation Services Industry" mean?
The term “translation services” refers to an industry encompassing companies that:
Translate written material
Provide interpreting from one language to another (including companies that offer sign language for those who need it)
Examples of translation services offered by the industry consist of document translation (paper or digital), software translation, or website translation, also called “localization,” i.e. translation within a website used in countries with other subdomains (like .es, .fr, .jp, or /es, /fr, /jp), for SEO, local products, etc.
Localization also takes into account local culture and language traits, different current keywords, etc., using translation as a sales tool or for commercial purposes.
The undeniable importance of the translation industry
The translation industry is not simply a linguistic activity, but an essential tool that facilitates communication between diverse linguistic communities and cultures. In an increasingly interconnected world, language barriers can be a significant obstacle to growth and collaboration. This is where the translation industry comes into play, acting as a catalyst that allows companies to expand internationally and people to connect across cultural borders.
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The development of the translation services industry
Despite the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, the translation market not only remained resilient but also garnered increased recognition. However, it is a very fragmented market, led by the Top 100 language service providers with a capital of over 10.4 billion dollars.
Currently, business comes from government and private companies. The translation industry is expected to continue to increase over the next few years, with an annual growth of 7.1% until 2026. The most important reason for this increase is globalization.
In the future, machine translation and computer-assisted translation software will improve and will therefore produce better and more efficient translation services. Higher efficiency lies in:
The translator, who will be able to deliver faster and more reliable translations. Companies that use machine translation efficiently will gain, as less can be paid for the same amount of translation.
More content can be published for the same price or less.
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The current size of the translation industry
Slator’s 2022 Language Industry Market Report found that the worldwide language services and language technology industry grew by nearly 12% in one year, reaching a market size of nearly 27 billion dollars in 2021. In general, Europe is the world’s leading translation market and accounts for 53.9% of the total. It is followed by North America with 34.82% and Asia with 10.49%, while South America, Africa and Oceania share the remaining 0.79%, according to nativos.org.
This leads us to another intriguing topic: What are the most translated languages in the world? Although English remains the main language in international translation according to CSA Research, in recent years, there has been an increase in the demand for translations into European languages such as French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
The translation industry in Europe
“The European machine translation market size surpassed USD 150 million in 2019 and is estimated to witness over 17% CAGR from 2020 to 2026.” - Graphical Research
The translation market is changing and one could say that in Europe, the country with the largest market is Germany, with an annual turnover of 1,352 million dollars. The second country would be France, billing around 678 million dollars, followed by Italy, according to tolingo.
Studies by Mordor Intelligence claim that the machine translation market was valued at 153.8 million dollars in 2020, and is expected to reach 230.67 million dollars by 2026, with an annual growth of 7.1% (2021-2026). The growing demand for computer-assisted translation tools has boosted this expansion. Globalization and digitalization have led to the internationalization of many companies, driving the need for multilingual content. In this context, machine translation remains an efficient solution.
Machine translation has achieved fast speeds and is widely used by translation companies to generate content in various languages. Key factors driving the market include the growing demand for cost-effective and fast localization and translation. Increasing accuracy has expanded machine translation applications in several business sectors. And it should be noted that the automotive, military and health care sectors are big users of this technology, especially in real-time multilingual communications.
The translation industry in the United States
Over the past decade, the translation and interpreting industry has experienced steady growth in the United States. According to the Labor Department, this positive trend is projected for the next decade. In fact, the department’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), which is updated annually, estimates a 20% increase in employment opportunities for translators and interpreters over the 2021-2031 period. This increase significantly exceeds the projected growth rate for other occupations. About 9,200 vacancies are projected for interpreters and translators each year, on average, during the decade. Many of these vacancies are expected to arise from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or leave the workforce, such as for retirement.
The translation industry in Asia
Language is a communication tool and translation is a bridge to understanding. The translation of Buddhist scriptures in China and the Bible in the West demonstrates their use throughout history. In political, economic and cultural communication between different regions, translation not only acts as an intermediary, but becomes communicative content.
In 2021, the Chinese translation industry had 423,547 language service providers, 9,656 of them with translation as their main business. Beijing leads in number of these companies, with a total value of 55,448 billion yuan, increasing by 11.1% annually, on average, compared to 2019.
Since 2015, the main business areas of Chinese language service companies have transited from manufacturing industries to technology and education. The most translated fields in 2015 were legal contracts (80.6%), chemical energy (77.8%) and machinery manufacturing (75.9%). In 2021, education and training (41.1%), information technology (40.8%) and intellectual property (38.8%) were predominant.
Currently, there are 5.38 million translation professionals in China, including 980,000 full-time translators. The translation team has grown significantly with traits of youth, knowledge and scaled structure. Although there is growth, the lack of talent in Chinese-to-foreign-language translation and in rare languages persists, showing a loss of professionals in translation education.
The translation market is a rising sector. Companies are multiplying and machine translation providers using artificial intelligence are growing rapidly. This market is evolving towards high levels of specialization and quality.
The translation industry in Latin America
At present, the translation industry in Latin America is constantly growing. The rise of international trade, enterprise globalization and media expansion have increased the demand for professional translation services in the region. Latin America is home to a wide variety of indigenous languages, such as Quechua, Guarani and Nahuatl, along with Spanish and Portuguese, which are the predominant languages. Translation is essential to preserve and disseminate these native languages.
Trends in the translation industry
We are facing a clear trend, neural machine translation (NMT), and it is driving the market. It uses data to predict word sequences with artificial neural networks. A steady improvement of NMT is expected over the next few years, along with its integration into analysis and software solutions. Companies such as Ubiqus, languagewire, and Pangeanic develop advanced machine translation systems, such as an adaptive system with real-time feedback and artificial intelligence to increase human translators’ productivity. This reduces costs and brings human-machine collaboration closer, meeting the growing demands of consumers in a multilingual world.
The exponential growth of translation demand
Over the past decade, we have witnessed an exponential increase in demand for translation services. This is largely due to the globalization of markets and the ease with which companies can reach international audiences through the Internet. From websites to marketing strategies, the need for multi-language content has skyrocketed, which in turn has boosted the growth of the translation industry.
As geographical barriers fade into the digital world, so do language barriers. International expansion is no longer an unattainable dream for small and medium-sized enterprises, but a real possibility. This has led to a significant increase in the demand for translation services, not only for text documents, but also for audiovisual content. Localizing videos, podcasts and other media has become a priority for reaching audiences of all ages, backgrounds and levels of access to technology.
In this scenario, the translation industry has evolved to meet these changing needs. From specialist translation agencies to machine translation solutions, the options available to companies are increasingly varied and flexible. The adaptability of the industry is evident in its ability to address a wide range of sectors, from medicine or technology to education and entertainment. This diversification not only reflects the growing demand, but also the importance of translation in the current age of global communication.
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The diversification of the translation industry
The translation industry encompasses much more than simply converting words from one language to another. It includes a wide range of services such as machine translation, machine translation with post-editing, translation of legal documents, software localization, interpreting at international events and the transcription of multimedia content. This diversification has enabled the translation industry to adapt to the changing needs of a constantly evolving world.
It is essential to highlight the boom in the demand for machine translation, a phenomenon that has transformed the way companies communicate in an increasingly globalized world. Technological advances in artificial intelligence and natural language processing have resulted in increasingly accurate and efficient machine translation solutions. This technology not only streamlines communication in different languages, but also opens up new opportunities for international expansion and intercultural collaboration. Machine translation has become a valuable tool for overcoming language barriers and fostering global connectivity in a variety of fields, from e-commerce to scientific research.
What drives growth in the translation industry?
Various factors have contributed to the steady growth of the translation industry. One of the main ones is the boom in e-commerce. Companies seeking to expand internationally must adapt their platforms to different languages and cultures, which requires expert translation services. In addition, global collaboration in scientific research and cultural exchange has also driven the need for accurate and reliable translation. Other factors include:
A rise in regional language translation (e.g., India)
The evolution in the need for translations of India’s regional languages is notorious. From the imposition of English during the imperial era, the current focus is now on globalization and technological advances that direct attention to regional languages.
Factors such as partnerships with foreign industries, the high uptake of smartphones, post-pandemic business digitization and the emergence of global capacity centers in level II and III cities have boosted the translation industry. Business expansion demands understanding and use of regional languages to reach deep market segments.
Translators are a key piece of the picture. Beyond converting text, they convey essence and tonality while respecting cultural nuances. Specializing in various areas, they recognize nuances and emotions in the original prose.
Less than 20% of the population speak fluent English, and about 50% prefer to interact in regional language. Startups and global actors grow in regional languages, reflecting opportunity. Challenges such as lack of standards, organization and remuneration affect the picture.
The multiple application sectors of translation services
Translation services have a significant impact, contributing to business expansion, knowledge diffusion, improved user experience and much more. Some of the main application sectors include:
The international expansion of companies seeks to capture new markets and customers. Accurately and culturally appropriate translation is critical to delivering clear and effective messages. Companies also adapt branding and marketing strategies to resonate with local sensitivities, including translating slogans and product names.
E-commerce removes geographical borders for online shopping. Translation not only covers product information, but also website interface, shopping buttons and payment options in the user’s preferred language. This ensures a smooth shopping experience and increases customer confidence.
Multilingual digital content
Companies recognize the need to connect with their audience in their native language on digital platforms. Content translation creates greater participation, improves SEO by reaching a wider audience and encourages social interaction. This also applies to the translation of comments and responses for more meaningful interaction.
Software and application localization
Localization is a crucial step in ensuring that software and applications are usable and understandable in different areas of the world. This involves adapting currency, units of measurement, colors and symbols to suit local preferences, which improves user experience and facilitates adoption.
Machine translation technology
Machine translation has become essential for speed and efficiency. In addition to saving time and resources, companies can use machine translation tools to get an overview of the content, even before performing a final human translation. This is especially useful for rapid decision-making.
Government and legal needs
Translation of legal and government documents is essential for cross-border cooperation. Trade agreements, contracts and regulations must be available in different languages to ensure transparency and mutual understanding in international transactions.
Education and training
Online education is revolutionizing how people acquire knowledge. Translating educational materials and online courses allows institutions to reach students worldwide, facilitating distance learning and new knowledge adoption.
Media and entertainment
The global distribution of entertainment content requires translation to reach non-English speaking audiences. The translation of subtitles, dubbing and synopsis allows a variety of cultures to enjoy movies, TV shows and online content authentically.
Innovative technology in the translation indust
Technology has played a crucial role in the transformation of the translation industry. Artificial intelligence and machine translation have advanced significantly, allowing faster and more efficient translation in certain contexts. However, it is important to note that although technology can be a powerful tool, accuracy and cultural context often require human intervention.
This technology has revolutionized the way we translate, interpret and generate content in different languages. Neural machine translation systems have reached surprising levels of accuracy and fluency, allowing people and businesses to communicate effectively in multilingual contexts. These advances not only streamline translation workflows, but also improve accessibility to information worldwide. However, it is important to note that although technology can be a powerful tool, accuracy and cultural context often require human intervention.
The brilliant future of the translation industry
As the world continues to evolve and global connections become more solid, the future of the translation industry seems exceptionally bright. Companies will continue to seek to expand internationally, digital content will require constant localization and the need for interpreting at international events will be irreplaceable. The translation industry will not only continue to grow, but will also adapt to the changing demands of an interconnected world.
The size of the translation industry is vast and constantly growing. Its role as a facilitator of intercultural communication and global trade is irreplaceable. With an estimated market value of 26.6 billion dollars (Slator), the translation industry is at the heart of our modern world and will continue to play a crucial role in the way people and businesses connect globally.
With this complete vision of the translation industry, we are sure that you will be better equipped to understand its importance and its influence in the current global landscape.