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The translation booming industry: a pre-COVID analysis

We’ll refer indistinctively to translation and interpreting as “translation industry” throughout this series. It is of course a bit of a shortcut as the two disciplines are so different in terms of mission scope, brain processes involved and tools used. They are also often mixed up by less savvy customers who need a ‘translator’ to come to their office. So, to put it up straight, interpreters translate what is spoken and translators interpret written materials.

The translation market has been growing steadily for the last decades, with no recession. Its value was estimated at USD 53.5 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 70 billion by 2023 according to the Nimdzi Insights LLC’s report published in 2019.

Translation agencies revenues are exponentially growing just as their number is soaring, with important discrepancies among them as they span from multi-million $ ones to small agencies with a couple of employees. Those pre-Covid19 prediction might need to be reevaluated since many specialty areas have been hardly hit by the general slowdown triggered by the pandemic, and interpreting, for one, has come to an almost complete halt. It will be very interesting to follow the regeneration of this segment as over-the-phone interpreting and other remote solutions players will lead for a little while.

Why is the translation market thriving?

Our growing globalized economy creates the need for more and more localized content as reaching every foreign market requires translated and adapted content to the local language and culture. In addition to the modern world interconnections, the multiplication of types of formats (particularly the significant rise of digital formats), mainly brought up by the weight of social media in marketing, contributes as well to the increased demand for translation. It is almost as if translation demand has become one of the markers of a company’s growth.

To this we can add two contributing factors: on the one hand, legal requirements aimed at protecting individuals’ rights and safety and on the other hand, more demanding consumers.

The EU’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was designed to harmonise data privacy laws across Europe and provide more protection and rights to individuals. The EU MDR for Medical Devices, which implementation was postponed to May 2021 consecutively to the Coronavirus pandemic, intends to grant to the public access to information as well as to promote transparency and public safety. Both are a good illustration of how stricter regulations are benefiting the translation industry.

In order to comply with the law, Businesses have to rework their legal, technical or marketing documentation, as well as to provide additional local versions so that information is clear and easily understandable by the public.

On the other hand, customers have also become more demanding. For a large part, the quality of translated contents reflects a company’s standards. A badly automatically translated instructions for use, for example, will convey to the reader, a feeling of low-cost manufacturing, and will, subconsciously, downgrade the company in the customer’s mind, often generating a conflict between the brand image and the sought brand identity. In order to identify themselves with the essence of the message, customers have to read a text without realising it is a translation. This is particularly true in marketing or business contents. In addition to the quality criteria, companies must adapt to the ever-growing multilingualism. The audience in new emerging markets wants to be addressed to in their native language.

The demand for contents in Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Mandarin and Cantonese, Korean etc. is increasing along with the demographic and economic potentials of these new markets. Here again, customers need to feel the product is intended for them. They cannot feel as second-rate users from countries less important to the manufacturer.

It would appear, therefore, that the economic development of companies is closely tied to their translation provider(s)… and over the years, companies and Localization Service Providers have embraced together new ways of collaborating induced by the changes the profession has experienced.

Let’s have a look at these changes next week with our article about the tools that have changed the way translators work.


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