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Technology Impact on Translation Industry and Global Outlook 2020

The economic growth, accelerated global trade, and improvement in technology have brought higher importance to the the local languages n Asia and Africa as well.  Big software firms like Microsoft find it profitable to localize their wares in small languages like Vlach, Belarusian or Luxembourgish.  There are multiple languages and dialects exist in different countries and even in Europe, the European Union members have to communicate in in 24 tongues.  Translation is no longer usually to or from English but has entered into different segments of late.

Translation Industry

The global translation industry is growing under the shadows of different industries.  In 2015, the global market is expected to be worth US$47.3 billion, a rise of over 40% compared to 2012.  Growing at a CAGR 7.76% every year, the market would reach approximately US$68 billion in 2020, according to Analysts.  Details as given below;


A few top agencies control the majority of the market, and the rest is made up of tens of thousands of Language Service Providers (LSP), typically small-medium sized agencies and freelance translators.  There are around 640,000 translators in the world, a quarter of them are freelancers.  Generally, barriers to entry in this industry are low, but competition is extremely high.  Translation in continental Europe was once dominated by the “FIGS” (French, Italian, German and Spanish); Japanese, Chinese and Korean were the only Asian languages to speak of.  Roughly 90% of online spending is accounted for by speakers of 13 languages.  But others are becoming more important, for reasons of both politics and commerce.

Due to the ever-increasing trend towards globalization, translation is more or less considered recession proof.  Widespread internet access and the e-commerce boom have both contributed significantly to the industry’s expansion.

Software can give the gist of a foreign tongue, but for business use, but is not enough.  And polyglot programs are a pinprick in a vast industry.  The business of translation, interpreting and software localization, i.e., revising websites, apps and the like for use in a foreign language generates revenues of US$37 billion a year (revenue for software assisted segment of the market alone), a report made by Common Sense Advisory (CSA) says.  “Translation memory” (TM) was the first big useful tool.  Since the 1980s translators have been able to dip into vast TM databases containing whole sentences that have already been translated in a given language pair, helping them to speed up repetitive work, such as translating instruction manuals.  “Machine translation” will be the future.  Computers learn from huge databases of already-translated text to make ever-better guesses about how to render whole chunks from one language into another.  Translators used to scorn this, seeing their human judgment as irreplaceable.

A real breakthrough would come from combining software, memory and content management in a single database.  But making money may still be tricky.  The American tech titan (Google) has not tried to commercialize Google Translate.  However complex and unachievable the objective might look, the market players are trying their level best to boost up the technologies to build a robust translation mechanism.

This blog is written by Bhoopal Ram, Sr Analyst with DART Consulting.