Language Service Industry: Trends and Projections

Kate Accetti|October 22, 2021
Language Services is a multi-billion-dollar industry. In 2019, the language service industry was assessed at approximately 46.9 billion US Dollars globally. In 2020, we saw significant changes due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with revenues dipping slightly. However in 2021, they rose again to $56.18 Billion USD, a 16% increase, to date. Technology and the adaptability of both Language Service Providers (LSP's) and consumers shifted the predominant industries served as well as modalities of language access provided.

Industries Served

In 2020, the travel and tourism industry suffered considerably, noting a significant drop in demand according to CSA Research. However, other industries remained consistent or even realized growth. Social Networks, Gaming and Healthcare industries all experienced meaningful growth. Industries including education, business, finance, entertainment, and many more, transitioned from onsite to virtual engagement to accommodate socially distanced communication.  Retailers moved from brick and mortar to online and remote work became more prevalent, which reduced much overhead cost for many employers. A reduction in overhead meant budget could be allocated elsewhere to areas such as localization, access, and inclusion.

Shift to Remote Interpretation

On the LSP side, freelance translators typically work from home, so the pandemic didn't necessarily impact their working setup. Interpreters now enjoy the benefits of remote work with the increased usage of Remote Interpretation -both Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI) and Remote Consecutive Interpretation (RCI). The implementation of Computer Assisted Interpretation (CAI) is another example of technology enabling professional interpreters to better support their customers and end users by incorporating tools to help with accuracy, reduction of latency and overall delivery of interpretation.

We've seen cost savings for some of our clients who embraced virtual engagement and eliminated the need for on-site interpreters, A/V equipment (full and tabletop booths, headset equipment, transmitters) travel and lodging.  While we anticipate hybrid and remote events will continue to be prevalent, we must also consider Zoom fatigue and the desire for basic human connection. Onsite events and travel will resume with regularity. Going forward, we will probably see a mixed bag of both traditional and virtual setups, depending upon the nature of the event and the budget of the buyer.

The Linguist Labor Force

The Language Service Industry is also expecting growth within its workforce. Currently there are over 56,000 linguists (Interpreters and translators) in the US, and over 640,000 linguists worldwide. US employment of linguists is expected to increase by 24% by the year 2030 (US Bureau of Labor and Statistics). According the bls.gov, "About 10,400 openings for interpreters and translators are projected each year..."

The Streaming Industry

Consumers are streaming television, movies, music, sports and games with increasing volume. The streaming industry is expected to reach over $70 billion USD by the end of this year. We're also seeing growth within translated and dubbed media. Netflix created its own blueprint for subtitling and dubbing content. This only confirms that streamed media will continue to be increasingly accessible and the demand for English based content in other languages as well as foreign content in English will continue to boost growth in the language service industry.

Looking Ahead

Technology has made the world a little bit smaller, bridging gaps in everything from business meetings to global conferences, following instructions for a recipe in a foreign language to watching a new Netflix show in your preferred language. The pandemic made us more comfortable within the virtual space and using technology as a tool. It has also empowered us to provide more access and to increase communication across groups that otherwise may have never interacted. We may go back to "normal" in some respects, however technology and the desire for access and information promises the language service industry a very prosperous future.

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