If any industries can be considered recession-proof, the field of interpreting and translation may be one, especially as business transactions across borders increase. A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report projects 42 percent growth in the industry from 2010 to 2020, outpacing average growth for other occupations studied by the BLS. “Employment growth reflects an increasingly diverse U.S. population, which is expected to require more interpreters and translators,” the report states.
“Translation is one of the few industries that has seen minimal impact from the global economic downturn,” says Nataly Kelly, chief research officer with Common Sense Advisory, a Lowell, Mass., market research firm. A report (PDF) Kelly co-authored last month shows that the market for outsourced language services is $33.5 billion in 2012 and has seen a compound annual growth rate of 12.17 percent. This is a fragmented market composed of more than 26,000 companies around the world, according to her report, which shows that only nine had more than $100 million in 2011 revenue.
Free Web-based translation programs such as Google (GOOG)Translate, have not dented the market for translation services. “Machine translation—especially the free, online kind—serves as an awareness campaign, putting translation in front of the average person,” says Susanne Evens, founder and chief executive of AAA Translation in St. Louis. While automated translation can quickly scan and summarize large bodies of text, reduce cost, and improve consistency, humans will be needed to use it intelligently and proofread the results, at least for the foreseeable future.
Interpreters and translators should embrace technology, says Kelly: “Research shows that with online content exploding and the expansion of globalization, the industry may actually face a shortage of qualified human translators soon. Technology is part of the solution.” Technology-savvy translation companies are growing at much faster rates than those companies that are reluctant to embrace technology, her research shows. More.