Trends in the language services industry: A demographic interlude

Because everyone likes a nice chart or graph, right? Here we go.

Years in the industry

 Respondents to surveys and other participants in this report are a relatively “mature” crowd in terms of professional experience. Almost half fall into the range of between six and eighteen years in the industry.
Surveys outside of the site indicate the percentage of newer language professionals may be higher than shown here, however, with 10% having been in the industry for just under two years, and another 10% in the 2 - 4 year range.
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Trends in the language services industry: Turnover and Attention Economy

You win some, you lose some


The percentage of people who are leaving the industry had declined somewhat by 2019. Just under 21% said they were planning on leaving, or had already left the industry. There was a small uptick in this percentage in 2022, to 23%. 
Now, bear in mind that these percentages include people who are considering leaving but who have not yet left, and they also likely leave out some who have already left as well. In 2022, roughly 37% of freelance translators and interpreters reported knowing friends or colleagues who had left the industry in the past couple of years.
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Trends in the language services industry: The continued rise of the remote interpreter

There was probably a sort of Golden Age of the Interpreter, where technology had gotten good enough to support and facilitate an interpreter’s work, but where for the most part the interpreter needed to be on site. So you saw a lot of interpreters traveling here and there, near and far, to work at conferences, job sites, business meetings, court hearings, and so on. It sounds almost glamorous, doesn’t it? 
Tech advances then reached a point where those plane tickets and travel expenses began to dry up, as it became easier and easier and more and more cost effective to bring the interpreter onto the scene either over the phone or virtually. Not only can remote interpreting be more cost effective, it can also be safer-- think of military applications, war zones, language support during epidemics, and so on. Smart phones allowed us to go mobile with a distant interpreter, and platforms geared towards finding and engaging with a distant interpreter began to pop up across the internet.
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Trends in the language services industry: The need for experts on tech applied to language services

In a previous industry report, we touched on the dynamic of machine translation and the translator, machine translation and the company or client, as well as the segments of freelance translators who were:
  1. Embracing MT and MTPE
  2. Diversifying within the industry
  3. Diversifying out of the industry
As we saw a moment ago, some translators are getting trained or training themselves in the application of post-editing and dedicating at least some of their work efforts to these projects. Some translators are diversifying the services they offer within the industry, and others are transitioning out of the industry altogether. We’ll look at these last two groups in just a moment, but first, let’s look at this from a different perspective.
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Trends in the language services industry: Machine translation, part 2

Actual post-editing work (MTPE)...


Quotes from language professionals:

I'm training automated translation engines and I therefore know firsthand these need to be 'tweaked' to deliver proper suggestions.

I am used to post editing now more than ever, and that has been a significant contribution to the number of words I am able to translate per day.
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Trends in the language services industry: Machine translation, part 1

Machine translation and post-editing. Won’t it just go away on its own?


In order to look at machine translation (MT) here, we will use three different categories: 
  1. MT applied by translators, 
  2. MT applied by clients or others who are not the translators, and 
  3. Actual machine translation post-editing (MTPE) work.
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Trends in the language services industry: Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence. Forget whether it's really intelligent, it's here. What is it doing?
Quotes from language professionals:

An interpreting contract was cancelled because AI was implemented to LIVE translate & subtitle a news show where I was working.
Technological advances are not only exciting, but greatly impact the development of our industry. We need to adapt and transform ourselves, since technology is dynamic as well.
I am not extremely worried about technological advances, on the contrary I am trying to specialise so that I can make them work to my advantage.
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Trends in the language services industry: What, me worry?

What concerns freelance language professionals most at the moment?


There is a lot to worry about, and everyone’s situation and career path is different. But there are recurring concerns that come up over and over in general among freelance language professionals. Most of the concerns themselves are the same, and most of them are shared concerns with freelancers in any industry, but by paying attention to changes in priority or prevalence it is possible to get a feel for what, if anything, is new.
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Trends in the language services industry: general industry trends

The events we've looked at so far probably took most of us by surprise. General trends in the language services industry are much less surprising if you have been in the game for a while. We can say that some of these trends have been intensified over the past two years or so, but for the most part they were all pre-existing. In general, we can say that:

1. Demand for language services continues to rise.
  • Content creation continues to grow exponentially,
  • Spending on language services will continue to increase,
  • More languages are being added to the demand in order to reach more people.
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Trends in the language services industry: Global concerns, part three

The Great Resignation, The Big Firing, and Other Epic Names

You have probably read terms such as The Great Resignation, The Big Reshuffle, The Big Firing, Quiet Quitting, and others which are commonly being thrown about nowadays, and which make for great clickbait in our news feeds. While the media coverage seems to focus mostly on these phenomena as they affect workers in the regular 9 to 5, it is important to keep in mind that they are also feeding into the pool of available freelancers in many industries, including language services. Many employees leaving their 9 to 5 jobs are going into freelancing; one estimate is that in the United States alone, 50% of the total workforce will be (at least partially) freelance by 2028. Having gone remote during the pandemic gave a large segment of the population a small taste of one part of the freelancing life, and most are currently grappling with remote work vs. back to the office. So now you have both necessity and desire fueling a shift to freelancing as a way of life.
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Trends in the language services industry: Global concerns, part two

In early 2022, Russia attacked Ukraine, setting off a chain of events the full results of which we have yet to see. In the immediate aftermath, a great number of people in Ukraine were either forced to leave their country or internally displaced. Again, it was the freelance translators and interpreters who had the skills and tools available to weather the storm with just a tiny bit more of certainty when it came to securing an income, in a moment where everything was uncertain. 
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Trends in the language services industry: Global concerns, part one

The past two to three years have been, as many a corporate email would remind us during the COVID-19 pandemic, “challenging times.” A great many things changed from one day to the next, and now in 2022 we’re still figuring out what some of this means for our work and our lives moving forward. What does this look like to freelance professionals in the language services industry? This report will take a look at both global and industry-specific challenges and opportunities that have presented themselves since the last report, and how freelance language professionals are dealing with those challenges and taking advantage of those opportunities.

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The state of the linguist supply chain: a CSA report on translators and interpreters in 2020


In the second half of 2019,, Translators without Borders, and other organizations collaborated with Common Sense Advisory (CSA) on a survey directed at professional translators and interpreters. The information gathered in this survey, which was completed by over 7,000 professionals (most of them freelancers), was then used by CSA to build a report which covers a variety of areas, including demographics, behaviors, interaction with clients, income, technology, and trends and challenges being faced by today's freelance language professional. The team is happy to be able to help distribute this report to those who may be interested.

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Survey for professional translators and interpreters, your input will be appreciated

Common Sense Advisory (CSA), in cooperation with Translators without Borders (TwB) and, is conducting a large-scale survey on translators and interpreters, to research challenges being faced and changes being made by today's professionals. Please consider taking some time to respond to this survey-- your input will be greatly appreciated. Results of this research will be made available to members.


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Human response to a changing industry: Part 4

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