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.


 Global concerns

Recent world events have accelerated a few general trends:
  1. More people have been brought more fully online,
  2. More content is becoming available at a faster pace,
  3. More new freelancers have been introduced in various industries, and
  4. Technology advances are focusing on enabling the connection between people and content.
These first two are factors in the continued growth of the language services industry, while the second two will be essential in addressing the demand necessary to fuel this growth.

Pandemic translator has a very particular set of skills
At a moment when many “regular” job-holders were forced either into inactivity or into remote work, freelance translators and interpreters found themselves in a unique position to be able to weather the storm of lockdowns. While some people struggled to adapt to jobs which suddenly had components of freelance work (remote work, greater self-discipline, greater reliance on online tools and methods of coordinating and getting the job done), freelancers were already busy being freelancers. They had their home office spaces, work setups ready and refined, they were already computer and internet literate, knew the ins and outs of dealing with clients online, and had experience working alone, or coordinating with colleagues remotely. They were even able to assist panicked or frustrated friends and family with setting up their remote work systems in a more efficient manner. We can also hope that a good number of friends and family gained a new appreciation for that translator who was always “working” from home (... But, she’s always at home on the computer, I don’t get it…).
A very large number of people in other lines of work did not fare so well in this unexpected shift to the remote, especially in the early days of the pandemic. One need only reflect back on the weekly news stories about teachers and politicians ill-prepared for work life over Zoom, for example. And while the remote work vs. in-person work debate rages on in the corporate world today, freelancers are sipping their coffee or tea while getting ready for the next job…
In fact, pandemic-related events seem to have provided the impetus for many to take the step into freelancing as a full time or supplemental career path. The language services industry stands to benefit from this new influx of professionals.
Quotes from language professionals:

The pandemic brought me more jobs as a remote interpreter than as a translator or a professor so I accepted this challenge full of expectations and happiness.

Teaching has never completely satisfied me, both professionally and especially financially. In addition, due to the risks brought by the pandemic, the opportunity to work fully from home made me switch to the profession of translator.

I'm shifting to keep up with growing demand that started with the pandemic. If I could find other people in my specialty who do what I do, I would hire them!
Accompanying these new professionals to the industry is an altered panorama of how we live and do what we do. The pandemic, in a certain sense, sped some things up. People, companies, and countries were already moving towards a more digital, internet-based way of operating. The pandemic accelerated this move. In many parts of the world, almost overnight, video calls with your doctor or psychologist became the new norm. The purchase of goods and services online increased greatly. Online education, hardly a new area to explore, was now the main or only way one could further their education, and the stigma of getting a degree online versus attending an institution of higher education in person began to fall away with greater speed. Even the methods by which you vote in elections may have changed, favoring remote voting where possible. The tech sector responded to such changes as best it could. Cloud computing saw a jump in prevalence. Software and systems supporting telehealth needed to be developed or refined in order to support all those video calls you were making to your doctor to find out if you or yours had COVID. Apps and services which support stay-at-home consumerism exploded. Although TV and film productions saw setbacks in the content they could create, the consumption of that media, new and already existing, swelled-- good news for those working in audio and visual translation (AVT). The technology supporting remote interpreting made a large step forward in prevalence.
In 2022, just over 30% of translators and interpreters reported seeing an increase in demand for their services which they believed was attributable to the pandemic.

Industry report, 2022This is an excerpt of the most recent industry report. To read the full report, you can go to industry reports are periodic publications that take a look at trends, challenges, and opportunities in the language services industry, from the perspective of the freelance language professional. paying members enjoy immediate, full access to these reports.





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Topics: translation, interpreting, language services industry

Jared Tabor

Written by Jared Tabor

Jared oversees Member services at An ex-language teacher, he has lived and worked in Argentina since 1996. He has been with through the La Plata office since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter, @taboredinc .

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