News, political statements, websites, movies, product literature, software, safety information, labeling, digital games and customer support are all translated every day in over 500 major language pairs worldwide.
Much work goes into these translations. Words are translated into different languages; those words are tested for cultural relevance and understanding. Products are tested and adapted so that they work according to the region’s protocols and expectations. Colors, images and symbols must be culturally appropriate. Software must work. All of these things – and more – are undertaken by specialists within the localization and language industry.
It is the localization and language industry that helps organizations reach their target customers in the right language and cultural context. When you consider that less than 27% of the Internet is now in English, you can see why localization and language services are so important to companies worldwide. Increasingly, companies have to communicate with their customers in more than one language.
The worldwide language services market is growing at an annual rate of 7.4% and estimates for 2014 put the world market at some $39 billion, according to research by Common Sense Advisory. The Centre for Next Generation Localisation reports that it is the fourth fastest-growing industry in the United States.
Any company producing content in more than one language requires localization and language services. What’s more, studies comprehensively show that the return on investment for adding support for international markets in their products and websites is high for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies.
And it’s not just the business community who needs – and benefits from – language services. Governments need language services to conduct foreign affairs and foreign trade for intelligence and security programs and to communicate with immigrants and tourists.
The language industry consists of many different types of entities providing both outsourced language technology and services and in-house support within multinational companies. The industry is composed of:
- Localization service providers (LSPs) and translation companies
With more than 6,700 languages spoken in 230 countries worldwide, these companies adapt products and services so they are accessible to a region's residents. This process involves adaptation to the language, culture, customs, and other characteristics of the target locale.
- Technology developers
Technology companies are a key element of the localization and language industry. From machine translation (like the well-known Google Translate), to terminology, content mining, analytics and many other technologies, innovative companies are creating solutions to accelerate efficiency and time-to-market for customers going global.
- In-house localization and translation departments
Many multi-national companies have in-house teams that coordinate translation strategy and implementation internally, and most work with outsourced localization service providers.
- Translators & Interpreters
Individual translators and interpreters are the core of the localization and language sector, often working as independent contractors and freelancers or as full-time staff.
- Research analysts, publications, and training institutes
The localization and language industry includes top research analysts, publications, and training companies as well as academic and university programs.
- Globalization and internationalization consultants
Consulting covers the revision of business processes and management procedures and the adaptation of marketing tools, with the intention of helping companies succeed abroad.
Read an overview of localization.
Find translation services and companies.
Learn about careers in localization.