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Language industry

The language industry is the sector of activity dedicated to facilitating multilingual communication, both oral and written. According to the European Commission's Directorate-General of Translation, the language industry comprises the activities of translation, interpreting, subtitling and dubbing, software and website globalisation, language technology tools development, international conference organisation, language teaching and linguistic consultancy.[1] According to the Canadian Language Industry Association, this sector comprises translation (with interpreting, subtitling and localisation), language training and language technologies.[2] The European Language Industry Association limits the sector to translation, localisation, internationalisation and globalisation.[3] An older, perhaps outdated view confines the language industry to computerised language processing[4] and places it within the information technology industry. An emerging view expands this sector to include editing for authors who write in a second language—especially English—for international communication.[5]


  • Services 1
  • Evolution 2
  • Controversies 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The scope of services in the industry includes:

The persons who facilitate multilingual communication by offering individualized services—translation, interpreting, editing or language teaching—are called language professionals.


Translation as an activity exists at least since mankind started developing trade millennia ago; so, if we include interpreting, it is no exaggeration to say that the origins of language industry are older than those of written language.

Modern language industry has developed rapidly following availability of the internet. Achievements of the industry include the ability to quickly translate long texts into many languages. This has created new challenges as compared with the traditional activity of translators, such as that of quality assurance. There are some quality standards such as EN 15038 in Europe, the CAN CGSB 131.10 in Canada and ASTM F2575-06 in the USA.[6]

There are language industry companies of different sizes; none of them is dominant in the world market so far.[7]

A study commissioned by the EC's Directorate-General for Translation estimated the language industry in European member states to be worth 8.4 billion euro in 2008.[8] The largest portion, 5.7 billion euro, was ascribed to the activities of translation, interpreting, software localisation and website globalisation. Editing was not taken into consideration. The study projected an annual growth rate of 10% for the language industry. At the time the study was published, in 2009, the language industry was less affected by the economic crisis than other industry sectors.

One field of research in the industry includes the possibility of machine translation fully replacing human translation.[9]


Rates for translation services have become a big discussion topic nowadays,[10] as several translation outsourcers allegedly go in search of cheap labor. Professional associations like IAPTI try to put a stop to this development.[11] Currency fluctuation is yet another important factor.[12]

Apart from this, phenomena such as crowdsourcing appear in large-scale translations;[13] such crowdsourcing has drawn criticism,[14] including from the American Translators Association.[15]

US President Barack Obama drew criticism after a 2009 White House white paper proposed incentives for automatic translation.[16][17]


  1. ^ "Language industry web platform". EC DG Translation. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Our industry". Language Industry Association. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "ELIA membership application". European Language Industry Association. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "Glossary - Translation Bureau".  
  5. ^ Matarese, Valerie. Supporting research writing in non-anglophone Europe: reflections and recurring themes (2013). Matarese Valerie, ed. Supporting research writing: roles and challenges in multilingual settings. Oxford: Chandos. pp. 257–268. 
  6. ^ "BS EN 15038:2006 Translation services. Service requirements".  
  7. ^ "Ranking of Top 25 Translation Companies". Common Sense Advisory. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  8. ^ The size of the language industry in the EU. European Commission DG Translation. 2009.  
  9. ^ Paul, Michael; Andrew Finch; Eiichiro Sumita (2007). "Reducing human assessment of machine translation quality to binary classifiers". Proceedings of TMI: 154–162. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  10. ^ "Why are rates so low?".  
  11. ^ A new T&I association is born
  12. ^ Rates for translation services to go up?
  13. ^ Collaborative translation and crowdsourcing (in English and Portuguese)
  14. ^ Translators group against crowdsourcing in for-profit companies
  15. ^ Thoroughly unprofessional practices (Letter from ATA to LinkedIn)
  16. ^ White House Challenges Translation Industry to Innovate
  17. ^ Letter from ATA to President Obama

External links

  • Articles in Language Industry Monitor (1991-1995)
  • CAN CGSB 131.10
  • European Language Industry Association
  • Language Industry Association (Canada)
  • European Commission's DG Translation Language Industry web platform
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