The industry in context

Globalisation and technological developments have contributed towards rapid growth in the translation and interpreting sector in recent years.

Market size and structure

It is estimated that the language services industry reached $64.7 billion in 2022 and will have grown to $69.3 billion in 2023 (Nimdzi 100 Research 2023). 

 Annual growth is estimated at 7% and on this basis the industry is forecast to reach $90.8 billion by 2027.

The UK holds an important place in the global language services market and the pace of growth of UK language services companies has outpaced that of the global language services industry (15.5% in 2021 and 12.5% in 2022).

The UK is the largest market outside the United States and China with an estimated market size of between GBP 1.94 and 2.20 billion in 2022 (ATC-UK Languages Services Industry Report 2023). 

The language services market is probably the biggest industry that most people have never heard of, and it continues to grow because it’s not reliant on one business sector – wherever there is a need for communication there is a need for language services.

The highest volume of work comes from regulated industries (legal, life sciences and finance) followed by creative services including marketing and advertising, and technology, IT and software (ATC-UK Languages Services Industry Report 2023).

The language services industry continues to evolve rapidly to meet the changing needs of business, economies and society, and to adapt to the opportunities and challenges created by new technologies.

Translation boosts demand and sales

A survey of almost 9,000 consumers in 29 countries found that 76% prefer to purchase products with information in their own language and 40% will never buy from websites in other languages. (CSA Research 2020). 

“There is a longstanding assumption that enough people feel comfortable using English online, especially when buying high tech or expensive products,” comments Dr Donald A. DePalma, CSA Research’s Chief Research Officer.  “Our 2020 findings show… while they may want the products or experiences on the English-language site, most would rather think, act, and buy in their own language.”

Japanese advertising hordings

Language capabilities are also a key driver for UK SME export growth. SMEs embracing language capabilities are 30% more successful in exporting than those that do not (LO-C 30 Report – Aston University/ATC). 

The results of the research strongly indicate that SMEs can significantly increase their export sales, growth and profits by hiring people with language skills and high cultural intelligence, providing language training to existing staff and investing in professional translation services. 

Translation and localisation

Translation involves converting the meaning of your written content from the original (source) language to the desired (target) language, while respecting grammar rules and syntax. It goes well beyond a literal word-for-word conversion and takes into account the complexities of each specific language. 

Localisation goes a step further by tailoring your message to resonate with local audiences. It involves modifying elements such as language, date and time formats, currency, images, and other cultural nuances to ensure that the intended audience can fully understand and engage with the content. The aim is to foster a deeper connection and resonance with the intended audience. It is commonly used for websites, mobile apps, software, video games and voiceovers. So, although Argentina, Mexico and Spain all have Spanish as their official language, it is important to provide different, culturally appropriate content for each.


Technology has been used by translation and interpreting professionals for many decades and computer assisted translation is now commonplace. Recently generative AI and other emerging technologies have been evolving at an impressive pace and their use is now widespread. Such technologies offer a great deal of potential but they are not the answer to every translation task. While AI and translation apps are useful tools to understand a menu in a foreign country, or to get the gist of a foreign language social media post, there are limitations to their capabilities. 

Generative AI

We asked ChatGPT whether we could rely on it for the translation of documents. Here is what it said:

While ChatGPT can provide assistance with translation, it's important to note that it may not be as accurate or reliable as dedicated translation services or tools. ChatGPT is a language model trained on a diverse range of internet text, and while it can generate human-like text based on the input it receives, it doesn't have access to real-time data or specialized training in translation.

For critical and accurate translation of documents, it's recommended to use professional translation services or specialized translation tools that are designed for this purpose. These services often employ human translators or advanced machine translation algorithms that have been specifically trained for translation tasks.

If you decide to use ChatGPT for translation, keep in mind that it might provide a rough understanding of the content, but it may not guarantee the precision and quality that you would get from dedicated translation services. Always double-check important translations and consider consulting with professional translators for critical documents.

Other trends

The trend towards cross-border marketing has created demand for transcreation – translation of material into copy that will resonate with the target audience in the desired country. This type of work goes a step beyond localisation and requires the sensibilities of a copywriter, as well as high-level language translation skills.

The drive for media outlets to make film, television and audio output available quickly to global audiences has created new demand for subtitling and dubbed content.The global captioning and subtitling market size is projected to reach US$ 476.9 million by 2028, from US$ 282 million in 2021 (Global Captioning and Subtitling Solution Market Insights and Forecast) and Netflix dubbed video consumption on its platform is increasing at a pace of 120% yearly.

In 2023, the gaming industry closed another successful year with estimates of $227 billion in revenue, making it one of the largest industries in the world. Localisation has been instrumental in this strong performance.

Increased use of machine translation has been leading to different types of work for translators, who now commonly correct and refine material that has initially been translated by a machine. The ‘post-editing’ role has become more common.


For interpreters, the public sector is an important source of work, with requirements ranging from police and court interpreting to interpreting in health and social services settings, and community interpreting for counselling and victim support services.

By contrast, business interpreting ranges from one-to-one support at business meetings to simultaneous interpreting supporting large numbers of delegates at commercial and political conferences.

Find an interpreter

Sometimes, however, the work of the interpreter is very much in the front line. Working with or for the military in conflict zones to liaise between the armed forces and the local population, or supporting NGOs to deliver aid during a humanitarian crisis - interpreters play a vital role in many situations around the world, and one which is not without its dangers.

A significant recent trend in interpreting has been for more work to be carried out remotely. This may be for practical, logistical reasons, that is, it would not be possible for the communication to take place otherwise, or to increase efficiencies. This has required interpreters to familiarise themselves with new technology in their work. See ITI’s position statement on the appropriate use of remote interpreting.

How translators and interpreters work

Most translators and interpreters are freelancers. They may work for agencies (language service companies) or direct clients, but the majority work for a combination of the two (ITI Pulse survey Autumn 2022).

Translators almost always translate into their native language but may translate from a number of different languages. Many also offer a number of complimentary services such as proofreading, editing and SEO optimisation.

Many translators specialise in particular subject areas, from advertising, beauty and climate change to veterinary science, wine and spirits, and zoology, enabling clients to work with someone who is an expert in the subject matter and with any technical terminology in the field.

A lot of work is also done by the translation and interpreting industry in the humanitarian and charity sectors, with many language professionals giving up their time by working on a pro bono basis for organisations such as Translators Without Borders and The Rosetta Foundation.