UK Language Services Industry Overview & Outlook
The UK language service market is the world’s second-largest market and the largest single-country market for language services in Europe. This is according to research conducted by the Association of Translation Companies (ATC). Globally, the entire language service industry was estimated at a value of £35 billion in 2018. The translation industry is rapidly evolving and has become increasingly competitive, with UK translation companies continuing to be industry leaders.
In the UK alone, the ATC reported there were 1,600 language service providers in 2019. In addition, in 2019, the ATC’s Language Industry report valued the UK language services market at £1.35 billion. This had increased to between £1.5 and £1.7 billion in 2021. The ATC’s biannual surveys are comprehensive in that they surveyed several large language service providers. Multiple medium-sized UK translation companies and many small and specialist language service providers were in the survey too.
Global Trends Impacting Language Service Providers
The continuing expansion and success of the UK language service market can be attributed to several factors. These include:
- Increased availability and use of technology: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine translation have made translation services more efficient. However, human skills are still needed to ensure accuracy, tone, and cultural appropriateness. Surveys suggest that many UK translation companies have developed proprietary in-house software to streamline the translation process.
- Greater need for localisation: To communicate effectively across growing international audiences, content needs localization to specific audiences. Dialects, cultural differences, idiomatic expressions, and local policies vary significantly between countries and regions that speak the same language. For example, an English to Spanish language service project may need two final versions, one for a European Spanish-speaking market, and another for a South American Spanish-speaking market.
- More global mergers & acquisitions: The new buy-to-build or purchase-to-grow business models have required communications in other languages. As a result, the need for professional language services has increased.
- Upsurge in the digitalization of content: The days of a single paper company brochure in one language no longer exist. For example, websites, social media profiles, email campaigns, e-learning, video, and live streaming, and even video gaming, require content creation and updating continuously in multiple languages and media formats.
- Growing demand for interpreting: Increased international collaborations, information sharing, and government contracts have meant more conferences and meetings among individuals speaking multiple languages. Without the use of a professional language service, including interpreters and translators, these communications would be stalled or significantly impaired.
Language Industry Outlook & Challenges
The ATC’s 2019 survey stated that the UK language service market would continue growing, but at a slower rate. The survey added, “This conservative view stems from political and market instability, increased nationalism, and ongoing global competition in trade.”
This did not account for the Covid-19 pandemic, which affected many businesses, including UK translation companies, and has changed the way working practices are viewed at large.
Below are some of the challenges we believe that freelancers and UK translation companies will face in the next few years:
- Increased competitive pressure: As the UK language service market demand grows, the number of suppliers entering the market is also increasing. Consumers will have more providers to choose from at every price point and competitive differentiators will also be harder to establish.
- Need for automation: Advanced technologies are increasingly the norm for most UK translation companies. The ability to meet tight deadlines and overall speed of production are now key market requirements, not competitive advantages.
- Brexit may continue to present challenges for UK translation companies. In the 2021 survey, 20% of language service providers in the UK stated that they were feeling the negative effects of Brexit, and 47% reported worries over its future effects. The impact could be significant, as continental Europe is the strongest revenue generator for language service providers in the UK.
- Adapting to a post-pandemic world: Language service provision has changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Specifically, the demand for remote interpreters has increased, and the wider world of work has seen the potential that remote work offers both companies and individuals. Recognizing and responding to these challenges will be key for UK translation companies to remain relevant and succeed over the next few years.
Renaissance Translations’ Professional Language Services
Renaissance Translations is one of the leading UK translation companies. We hold ourselves and our translators to high standards in order to provide our clients with the best service possible. We are member of the Association of Translation Companies, and many of our translators are accredited members of professional translation associations, such as ITI, CIOL, or ATA. As a UK-based language service provider, we have developed long-term working relationships with many clients. Please contact us to discuss your individual project’s needs.