Translation Statistics You Need to Know in 2021

by Shu Ni Lim Shu Ni Lim 10 minutes to read

Many businesses today seek to increase their global market share by capturing the interests of international audiences, which generally requires two things:

  1. brilliant marketing strategies and copies
  2. brilliant translations of said copies

Finding the right tools and approach to translate and localize content is essential. If you've landed on this article, it's probably one of your goals as well, so let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

We've put together this mega list of translation statistics for anyone who wants to look into global language demands and developments.

What can I gain from this article?

But wait, why exactly do I want to read a bunch of data about language and translation? For starters, you can

  • Learn and model the best practices in the translation industry
  • Discover new audiences and untapped markets to target
  • Knowing which area to focus so you can grow your business

Here's an overview of the types of statistics you can find in this article:

Overview

General Language Statistics

To capture the global markets, one must first know the languages they speak. As an appetizer to the rest of the statistics, here are some fun facts about our world languages.

  1. There are 7,139 languages being spoken today, but this number tend to fluctuate as new varieties are discovered or old ones become extinct. (Ethnologue)
  2. Approximately 42% of languages are endangered. (Ethnologue)
  3. Out of all the continents, Asia has the most indigenous languages at 32%, closely followed by Africa at 30%. (Ethnologue)
  4. English is the most spoken language in the world if you count both native and non-native speakers, while Mandarin Chinese has the most native speakers. (Ethnologue)
  5. The top 5 countries in the world with the best English speakers are the Netherlands with the highest English Proficiency Index of 652, followed by Denmark (632), Finland (631), Sweden (625), and Norway (624). (Statista).
  6. The top 5 Asian countries with the highest English proficiency rates are Singapore (611), Philippines (562), Malaysia (547), South Korea (545), and Hong Kong (542). (EF Education First)
  7. The most widely used language on the internet is English, accounting for 25.3% of all internet content. The second is Chinese at 19.8%, and third is Spanish at 8%. (Speakt)

Global Market Statistics

Is your company thinking about translating and localizing content for global audiences? Or maybe you're trying to convince your boss or a business partner? Here are some statistics about the global markets to consider.

(A) Consumer Statistics

  1. A large-scale behavioral study in 2014 showed that 75% of consumers are more likely to buy products from websites in their native language. (CSA Research)
  2. Around 40% of internet users said they will never buy from websites that are not in their native language. (CSA Research)
  3. 65% of non-native English speakers prefer content in their native tongue, even though they are highly proficient in English. (CSA Research)
  4. China is reported to have over 980 million internet users, while the US has nearly 300 million internet users. (Statista)
  5. Translating your website for these 4 countries is estimated to give you access to 50% of worldwide sales potential: United States, China, Japan, and Germany. (Translated)
  6. Translating your website to the following languages enables you reach 80% of the online purchasing power globally. (Translated)

top languages in the world

(B) Business Performance Statistics

  1. Businesses that invested in translation were 1.5 times more likely to observe an increase in revenue. (Localize)
  2. Fortune 500 companies were reported to be 2.04 times more likely to improve profits and 1.27 times more likely to generate more earnings per share when they invested in translation. (CSA Research)
  3. 86% of localized mobile advertisements performed better than their English counterparts, showing a 22% and 42% increase in conversion and click-through rates respectively. (Adotas)

Translation Industry Statistics

The need to cross linguistic barriers for commercial purposes has created a surge in demand for translation services. These numbers show how much the translation industry has evolved over the years.

  1. The global language services market was valued at approximately USD 49.6 billion in 2019. It has since rose to USD 56.18 billion in 2021, which shows a growth of more than USD 5 billion in just two years. (Statista)
    translation industry market size from 2009 to 2021
  2. Europe owns nearly half of the global language services market at 49%, followed by North America at 39.41%. (Statista)
  3. The translation service market size grew by 40% during COVID-19. (Market Research Future)
  4. The global machine translation market size is projected to reach USD 983.3 million by 2022. (Grand View Research)
  5. The machine translation market alone was valued at USD 550 million in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 1.5 billion by 2026. (Global Market Insights
  6. In 2020, the demand for translation in healthcare increased by 49% due to the need to dispense COVID-19 healthcare information. (European Commission)
    markets where demand for translation is increasing
  7. On the other hand, there is a declining demand for translation in events, travel and leisure, and the automobile industries. (European Commission)
    markets where demand for translation is decreasing
  8. For a larger view of changes in localization demand, check out the following graph. (CSA Research)

Localization demand by sector

Translator & Interpreter Statistics

The translation industry boom is grounded in the work of translators, interpreters, and editors. Given the cross-cultural nature of translating for diverse markets, it's no surprise the industry has created many freelance opportunities for people around the world.

(A) Worldwide Stats

  1. There are approximately 640,000 translators worldwide. (TranslateMedia)
  2. A 2020 survey involving 7,000 professional translators and interpreters found that 75% of respondents were self-employed (freelance). (ProZ)
  3. Collectively, these 7,000 professional translators and interpreters represented 178 countries and accounted for 155 language pairs. (ProZ)
  4. 66% of respondents in the same survey are females. (ProZ)
  5. The biggest challenges translators face include finding clients and dealing with expectations concerning the price and speed of deliverables. (ProZ)
  6. Another 2020 survey show that 93% of freelance translators have at least one degree, 39% of which are language degrees. (Inbox Translation)
  7. On average, female freelance translators charge 7% more per word than their male counterparts. On the other hand, the men charge 5% more on minimum fees. (Inbox Translation)
  8. On average, freelance translators who are members of professional associations charge 30% more than those who are not. (Inbox Translation)
  9. On average, freelance translators with 1 to 2 narrow specializations charge 29% more than those without specialist areas. (Inbox Translation)
  10. Translation agencies are 2.5 times more likely to ask translators to lower their rates than direct clients. 77% of freelance translators have received this request from agencies, while only 41% have heard the same from direct clients. (Inbox Translation)
  11. In one survey, 52% of respondents said that they have not acquired any formal translator or interpreter certifications in their native language.

Linguists and Formal Certifications in Their Mother Tongue

(B) US Stats

  1. There are around 56,920 translators and interpreters in the US. (Statista)
  2. Employment of translators and interpreters is expected to increase by 20% from 2019 to 2029, which far exceeds the average rate of 4% for all occupations. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  3. According to U.S. News Best Jobs, the salary range for translators and interpreters in 2019 was as follows:
    translator salary range in the us
  4. In May 2020, the median annual wage for translators and interpreters in the US was USD 52,330. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  5. The freelance translation workforce reached a high of 14,362 people in 2020, and 58.2% of them are women. (Zippia)
  6. The average age of the freelance translation workforce is 43 years. (Zippia)

Translation Software Statistics

Translation software may refer to a variety of online or desktop tools that translators, agencies, and businesses use to:

They are also known as CAT tools, which stands for computer-assisted translation tools. If you're in the market for one, check out this filter we've created where you can search through the top translation tools of 2021 based on your needs and priorities.

(A) Translator Use Statistics

  1. A survey shows that 88% of full-time professional translators use at least 1 CAT tool. Out of them, 76% used more than 1 CAT tool. (ProZ)
  2. Among those who use translation software, the 3 main areas of expertise were reportedly Tech/Engineering (34%), Business/Financial (15%), and Marketing (12%). (ProZ)
  3. Among those who don't use any translation software, the 3 main areas of expertise were reportedly Law/Patents (22%), Tech/Engineering (17%), and Art/Literary (14%). (ProZ)
  4. Translators estimate that using translation software can boost their productivity by at least 30%. (ProZ)
  5. The top 3 CAT tools used by translators are SDL Trados, Wordfast, and memoQ. (ProZ)
    survey of most used cat tools
  6. However, when asked which is their least favorite CAT tool to use, the same tools rank quite highly as well. (ProZ)
    survey of least favorite cat tools
  7. The most important feature translators look for in a translation software is ease of use. (ProZ)

survey of most important cat tool features

(B) Business Use Statistics

  1. Using the right software can help cut translation costs by 90% that stem from human errors, unnecessary email communication, and time spent on uploading content and searching databases. (Business Insider)
  2. One company saw their productivity increase by up to 60% in their first 5 months of using translation software. (Smartcat)
  3. Another company reported that projects managers spent 40% less time on localization related processes. (SmartCat)

Machine Translations Statistics

Machine translation (MT) simply refers to the use of artificial intelligence to translate content instantly, and it's a gamechanger when it comes to translation speed.

The two most common machine translation systems are Statistical Machine Translation (SMT) and the more newer Neural Machine Translation (NMT). We explain more about their difference in this article. Here are some top facts you would want to know about MT.

(A) Market Stats

  1. As a refresher, the global machine translation market was valued at USD 550 million in 2019. It is expected to reach USD 983.3 million by 2022 and USD 1.5 billion by 2026. (Grand View Research; Global Market Insights)
  2. According to Global Market Insights, the US market for machine translation can be found in the following sectors, and the market size of all sectors is expected to grow in the next 5 years:
    us machine translation market by application
  3. The MT market in the automotive industry alone will be worth approximately USD 140 million by 2022. (Grand View Research)
  4. Statistical Machine Translation (SMT) alone contributed to more than 65.0% of the overall MT market revenue. (Grand View Research)
  5. Since June 2020, machine translation providers have added more than 2,000 language pairs, including many low-resource languages. (Intento)
  6. According to a July 2020 report, the top performing MT provider in terms of likeness to human translation is Amazon. (Intento)
    top performing machine translation providers 2020
  7. Depending on the quality of the MT provided, some translators may charge only 50% to 70% of their regular translation rates for post-editing services. (ProZ Forum)

(B) Usage Stats

  1. Language service providers reported that the percentage of projects for end-clients using machine translations climbed from 13% in 2019 to 24% in 2020. (CSA Research)
    machine translation usage 2020
  2. The best MT quality has been seen in content related to Computer Software, Legal Services, and Telecommunications. (Intento)
  3. On the other hand, content that is most difficult for MT to get right came from the following genres: Professional and Business Services, Instructions for Use, and Sales & Marketing. (Intento)
  4. A study assessed Google translations of medical instructions for patients and found that Spanish translations had the highest accuracy rate of 94%, followed by Tagalog (90%), and Korean (82.5%). However, MT is still not recommended for medical application due to inconsistencies. (ACEP Research Forum)
  5. The 3 content types that are commonly translated using MT are (1) technical information, (2) client-internal communications, and (3) third-party content. (CSA Research)
    Content Types Most Commonly Translated with MachineTranslation
  6. The multinational airline company, AirAsia, uses machine translation to help their 22,000 employees from 16 different nationalities communicate better as some are non-English-speaking. (Workplace from Facebook)
  7. MercadoLibre, one of the largest online marketplace in Latin America, uses machine translation to empower Spanish and Portuguese-speaking employees to communicate with each other and their customers more effectively. (Workplace from Facebook)
  8. A study of machine translation from English to Swedish showed that the output required an average of 3 edits per sentence. (Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing 2017)
  9. The same study found that the human translation of the same text is longer than the machine translation. (Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing 2017)

machine translation vs human translation

Translation Memory Statistics

Many translation software allows to save translation memories (TM), which keeps a record of all your approved translations so you can reuse them in new projects. The database suggest translations based on similar or matching segments between your old and new content.

Generally, the more you translate, the more you can save on translation costs by recycling translations because there tend to be more matches as your translation memories expand.

  1. The use of TM is most useful in situations where one has a document that is large in size and contains repetitive and recyclable content. (Monterey Institute of International Studies)
    when to use translation memories
  2. One study reported that 82.5% of professional translators used TM technology. Those who specializes in technical, financial, or marketing texts are more likely to use TM tools. (Imperial College London)
  3. Another survey found that most TM users specialized in translating technical and scientific texts. (Journal of Specialized Translation)
  4. The top 3 reasons translators cited for using TM were to save time (86% agreed), ensure consistency in terminology (83%), and improve translation quality (70%). (Imperial College London)
  5. Translators claimed a 10% to 60% increase in productivity when using TM. (Monterey Institute of International Studies)
  6. Within half a year of implementing a translation memory system, the digital marketing agency, Dataduck, could automatically translate 15% of their content using TM alone, which significantly reduced per-word costs. (Smartling)
  7. Cybersecurity company, Kaspersky, reduced their localization budget by about 10 times within 4 years of utilizing translation memories. (Memsource)
  8. Bernhard Beumer Maschinenfabrik KG, a multinational manufacturer of intralogistics systems, reported a 30% reduction in translation costs after using TM. (Monterey Institute of International Studies)
  9. A 2007 study used eye-tracking technology to examine the cognitive load of translators while translating using TM. As expected, the findings showed that fuzzy matches of lower percentages (similar but not exact matches) demanded more effort and concentration from them. (Perspectives Studies in Translatology)
  10. The translators used a minimum level of cognitive effort when working with fuzzy matches between 60% to 69% similarity. Anything less than 60% cause their eye pupils to decrease in size, indicating a more focused effort on the task. (Perspectives Studies in Translatology)

I'm ready to look into translation solutions for my business. What should I do next?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for translation and localization. Hence, we created these resources to help you figure out what features you may need while searching for a translation tool

Summary

Things are looking good for the translation industry simply because of globalization. If you have a product or service that's highly marketable to an international audience, it's a good idea to invest in localizing your website and other communications.

If you're interested, I'd like to invite you to try our online translation management software for free. Click here to start your free trial of Redokun.

Happy translating,

Shu Ni

Shu Ni Lim
Shu Ni Lim

Shu Ni has worked as a marketing executive for various global consumer electronics brands before shifting her focus to content writing.

Now at Redokun, Shu Ni hopes to create meaningful content for multilingual needs by utilizing her expertise in linguistics and graphic design.

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