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EU language industry set to ride out the crisis

Jan 28, 2011

The language industry has been less affected by the economic crisis than other sectors, according to a study carried out for the European Commission. The study, the first to analyse the size of the language industry EU-wide, covers translation, interpreting, localising and globalising, subtitling and dubbing, language technology tools, multilingual conference organisation and language teaching.

It puts EU-wide turnover at EUR 8.4 billion (2008). This is set to increase by at least 10 % annually, over the next few years, to between EUR 16.5 billion and EUR 20 billion by 2015. This is one of the highest growth rates in EU industry.

The language industry has both an economic and a strategic importance. Economic, because of its size, its resistance to the present crisis and especially its future potential. Strategic, because it is essential to preserving people's identities and culture and to coping in a globalised world. This study shows a more accurate image of the language industry in the EU and is a way to put it into the limelight on the employment market’, says Leonard Orban, the Commissioner for Multilingualism.

Features of the language market include increasing consolidation among the big players but low barriers to entry in translation and interpreting, which means there are many players and substantial competition. In addition, globalisation demands translation and interpreting into new languages, as well as new language-related services.‘ The industry is different from what it was years ago. It has seen the rise of new fields such as subtitling, localisation and editing. So professionals working in the field need to acquire new competences. The European Commission supports the development of such competences, for instance by promoting the European Master’s in Translation, Commissioner Orban commented.

The analysis was made on the basis of questionnaires sent to professional associations, national authorities, individuals, language service providers and language service departments. There were more than 1000 replies. The study includes country-specific fact sheets on each of the EU Member States analysed.

For more information: The conference at which the study will be presented will be webcast here. The text of the study is available here.

DG Translation