State of the interpreting market: A year like no other
2020 was a year like no other before it. More or less overnight, the global COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it. Suddenly, everything pivoted to the virtual world. This new situation came with many challenges yet also triggered innovation and created many opportunities. We have seen a significant increase in digitalization on all levels of society, accelerated growth in industries such as telehealth, ecommerce, and e-learning, and a spike in demand for any kind of technology that enables remote work and life — including remote interpreting. Indeed, while it may have, at times, seemed like life came to a halt, communication in fact carried on, because if ever there wasa need for global cooperation, it was now. And cooperation across nations can only be successful if it is facilitated by multilingual communication.
Over the past 18 months, governments and international organizations across the globe have come together to discuss the latest findings about the virus and what safety measures should be implemented. Scientists from different countries collaborated to develop a vaccine — faster than ever before in human history. Citizens of all language backgrounds frequently needed to receive updates about the current state of affairs. Healthcare professionals had to communicate with their patients but reduce the number of in-person visits. Businesses moved to remote work but continued to serve their international clients and work with their global teams. All of this translated into a significant spike in demand for remote interpreting.
Although remote solutions had long been making their way into the interpreting market, before March 2020, the majority of interpreting assignments happened in person. In the 2019 edition of the Nimdzi Interpreting Index, we still called remote interpreting “the new kid on the block.” However, since the onset of the pandemic, remote interpreting has come to the rescue of the interpreting market, which was one of the most heavily impacted segments within the wider language industry. As a result of the boom in virtual interpreting technology (VIT), we have seen the emergence of new platforms, new features, and integrations of remote interpreting technology with major video conferencing platforms, as well as large investments from outside the language industry.
Ranking of the top interpreting companies
Chances are the information you came here for is the ranking of the largest interpreting providers in the world, based on revenue, which is presented in the table below. In 2021, this is what the ranking already shows us about the state of the interpreting industry:
- The data indicate that, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest interpreting providers reported significant growth over the last two years. The combined interpreting revenue of companies comprising the top 35 positions in 2020 rose 14.4% compared to the combined interpreting revenues of the top 33 listed in 2018.
- Combined revenue of interpreting companies comprising the top 10 positions in 2020 actually rose by 16.2% compared to those from the last edition of the Nimdzi Interpreting Index, based on 2018 revenues.
- While more than half of LSPs in our ranking reported varying degrees of growth, it cannot be denied that some providers in the interpreting industry were negatively impacted by the pandemic. In particular, smaller providers that focus on onsite interpreting were hit hard. This is reflected in our ranking in two ways:
- Of the companies that we classified as predominantly focussing on onsite interpreting, only 23% had positive growth in the latest financial year. In comparison, twice as many (46%) of the companies classified as focussing on remote interpreting saw a revenue increase from interpreting services in 2020.
- The lowest position in this year’s ranking confirmed an interpreting revenue of USD 4.1 million, as compared to USD 4.7 million for the company on the lowest rank in 2018.
Let’s just jump right in, shall we?
|Rank||Company Name||HQ Country||2020 Interpreting Revenue (USD million)||Note||% of Overall Revenue in 2020||Core Interpreting Business||Main Sectors|
|1||LanguageLine Solutions||United States||587.1||v||95||remote||healthcare, public sector, business|
|2||CyraCom International||United States||163.6||v||95||remote||healthcare, public sector|
|3||AMN Language Services||United States||119.7||e||5||remote||healthcare|
|4||Language Services Associates||United States||52.9||e||75||remote||public sector, healthcare|
|5||Certified Languages International||United States||48.9||v||99||remote||healthcare, public sector, LSPs|
|6||thebigword||United Kingdom||45.1||e||55||onsite||public sector|
|7||Språkservice Sverige||Sweden||40.6||v||81||remote||public sector, healthcare, immigration|
|10||Global Talk||Netherlands||34.4||v||98||remote||public sector, healthcare|
|11||ONCALL Language Services||Australia||33.4||v||97||remote and onsite||public sector, healthcare|
|12||Transvoice||Sweden||29.1||v||97||remote and onsite||public sector, conference|
|13||Welocalize||United States||25.0||v||14||remote||life sciences|
|14||Translation Bureau||Canada||24.7||v||18||onsite||conference, government|
|15||LanguageLink||United States||24.0||v||72||remote||public sector, leisure, marketing|
|16||SeproTec Multilingual Solutions||Spain||23.4||v||38||onsite||financial, legal, government|
|17||Semantix||Sweden||19.2||v||26||remote||public sector, financial, legal|
|18||Akorbi||United States||19.1||v||38||remote and onsite||healthcare, financial, sign language|
|19||Globo||United States||18.5||v||92||remote||healthcare, public sector, life sciences, financial|
|20||LanguageLoop||Australia||15.9||v||88||onsite and remote||public sector, healthcare, insurance|
|21||Propio Language Services||United States||14.2||v||95||remote||healthcare, government|
|22||Interpreters Unlimited Group||United States||14.0||v||100||onsite||healthcare, government, education|
|23||Geneva Worldwide||United States||11.2||e||83||onsite||healthcare, legal|
|24||Capita Translation and Interpreting||United Kingdom||9.6||v||45||onsite||healthcare, government|
|25||Hero Tolk||Norway||9.2||e||0||remote||public sector|
|26||MasterWord Services||United States||7.9||e||63||onsite||healthcare, government, sign language|
|27||Language World Services||United States||7.7||e||85||remote and onsite||healthcare|
|28||Presence Group||Luxembourg||5.6||v||75||onsite and equipment||conference|
|29||MCIS Language Solutions||Canada||4.9||v||77||onsite||healthcare, government|
|31||ASLI Interpreting Solutions||United States||4.6||v||91||remote||sign language, government, education, healthcare|
|32||CQ fluency||United States||4.5||e||16||remote||healthcare, life sciences|
|33||Honyaku Center||Japan||4.5||FY||5||onsite||pharma, telecommunication|
|34||The Language Group||United States||4.4||v||73||onsite||healthcare|
|35||KERN AG||Germany||4.1||v||8||onsite||business, conference, legal|
- (fy) fiscal year, figures for the latest financial year (verified with financial reports)
- (v) verified, data provided by companies
- (e) estimated revenue, based on extensive industry research
How we create the Nimdzi Interpreting Index
During the course of this market analysis, Nimdzi uncovered interpreting companies that have previously been invisible in market reports because they do not participate in surveys and are reluctant to disclose their revenue. Nimdzi has employed an investigative approach and invested hundreds of hours into intense research, data collection, and analysis in order to present data that have previously been unavailable.
We are very proud to offer broad access to our data. This ranking is offered to all who are interested. No paywall. No strings attached. Localization buyers, investors, savvy job seekers, and analysts are welcome to use this document, just don’t forget to reference Nimdzi Insights, LLC, as the source. Interested parties are free to reach out to us directly should they have any questions.
Below is a summary of the methodology used for the Nimdzi Interpreting Index.
- We concentrated on identifying LSPs with USD 4 million or more in revenue, with the assistance of in-country experts. In most countries, there are only a few providers of this size, and it is impossible for them to hide from local competitors because they hire staff, take part in requests for proposals, and employ a large number of translators. Once we identified the relevant LSPs, we researched information that could help us make more accurate estimates of their size and talked to the management directly to verify our findings.
- We’re listing interpreting revenue only, not overall language services revenue. In comparison to The Nimdzi 100 which provides a ranking of the largest language service providers (LSPs) in the world, the Nimdzi Interpreting Index focuses exclusively on the interpreting market. It can be difficult to identify individual revenues in external sources of information, such as annual reports, press releases, and stock listings. This is why we made the effort to reach out to businesses directly to talk about their interpreting services and the revenue obtained from these services.
- The interpreting market is extremely fragmented — and in several ways. One, there are different types of interpreting (e.g. medical, conference, legal), as well as different modes (e.g. simultaneous vs consecutive, onsite vs remote). This is why we have included an overview of the core interpreting business of each company in our ranking and on our watchlist. Two, there is an abundance of smaller companies on the interpreting market. Many of them did not make the list, even though together they might make a significant contribution to the market.
- We use data from the latest fiscal year for each company. This means the numbers for some companies will not reflect 2020 calendar year revenues.
- Our definition of interpreting services includes: onsite interpreting, video remote interpreting (VRI), telephone or over-the-phone interpreting (OPI), remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI), conference interpreting, sign language interpreting, video relay services (VRS), equipment rental for interpreting, and related services.
- Growth rates are calculated in USD.
- We use average annual currency conversion rates to US dollars, published by the Internal Revenue Service of the United States for each day of trading in 2020.