Understanding the global translator community

We recently commissioned a survey that paints an interesting picture of the global translator community. Among the few hundred respondents, a majority was female, with more than 40% being 26 to 35 years old, and nearly 38% being between 36 and 55 years old.

The majority of respondents were located in Europe, which may have something to do with the methods our European company used to apply the survey. This in turn may have affected the number of languages spoken by respondents (Figure 1). Of these languages, English was the most popular, spoken by over 43% of those polled. A set of other popular European languages was next — over 15% spoke French, followed by German and Spanish. Arabic and Russian tied for eighth place with 1.66% of the language fluency distribution.

The questions regarding translators’ work, which a number of researchers compiled jointly, are quite telling. An astonishing 42% of all respondents work as freelancers only and do not work for language service providers at all. Therefore their projects are relatively compact. Fully 87% of all respondents answer that they can finish an average project in a week or less.

When it comes to career choices, nearly 40% of respondents state that they couldn’t imagine themselves doing anything else (Figure 2). About a quarter say that they get translation jobs through recommendations, and about 20% say they find work because of online self-marketing (Figure 3).

Billing, a thorny topic, is still done the traditional way, with 72% of all translators replying that they send manual invoices upon project completion. Sadly, only little more than 30% of respondents have never encountered any problems with payment for their work.

Surprisingly, though, only 62% say that they own and use computer-aided traslation tools for their work, and only 33% consider those tools easy to use! Over 86% sometimes or often run into problems with formatting when doing their work.

In future surveys, we certainly want to dig a bit deeper into understanding some of these issues (some of which are rather complex) and welcome research partners. The full survey can be downloaded free of charge at http://lingo.io.