The number of language service providers in the world

How many language service providers (LSPs) are there in the world? In some ways, this question is similar to asking how many grains of sand there are (though maybe not quite as speculative as that). This is for two main reasons. For one, it depends on how you define what an LSP is. For projects like the Nimdzi 100, the ranking of 100 largest LSPs in the world, researchers consider companies that provide at least one of the following services as part of their core business:

Translation, localization, transcreation, multilingual desktop publishing (DTP), language quality assurance, linguistic testing, multilingual copywriting, multilingual technical writing, language project management, interpreting, video remote interpreting, telephone interpreting, linguist verification and staffing, media localization, versioning, adaptation, subtitling, voiceover, dubbing, machine translation (MT), training machine translation engines, cultural consulting, data services, and related services.

There’s a second reason that makes this a tricky question: This is not a protected profession, and businesses might be registered and classified in many different ways, varying from country to country. Another factor to consider is that the language services industry has a low barrier to entry, meaning that any person can start offering services, such as translation and interpreting, without needing to be officially licensed, and there are a myriad of freelancers across the globe.

Despite these challenges, Nimdzi researchers took a stab at estimating how many LSPs there are. For this process, they considered the number of companies by revenue bracket and related these figures back to our estimate that placed the global market for all languages services at $60.5 billion in 2021. 

Not surprising, the bottom of the LSP pyramid is made up of the hundreds of thousands of freelancers and one-person businesses around the globe. Due to the industry’s low barrier to entry, this section will always make up a large piece of the pie. In the middle of the pyramid we find the mid-market segment that actually makes up the largest portion of industry, with companies ranging from $100,000 to $10 million in annual revenue. And finally on the top, we find the largest companies in the industry that can be found on the Nimdzi 100 ranking as well as our Watchlist of large providers that do not disclose their revenues. Although only 165 companies are in this bracket, their combined revenues made up 22.8% of the market at the end of 2021.

As the language industry continues to grow, the number of LSPs per revenue bracket will vary over time. That being said, one can expect a natural progression as consolidation on the top continues and smaller players continue to roll up into the mid-market segment. 

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Nimdzi.com.

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Sarah Hickey
Sarah analyzes the language services market from all angles. Her experience as a translator and conference interpreter allows her to have a unique view of the industry. Her background in journalism has always led her down the path of critical thinking and objective reporting.

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