How Many Language Service Providers Are There in the World?

how many language service providers are there in the world

Article by Sarah Hickey.

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. At Nimdzi, when we do projects like the Nimdzi 100, our ranking of 100 largest LSPs in the world, we 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.

The second reason that makes answering the question about how many LSPs there are tricky is that 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, we at Nimdzi took a stab at estimating how many LSPs there are. For this process, we 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 USD 64.7 billion in 2022. 

Not surprising, the bottom of our 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 USD 100 thousand to USD 10 million in annual revenue. And finally on the top, we find the largest companies in the industry that can be found on our Nimdzi 100 ranking as well as our Watchlist of large providers that do not disclose their revenues. Although only 169 companies are in this bracket, their combined revenues made up 22.7% of the market at the end of 2022.

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

Note: This post was updated. An earlier version showed the number of LSPs in the world related to the estimated size of the market in 2021 (USD 60.5 billion). After publishing the latest Nimdzi 100 report that places the size of the global market for all language services at USD 64.7 billion in 2022, we updated our graph here to incorporate the latest data.

This article was prepared by Nimdzi's VP of Research, Sarah Hickey. If you wish to learn more, reach out to Sarah at [email protected].

16 February 2023

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