From typewriters to machine translation, technology has continuously transformed language services. The future capacity of companies and individuals to win business and influence the industry depends on having a technological advantage. Locations with hubs of impactful and popular language technologies will attract better talent, create more jobs, and enjoy economic development more than others.
So, who is leading in language technology right now? Nimdzi mapped a sample of 415 modern software products from the Language Technology Atlas by country and assigned influence scores based on estimated revenues and popularity with users.
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As a basis of this calculation, we used the Nimdzi Language Technology Atlas, to which we added origin countries and influence scores. Out of 537 products identified, 415 made the cut as a sample for this research.
For companies with multiple products, we counted their most important standalone products only. For example, SDL maintains five TMS, three CAT tools, three machine translation products, two terminology management solutions, a proxy, and a plethora of non-language products in its portfolio. We factored only seven technologies in the calculation.
To calculate influence, we scored technologies from one to five. The top scores went to products with definite traction in the market: either USD 5+ million in revenue, or with 20,000+ registered users. Corporate products used only by a few professionals have scored lower. The most crucial technology product in the industry, Google Translate, has been awarded a six.
Collectively, multilingual and multicultural European countries are the undisputed leader in global language technology. European states are responsible for close to half of the most influential products globally. And for a good reason: Commerce and business expansion in Europe is unimaginable without a language component. Furthermore, European governments have a history of supporting the language industry with funding. Examples include the centralized Horizon 2020 program, the joint venture between BBC and Deutsche Welle called Summa Project, and national programs, such as the USD 100 million “Impulso de las Tecnologías del Lenguaje” plan in Spain. Unsurprisingly, Germany, the UK, and France are in the lead as innovation hubs. Perhaps unexpectedly, however, Central European countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic feature prominently in the index, above more significant economies such as Korea.
Many popular CAT tools originate from Europe, including Trados, memoQ, Memsource, Transit, Across, Atril Deja Vu, Matecat, and others. Popular language business management tools XTRF, Plunet, and LBS are European. Europe is also a hub for smaller MT companies such as DeepL, Systran, KantanMT, Reverso, Modern MT, and Tilde.
The Achilles heel of Europe is that few counterparts to Amazon, Google, and Microsoft originate from here. Technology comes from small and medium-sized companies. As the language technology veers towards AI and data-hungry branches of AI, Europe’s influence may wane.
The United States is the single leading country in language technologies.
The US is home to Google Translate — probably the most widely known piece of language technology of all time. Next, the AI Cloud companies have headquarters in the US, notably Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft. Thirdly, language access regulations led to the emergence of a plethora of interpreting software such as Boostlingo, Interpreter Intelligence, Kudo, LSP.expert, and BlueStream. For other notable companies, look no further than the leader in speech recognition technology, Nuance Dragon. Next, the largest translator marketplace Proz.com. Established TMS companies include Smartling, GlobalLink, and Lingotek. Finally, the US is home to ProTools, a commonly used dubbing product.
As AI comes into play, the influence of the US will likely increase because of giant IT corporations. Tools made in the US have a knack of becoming global tools, thanks to marketing and sales sagacity embedded in the American culture. The US may even outpace Europe some years down the line.
Like the US, Asia (and especially China) has an immense domestic market. Localization may not be a part of the DNA of Asian companies, but technology is. Between Baidu, Alibaba, Naver, and Tencent, there is the oompf of the IT giants that are interested in language technology. Likewise, there is no shortage of funding to create tools ad-hoc, should the need arise. In recent years a multitude of new language technology startups have launched in China and Japan, and quite a few of them received funding.
MT is a big focus in Asia with Baidu, Tencent MT, Alibaba MT, NewtranX, GTCom, Naver, and Glodom expanding their user base overseas. CAT tools include Chinese Jeema, TransMate, and YiCat (tmxmall), and Japanese Yaraku Zen. Proxy website translation platforms include OneSky and Wovn.io. Marketplaces and platforms are a popular model, including such brands as 51tra, wiitrans, Rozetta, and woordee. A specialty of Asian language technology is the popularity of wearable translation devices, some of which are made by GTCom, Timekette, Sogou, and others.
Asian language technology is on the rise. It has the right plan, focused on AI and scalability, and it has a hunger. However, it has not yet penetrated the Western markets. On the contrary, memoQ, SDL Trados, Memsource, XTM, and Smartcat have all created a presence in China and Japan. The next challenge for Asian companies is to reverse this trend, should they decide to go beyond their national markets. Chinese companies will need to localize their tools and create a voice for them, as well as a global footprint.
Russia and Ukraine – These two countries provide a cornucopia of TMS and CAT tools and a development hub for other countries. Smartcat, Yandex Translate, Protemos, Projetex, Promt, Crowdin, and Verifika, in particular, stand out.
Canada – The most prominent Canadian language technologies have been acquired. Clay Tablet went to Lionbridge, and Multitrans has been sold to SDL. Consoltec remains a Canadian company with presence and sales outside the home market.
Israel — Has a language technology hub that is centered on services. It includes platform company One Hour Translation, media localization software Ooona, and Net Translators LSP with a family of translation management products.
India — Is a well-known engineering and outsourcing hub, and some of the world’s largest brands have started placing their localization departments there (i.e. Adobe). However, few products made in India, and marketed as something made in India, have gained global prominence so far. Reverie and Webdunia are two of the more significant software and service houses that specialize in language.
The HQ location doesn’t mean that all of the development efforts are concentrated in-country. US-based Smartling has a substantial development group in Ukraine. TransPerfect’s GlobalLink hires hundreds of people in Serbia. The UK’s XTM houses development in Poland and German groups such as Across and Glossa Group employ Russian developers. Companies optimize for talent locations with more affordable payroll and more scalable development effort, but they keep their know-how very close to their central offices.
Countries and cities with important language technology hubs have seen hundreds of jobs created, industry conferences launched, specialist schools opened, and venture investment attracted. For national and city governments, there is a lot of sense in developing language technology hubs around existing companies and universities because it drives local economies.
Pouring money through state-funded programs like Horizon 2020 and Spain’s Impulso plan could be one tool to drive development. However, it’s not enough. If this index tells us anything, it’s that technology without a connection to the global marketplace, and without users, is not going to be impactful. Its chances to succeed will be hampered. Selling language technology, evangelizing, and promoting it will be as important as developing the actual product.
And that is a competence a lot harder to acquire.
Competition is fierce in the Translation Management System (TMS) arena, with dozens of providers duking it out to win over clients.
One of the main reasons for implementing machine translation (MT) into localization workflows is that it saves money. And time. This time, let’s focus on money. In particular, cost savings.