Article by Sarah Hickey.
While we are still working hard to compile this year’s edition of the Nimdzi 100 — the ranking of the largest language service providers (LSPs) in the world — we can already confirm the first six positions on our ranking.
Let’s jump right in.
|wdt_ID||Rank||Company||Country||2022 Revenue (USD million)||Note||2021 Revenue (USD million)||Growth % 2021-2022||Main business|
|1||1||TransPerfect||United States||1,161.3||v||1,110.0||4.6||translation, life sciences, legal|
|2||2||RWS||United Kingdom||923.8||FY||955.3||-3.3||translation, patents, life sciences, IT|
|3||3||LanguageLine Solutions||United States||836.0||v||750.0||11.5||interpreting, translation & localization, healthcare, government|
|4||4||Sorenson Communications*||United States||825.0||e||837.0||-1.4||sign language interpreting, public sector|
|5||5||Keywords Studios||Ireland||709.8||v||596.9||18.9||video game services|
|6||6||Lionbridge||United States||575.0||v||545.9||5.3||translation, life sciences, technology, legal, games & entertainment|
*Sorenson Communications has not released its 2022 figures yet so we are using an estimate. The 2021 revenue was confirmed via public records.
The data confirm that long-time industry leader TransPerfect once again retains its status as the largest LSP in the world. In 2021, TransPerfect became the first company in the language industry to break the one-billion-dollar barrier and the results show that in 2022 they remained the only one. Although TransPerfect’s growth of 4.6% year-over-year is more moderate than in the previous period (30% growth between 2020 and 2021), in actual figures the company added USD 51 million to its total revenue in 2022, which is no small feat.
Runner-up and second on our list is UK-based provider RWS which is recording a small decrease in revenue (-3.3%). However, this is only true in US dollars. When we create the Nimdzi 100 and estimate the size and growth of the market, much like other industries, we use the US dollar as a common denominator. So, when we convert company results from their reporting currencies to USD, the results can sometimes look quite different. In the case of RWS, the company actually grew by almost 8% in their reporting currency (GBP). This is not surprising given that the British Pound fell to an all-time low in 2022 (almost reaching parity with the US dollar in September) as a response to the government’s announcement of tax cuts (see also The Effect of Currency Exchange on Language Industry Growth). The currency has recovered a bit since, but these fluctuations impact the average annual exchange rate for the reporting year 2022 (GBP to USD = 1.24).
In third position, we list LanguageLine Solutions — the largest provider of interpreting services in the world. The company has been growing for years and also received a significant boost during the COVID-19 lockdowns due to its focus on remote medical interpreting. In 2022 LanguageLine grew by 11.5%, or USD 86 million in total figures. Some of this growth can be attributed to LanguageLine’s acquisition of UK-based provider Capita Translation and Interpreting, which reached an estimated USD 24.8 million in 2021.
In fourth position, we are listing Sorenson Communications for the first time. Although Nimdzi has known for a long time that Sorenson is among the largest LSPs in the world, so far we only listed the company on our Watchlist of providers that do not disclose their revenue. However, public records now show that Sorenson reached USD 891.0 million in 2020 and USD 837.0 million in 2021, which catapults Sorenson straight to the top of the list. Sorenson is the largest provider of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting services in the world and the market share leader for video relay services (VRS — a special, publicly funded video phone service for Deaf people) in the United States. The company holds a number of major government contracts, including a contract with the US Postal Service and parts of the Telecommunications Relay Fund (total funding requirement estimated close to USD 1 billion). In 2022, private equity firm Ariel Alternatives acquired a majority stake in Sorenson in a deal valued at USD 1.3 billion. To fund the sale, Sorenson took out on an additional USD 600 million (approximately) of debt — doubling its total debt at the time. For the company’s 2022 revenue, we are using an estimate, as official figures have not been released at the time of publication in mid-February 2023.
Number five on the ranking is Keywords Studios — the largest provider of game localization services in the world. In 2022, Keywords is the fastest-growing LSP among the top six reaching 18.9% growth year-on-year when calculated in US dollars and 31.8% when calculated in its reporting currency (euros). The company has been on an acquisition spree for a number of years now. In 2022, the growth is a good mix of organic and inorganic with audio services outperforming expectations, especially during the second half of the year.
In sixth position, we are listing industry veteran Lionbridge. Lionbridge held the position as the second-largest language service provider for many years. In 2020, the company sold its AI division — Lionbridge AI — to TELUS International, a digital customer experience company from Canada. The deal went through for approximately USD 935 million (CAD 1.2 billion). In 2022, Lionbridge grew by 5.3%, reaching a total of USD 575.0 million in revenue.
The first thing that stands out when looking at our ranking of the top six LPSs in the world is that growth is more moderate as compared to the previous period. In 2021, the top five LSPs on our ranking (not counting Sorenson yet) had an average growth of 35%, whereas in 2022 the average growth rate for the top six providers comes out at 5.9% — which is still a solid result. Although reasons for these variations will differ from company to company, there are two overarching factors affecting the results. For one, in 2021, the industry experienced an exceptionally great year with record growth, in many ways due to backlog requests from a slower 2020. During interviews for the Nimdzi 100, many companies reported a slowdown in the first half of 2022, followed by a strong second half of the year that outperformed expectations for the very same businesses. The second factor comes down to currency fluctuations that have had an impact on the results of companies reporting in GBP and EUR (as well as other currencies besides USD).
Nonetheless, we expect that our growth projections are still on track and that the net results of the final top 100 will show positive growth for the sector as a whole.
Simultaneously the smallest continent and one of the largest countries in the world, Australia is a country like no other, as is its language services industry. On the one hand, Australia has one of the highest proportions of immigrants in the world, with more than a quarter of all Australians having been born overseas.
Since ChatGPT’s launch in November 2022, media outlets have been churning out article after article about how generative artificial intelligence (AI) is coming for our jobs. Nearly every week, a new piece comes out in publications like The Atlantic or Business Insider about how ChatGPT will “destabilize” the job market, making certain workers redundant.
oday, machine translation (MT) is so pervasive that — for many young or early-career localization professionals, at least — it’s hard to imagine a time without it. But such a time did exist. Those with a decade or two of language industry experience under their belt have, no doubt, witnessed firsthand MT’s evolution into the nearly omnipresent entity that it is today.
As of November 2022, everybody in the language industry is talking about ChatGPT. It is an undeniable trend firmly occupying the minds of many. New implementation scenarios and use cases for ChatGPT emerge daily, and GPT-4 has just been released. But will it stay as hyped in the next five years, or will it become as normal as Machine Translation (MT) for us?