More than seven billion people live in nearly 200 countries and speak roughly 7,000 languages. In 2015, the US Census Bureau reported that at least 350 languages are spoken in US homes. With such a wide range of language diversity, the need for translation is prevalent. The Internet technologies of the 21st century are fueling an increasing demand for translation services as businesses strive to reach global markets and governments contend with ever increasing diversity. More and more of the world population is participating in the global economy as new and exciting communication technologies continue to evolve – driving the need for a fast, affordable, and accurate language translation systems.
Most companies rely on a combination of machine translation (MT) or computer-assisted translation (CAT) to expedite translation tasks. The introduction of modern technology for language translation has failed to drive consolidation within a fragmented industry because these technologies cannot overcome the complexity of human languages. Technology, far from replacing humans, is instead a tool that helps keep up with the surging demand for high-quality translation. Despite recent advancements, human translators are required for tasks such as post-editing and quality reviews.
Customers in need of translation typically engage a central provider to manage a stand-by pool of freelance translators. In fact, many of the large service providers generate revenue from project management services as opposed to language translation services. These companies essentially act as a middleman between customers and freelance translators in a similar fashion to taxi companies and independent drivers.
According to the 2012 EU Directorate-General Report on the Status of Translators, approximately 78% of translators in Europe worked as freelancers. High percentages of freelance participation hold true for translation services in North America, China, and elsewhere. The universal dependence of freelance workers and need for middlemen creates a unique opportunity for innovative disruption to occur.