Little is known about the translation industry other than the fact that companies and individuals translate millions of pages every year to help the world communicate. In fact the translation industry constitutes a colossal business. It is predicted that by 2015 the translation industry worldwide will account for US$ 25 billion. Yet, more than 99 percent of what people write, say, or generate is never translated and remains in the language in which it was created.
If you wanted to reach every person on earth in their own language, it would require translating your content into 7,000 languages but if you only translated it into 80 languages you could reach 80% of the world’s population.
As far as the Internet is concerned, 10 languages account for 75 percent of the people on the web: English, Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Swedish, Chinese Simplified, and Norwegian. Translating your web content into 50 languages would provide access to almost 95% of the world’s online residents. And since 75% of consumers say they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language, it would make sense to translate your literature into multiple languages. Despite spending millions of dollars in translation (the average translation budget of a corporation equals 0.25% to 2.5% of its annual revenue), only 25% of companies do measure and calculate the return on their localization investment.
The translation industry is extremely fragmented despite some consolidation over the past 15 years. The vast majority of translation companies (70%) employ only between 1 and 10 people, 11% of them employ between 10 and 100 people, and the rest employ 100 or more. Only six firms worldwide employ more than 1,000 people. There are about 4,000 translation companies employing five people or more, of which 10% only are in the USA, in addition to an unaccounted for number of individual translators (freelance or single language providers).
Last but not least, if you want to start a career in translation, you should move to Switzerland or Denmark where it is estimated that translators earn the highest salaries.