The value of the language industry

25th April 2019

Emily Robertshaw

The language industry, made up of translation, interpreting, subtitling, and voice-over services, and its global worth is over 43 billion dollars. This may be a fragment of, say, the 2 trillion-dollar automotive industry, but in fact without this “invisible industry” the automotive industry wouldn’t be able to survive. The same applies to the engineering and tourism industries and many others. Without language services, they wouldn’t be able to function.


The decline in language learning

There have been multiple articles published in the media recently about foreign language learning being at an all-time low as foreign language learning in schools has dropped between 30% and 50% in the last 6 years. French and German have been hit the hardest in the UK, which has had a knock-on effect on some universities having to close their language departments.

Some of the reasons for the decline include:

The statistics are worrying, as a lack of future linguists and therefore an even bigger lack of language teachers will not only threaten the future of the language industry, it will have a knock-on effect on other industries too.


The importance of languages in the automotive industry

China boasts the largest car-manufacturing market, and in 2018 Japanese brand Toyota was ranked as the most valuable car brand worldwide, just above Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Millions of cars are imported and exported across the globe every year. Most of these must come with multilingual owner manuals, which include safety instructions, warranty information and troubleshooting information. They also need to have any on-screen text translating for the buyer.

Imagine if you were looking to buy a Japanese car, but it only came with a Japanese Sat Nav, a Japanese on-screen menu and a Japanese owner manual. Would you buy it? Unless you understand Japanese then operating the on-screen menu or following instructions would be almost impossible.

Also, imagine trying to market a Japanese car worldwide with only Japanese brochures and video ads. It would be impossible to achieve the desired brand awareness among non-Japanese speakers. Buyers want as much documentation as possible in their native language when it comes to large investments.

Interpreting also plays an important role in the automotive industry. It’s vital for showcasing new models at events, entertaining clients, factory tours, seminars and training sessions for engineers.


The importance of languages in the tourism industry

The global travel and tourism industry is the largest industry worth over 7 trillion US dollars, with France, the US, Spain, China and Italy being the most visited countries. Of course, in order to attract as many visitors as possible, tourism boards, hotels, attractions, airlines and many others in the tourism industry need to spend a significant amount of time creating promotional tourism materials.

As over 80% of holidays are booked online, it’s vital that booking platforms as well as promotional material such as website copy, adverts and reviews are available to everyone. High-quality translation is key to making that happen.

Tourism attractions require language services to cater for inbound visitors too. Imagine if a museum promotes a new exhibition and a guided tour for Chinese speakers in Chinese on its website. They then gain lots of Chinese visitors but only offer English versions of the exhibition text and guided tour. In this instance, the museum has several options to ensure visitors really make the most out of their visit and return leaving positive reviews or recommending it to others. They could translate their guidebooks or even just a leaflet or they could record audio guides in different languages. They could even book interpreters to assist visitors on large group tours.


What’s next?

The worrying decline in language-learning will lead to a huge shortage of translators, interpreters and language teachers. This will then lead to a lack of support in the automotive, tourism and other industries. We need to do more to promote language-learning in schools! We need to ensure there is a future generation of linguists who can keep other industries afloat.

Andiamo! specialises in providing translation, interpreting and subtitling services for the automotive and tourism industries. If you’d like a quote, please call us on 08450 345677 or email us and we’ll be happy to help.

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