Understanding the Canadian language industry

A DYNAMIC, HIGHLY ADVANCED SECTOR

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If Canada’s language industry is one of the most highly advanced in the world, it’s because our two official languages have been constitutionally enshrined for over 40 years. Language and translation are also vital issues in Quebec, where French—the official language since 1977—is the language of the majority.

The legislative frameworks of both Canada and Quebec entail the translation of countless documents, many of which are of an official nature. Such translations must meet the high standards of public administration as well as address legitimate public concerns over cultural respect. All of these factors are key to the marked development and singular characteristics of the Canadian language industry.

  • Legally recognized professional organizations and associations that govern the standards and rules of professional practice
  • Stringent quality assurance practices
  • Advanced terminological knowledge and rigorous terminology standards
  • Strong expertise in advanced language technologies
  • Education programs in 15 universities across the country
  • Over 15,000 language professionals
  • A market worth between half a billion and a billion dollars per year

KEY ISSUES

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Market fragmentation

The language industry includes thousands of freelancers and SMEs, but only a handful of large players able to handle the quality and performance requirements of major organizations. In this context, a large-scale language service provider that’s 100% owned and operated by language professionals is a true exception.

Shortage of qualified resources

The demand for language services increases by over 10% each year. Conversely, many of today’s translators have been practising for over 30 years and are set to retire. To cope with the looming shortfall of experienced resources, the industry would need 1,000 new translators annually—yet professional translation programs only yield some 300 graduates per year. Given the situation, businesses and firms must adopt an active succession training and integration role.

MAIN INDUSTRY PLAYERS

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Freelance translators

The majority of qualified and experienced translators offer high-quality services in one language and in one or more given areas of specialization. Operating solo, they can only take on clients with limited needs in terms of availability, terminological and technical support, revision, archiving and overall project management. However, they offer valuable professional solutions in the framework of a personalized relationship and charge varying, and generally affordable, rates.

Freelance alliances

Independent translators sometimes team up or pool their resources to offer greater capacity and availability while delivering high-quality texts for prices on par with single operators. Such alliances can sometimes allow for mutual revision to reduce the risk of errors or standardize texts that have been translated by several members of the group. Translators working in groups can also take on larger projects, provided their clients do not need significant support or structured follow-up—for instance, with regard to terminology, technology or project management.

Agencies

Operating with minimal infrastructure, translation agencies essentially connect clients with a pool of freelancers of variable qualifications and specialties. As support is often limited to allocating mandates and billing—meaning no terminology, revision or structured project management—agencies can provide a basic service (or a range of basic services) at relatively low rates, and in a multitude of languages. Their clients are primarily interested in the lowest price and have limited expectations with regards to quality.

Language service companies

These can be local or multinational, and translation may or may not be their core business. They are structured to provide a range of solutions and related services in multiple languages, as well as ensure service continuity and provide project management support.

The most reputable hire only experienced language professionals and qualified revisers. Depending on their size and business model, they may also have the technological tools and standardized processes to maximize productivity (for example, to process long and repetitive texts). Their price structure can be highly variable, since certain services may or may not be included in their rates.

Firms that are 100% owned and run by language professionals

Equipped with a fully-fledged infrastructure, firms that are 100% owned and operated by language experts see each translation as a professional, personalized mandate whose ultimate aim is to drive the success of their client’s communications. They operate exclusively within the language industry, comply with the professional standards applicable in the markets they serve, and employ only trained, experienced language professionals.

Their processes, tools and fees are fully adapted to the language industry’s specific challenges as well as to each client’s unique requirements in terms of quality, efficiency and customization. Terminology, revision and project management are integral to their operations, as is managing the client’s knowledge, expertise and information assets. The majority of these firms are small- to medium-sized (a few dozen employees).

Versacom is the exception: the only 100% professionally owned-and-operated large-scale language firm in the country. We have the know-how, resources and capacity to meet any need, from minor to major, simple to complex, while ensuring total professional quality, each and every time.

Two more client tools to check out

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