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"No BS"​ view how coronavirus (COVID-19) affects the language industry - Part I

March 19, 2020 - Reading time: 5 minutes

We should take care of our families and people close to us. We also should be responsible and have a critical view of the things to come.

This article is my opinion and is based on my personal conversations with industry leaders and subscribers of ScheduleInterpreter®, who observe unfolding events with calm, professionalism and sometimes healthy dose of somewhat “darkish” humor. There is very little hype or anxiety. ScheduleInterpreter® subscribers are LSP/C, healthcare providers or court systems, normally maintaining 1:3 scale of in-person and remote services.


Language industry, being the service industry, follows the overall global business activity. As businesses and governments continue to scale back their operations, language industry will follow. There is some inertia and initial demand for various services. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt normal operations of enterprises, local, state and federal government, we might see drastic shrinking of the translation and interpreting market.

For Interpreters

Large number of interpreters work as independent contractors (IC), and those who managed to build portfolio of providers, delivering on-site or remote services, noticed initial shift from on-site to remote. With school districts, colleges, hospitals and courts closing their doors, the pressure starts to build up. The volume of work is reduced and until services are restored, it will not get better. There is another factor, as with schools and daycare closures, interpreter-parents must take additional time to take care of the children. Internal, 2-week assessment within ScheduleInterpreter®, shows scaled back service requests and cancellations reducing the volume by 20%. A lot of numbers come together at the end of the month and may show a more accurate picture.

For Translators

Not much change here, if we speak of the working environment or workload. The volume will continue to rise for some time. It will probably start to reduce as initial demand for COVID-19 related materials is addressed and factories, stores, law firms and other businesses chose to close or operate at the reduced capacities.



Social isolation reduced the demand for services in general. It is one of the reasons why federal government stepped in with measures, such as reducing the interest rate, helpful for those who consider SMB loans. How do the numbers stack up today? Majority of ScheduleInterpreter® subscribers have seen reduction in requests anywhere from 10% to 30%. As more and more facilities make their choice to shut down, the number of requests will probably continue to decline. In addition to reduced demand, there is a rising number of cancellations. That number gets as high as 50%, depends on the part of the country and market.

Some LSP/C are providing remote services using their own tech and infrastructure, and some resell services of others. There will be healthy dose of competition to get into the facilities, previously not utilizing remote services. As general demand for services and business activities are reduced, we will see if any attempt to conquer new markets will produce sizable gains or revenue necessary to continue successful operations.


Spike in translation requests helped to offset some of the profit losses in the interpreting department. Government and healthcare providers want to make sure communities stay informed, connected and alert. Ignoring non-English speaking population in US this time is not an option. Average shelf life of a document is longer that many expect. Once initial and higher than normal demand for brochures and information is addressed, expense freezes and other factors might start to show in translation market as well.


Majority of selective healthcare procedures are postponed. Schools are either to be closed or already closed. Courts are holding better than others and still operating, though with reduced capacity. This may change as governors of the states begin to introduce more drastic measures to combat COVID-19. Big public events, including conferences are being either cancelled for 2020 or postponed, with their organizers hoping that recovery will be rapid. Travel bans around the world are also limiting business activities.

The future

This as gentle reminder how closely all of us are connected. How easily something like a virus can travel around the globe and cause a lot of damage. Yet, this is a relatively soft kick. We will recover even though it will not be easy, especially if isolation model is extended and business activity continues to slow down.

The comeback most likely will be very strong. Those hours interpreters and translators are not working today will be needed later and we should see very strong demand. Until then, interpreting and translation industry will most likely continue to shrink.

Please share your opinion here. Tell us how COVID-19 affected you.