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A Basic Analysis on the Chinese Translation Service Sector in 2007 and 2008


By Zhu Xianchao

Member of the Translation Service Committee of TAC and the General Manager of

Lan-bridge Information Technology Co. Ltd.


The translation service sector in China in 2007 and 2008 shows the following features:

1. The stipulation and implementation of national standards of translation service contribute to the regulation of the translation service market.

Translators Association of China has helped to draft three national standards since 2003, namely, Specification for Translation Service—Part 1: Translation (GB/T 19363.1—2003), Target text quality requirements for translation services (GB/T 19682—2005), Specification for Translation Service—Part 2: Interpretation (GB/T 19363.2—2006). The standards, along with the trust-building system of the translation industry TAC advocates, are increasingly acknowledged and adopted by the translation service providers.

2. International venture capital enters Chinese translation market.

In June 2007, CID Group and Chengwei Ventures, both venture capital firms, jointly invested in Transn (Beijing) Information Technology Co. Ltd., and in May 2008, Matrix China under Matrix Partners, a reputed venture firm based in the US, invested 15 million US dollars to Yuanpei Translation in Beijing. These investments signify the interest of international venture capital in the translation industry in China.

3. International translation and localization companies gradually enter the Chinese market.

With the growing economic power of China, the Chinese language has assumed greater influence. Preliminary statistics show that by far 20 out of the top 25 translation and localization companies in the world have set up branches or representative offices in China. This move enables them to take advantage of the relatively cheap human resources in China. In addition to that, these companies are in the position to get better access to and knowledge of the Chinese market which will help to secure their shares in the market.

4. The competition in the translation industry is getting keener.

With the large number of translation companies in China, the competition in the market is already very keen. The investment of venture capital intensifies the competition all the more. It is necessary for the translation industry in China to strive for economy of scale and better specialization, in order to get sustainable growth. At present, about half of the translation companies in China are on small or very small scale, like family-run business, with annual turnover less than 0.8 million yuan (roughly 0.12 million US dollars). Brand names with regional or national influencecan be counted. Although there are international translation companies running businesses in China, they cannot compete with local companies in the traditional translation service market due to the lower cost of human resources of the latter. But in terms of helping Chinese clients to go global, foreign companies are the swiftest in the race and have occupied a large share of the market.

5. The proportion of translations from Chinese into other languages grows increasingly.

Localization of multinational companies in China has passed its height, but Chinese companies have just started the process of developing in the overseas market. With the growing economic power of China, “going global” has become a strategic choice for the development of the Chinese economy. Cultural export, labor export, overseas construction contracting, foreign aid and foreign economic projects are increasing, and international exchanges are growing both in scope and depth. In turn, the proportion of translations from Chinese into other languages grows increasingly. As a result of the pursuit of energy resources in the global market, the need for language versions undergoes changes. In addition to English, the need for Russian, French, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese is growing.

6. The combination of traditional translation with information processing and information technology is worth attention.

In November 2008, Shenyang Ge-Soft Co. Ltd. developed a brand new service model, known as the cooperative translation platform, the first of its kind in China. The platform is based on computer-aided translation and leads the way in human-computer two-way cooperative translation. With low cost and high efficiency, the platform will have a big impact on the traditional translation model. Meanwhile, the free online language translation service offered by Google enables us to experience the charm of information technology. The accuracy of translation of this service is much improved compared with previous translation software. Theoretically it can process all languages. We cannot help wondering whether computer-aided translation system will overthrow traditional translation. Let’s wait and see.

7. New need and new market emerge in the translation industry.

The world has a need to know China better. There is increasing number of people from other countries to travel, work or live in China, bringing in greater cultural and language diversity. Local governments in China have recognized the importance of language and culture in creating a better language environment to attract tourists and investors, and made great effort in providing an environment without language barriers in their cities. New need for the translation market emerges when bilingual or multi-language services are made available for people from other countries, such as road signs, community bulletins, call centers, mobile phone and text message services, civil services as well as governmental online platforms.

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