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COVID-19 Effect on translation & interpreting

How COVID-19 is impacting independent translation and interpreting professionals

While one of the key characteristics of the language industry is that so far it has been impervious to crises, the interpreting market might be the sector within the industry that has most heavily been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic—both negatively and positively.

The COVID-19 survey

The COVID-19 survey ran for one week (from 27 March to 3 April). 1,036 independent language professionals from 29 European countries and 18 other countries responded.

The survey was short with just 5 core questions and a couple of follow-up questions.

It was designed to take the pulse of the market and get a snapshot of how the pandemic had impacted the translation and interpreting sectors at that point in time.

The findings

At the time the survey closed, COVID-19 was proving to be a game-changer.

The main survey showed that many independent language professionals in 2020 were already in a financially precarious situation, with many unable to earn enough from freelancing and having to top up their income from other sources, and many unable afford private insurance if things go wrong (like illness, or inability to work) and also unable to plan for their future retirement, mainly because of unstable earnings from translation/interpreting.

Then came COVID-19

"Language matters during a pandemic. Translators and interpreters are essential to how our society makes sense of public health and guidance."

Then came COVID-19. The picture of the market on 3 April when the COVID-19 survey closed was that the vast majority of translators and interpreters said business had been affected to varying degrees. Of those who reported their business was affected:

– 58.1% of respondents reported their business had fallen off a cliff

– 38.7% of respondents said business was slow for them


That’s a staggering 96.8% of respondents impacted. A few respondents did report that because of their subject-matter expertise business was better or booming (2% of respondents).

Source International Federation of Translators. To read more click here

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