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By Bernard Chalk
April 1, 2020

The Translation Market in Montreal

The Canadian translation market is one of the largest in the world and growing, with companies based in Montreal well placed to carve off a share of the revenue.

Montreal’s Advantage

As a bilingual country, translation companies across Canada automatically find themselves in an advantageous position. The Official Languages Act of 1969 gave both English and French official federal status throughout Canada, which has created significant demand for translators. Unsurprisingly, approximately 90% of translation in Canada is between French and English.

Yet translation professionals in the Quebec region are fortunate enough to have this advantage strengthened even further. The Charter of the French Language defines French—the language of more than 75% of Quebec’s population—as the official language of the province. This means that any company in Quebec must include French in all facets of its business. The law states that from product labels to website content and advertising, the French language must be represented at all times.

Naturally, this creates a significant demand for translation services in Quebec. Canada alone holds approximately 10% of the global translation market, and almost half of the Canadian industry is based in Quebec—this accounts for approximately $2.5 billion.

It’s no surprise that translation companies are flocking to Montreal. The considerable difference between French in Europe and French in Quebec gives industry workers a further boost. Translation companies in Quebec are able to monopolize the market as industry specialists, safe in the knowledge that European companies will not have the language skills to penetrate what is a very specific but sizeable corner of the market.

This gives companies in the Quebec region an obvious leg-up on rival businesses. OXO Innovation, headquartered in Montreal, is one such company that has flourished under the language laws in the region. It is the third largest translation company in Quebec and is continuing to grow.

The Digital Wave in Montreal

Whilst Quebec’s laws provide an obvious starting point for the success of Montreal based language service providers like OXO Innovation, it would be naïve to suggest this is the only reason for their success.

Digital technologies are creating new opportunities for translators—Montreal is a global hub for artificial intelligence research. Facebook, Google and Samsung all currently operate in the area. Montreal’s economy has also benefited from the decision enacted by the provincial government to heavily subsidize jobs in the video game industry. As a result, the city has become home to some of the world’s leading game developers and publishing studios. Ubisoft, EA, BioWare and Eidos Interactive are just a few companies who now call Montreal their home—and the industry is reliant on translation companies to execute their work. Not only that, but the video games being produced by these companies are mega productions costing tens of millions of dollars. Quebec houses almost 30% of all game studios in Canada, with combined annual expenditures of $1.14 billion.

With plenty of money to spend on development, the translation market will inevitably feel the positive effect that the gaming industry is having on Montreal’s economy.

Changing Demographics Can Evolve Montreal’s Companies

Under Prime Minister Trudeau’s government, the number of migrants entering Canada has risen by 50,000 per year according to the national statistics office. The 2016 census states that 14.5% of Canada’s immigrant population resides in Quebec—that’s almost 1.1 million people.

It is unsurprising that Montreal is an area targeted by migrants. The city has quality, well-paying jobs and affordable renting options, giving its citizens an outstanding quality on life—in 2018 it ranked as the second-best city in the world for millennials to live.

Speaking a variety of different languages, Canadian migrants can contribute to the growth of the translation industry in Montreal. Spanish and Mandarin are increasingly in demand for global business needs, so agencies in Montreal need to expand their translation services to meet this demand. Chinese immigrants currently make up 8.6% of Canada’s immigrant population—that’s the second largest group in the country. If translation companies can utilise the skills of foreign-born Canadians, they stand to benefit from the opportunities offered by globalization.

The globalization of the Canadian market has created new possibilities for translation services. Companies are expanding geographically and entering new markets. For example, OXO Innovation also holds offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Casablanca, Morocco. These new markets require translators skilled in languages other than French and English, and this can play into the hands of foreign-born Canadians residing in Montreal.

Investors Making Moves in Montreal

OXO Innovation is just one of the major businesses in the Montreal translation market. Traductions Serge Belair (TRSB) and Versacom have also seen success in recent years. Both of these companies have approximately 150 employees, with annual sales upwards of $15 million, demonstrating the quality and depth of the city’s translating workforce.

Employees of TRSB, one of the largest translation agencies in Canada, have engineered the growth of the company to astonishing new heights—the company has seen a staggering 25% growth for each of the last five years. The development of the business has not gone unnoticed by investors. TRSB’s success led to a $50 million recapitalization agreement with American private equity firm Hammond, Kennedy, Whitney & Company in December 2019. The agreement will allow TRSB to exploit new markets, and companies like Versacom and OXO Innovation are well placed to strike similar deals in the future.

The Future of Translation in Montreal

The consistent increase in digital technologies in Montreal has created a new wave of demand for translation services and will inevitably make a positive contribution to the growth of translation services in the area.

The changing demographics in Montreal also offer the city’s translation companies an opportunity to benefit from an increasingly globalized market. There is a clear need for translation agencies to include multi-lingual translation as part of their services.

Whilst companies will need to adapt to an evolving market, there is plenty of cause for optimism for translators in the Quebec region. With private equity firms demonstrating that they are willing to aid the expansion of successful businesses into new markets, Montreal’s linguists can look ahead to a bright future.

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