Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tips to choose the right, rather than 'best' Language Service Provider

There are several thousands of Language Service Providers (LSPs) around the world, all specialising in particular language combinations or subject fields or in working with customers that represent particular industries.  This makes selecting the most appropriate LSP for your needs essential.

Considerable growth in globalization has led to increased demand for external language services. This offers the ability to free up resources and to translate bigger volumes within the same turnaround times, which pulls you ahead of your competitors. Growth of demand in translation services has also increased business process outsourcing in such low-cost areas as Asia and Eastern Europe. Basing LSPs  in the areas mentioned enables you to receive equal or even better service and quality at costs half  or less of the price you would pay for the same service when assigning an LSP from other areas. That is why the client should select the most appropriate LSP that suits all their requirements - budget, service and quality, along with many other factors described below.

Key aspects to consider when selecting your LSP

1. Word of Mouth

Ask your friends, colleagues or business partners for advice. There is no better or more reliable information than that provided by  a person you trust and can rely on. This way, you can find a provider that is worth your offer of cooperation - or one that you shouldn't bother with. Last, but not least - this kind of advice doesn't cost you a penny!

2. Consult field experts and read studies

Many companies working in the translation industry have joined localization and globalization associations, for example, GALA - Globalization and Localization Association, ELIA - European Language Industry Association, ATA - American Translators Association and many more. If your provider is a member of one or more of these organizations, then this is partial proof of their professionalism and devotion.
More information about the criteria that must be met in order to join these types of professional organizations can usually be found on their own websites, along with a list of members, their contact information and other useful information that may help you to select the appropriate resources.

Multilingual Computing is a leading information source for the language industry. Find out more about the latest trends in the  language industry and various LSPs on its informative website.

Another information source worth noting is the language market research company Common Sense Advisory. Each year it publishes a list of “The Top 100 Language Service Providers”.

3. Set criteria for selecting your language service provider

Going through several selection criteria will help you to find the most appropriate language service provider; one that will provide you with the best quality services with short turnarounds and reasonable rates. Compile a list of your requirements and consider the importance of each of them:
  • Are you looking for an individual freelancer or a translation agency?
  • What kind of service is required - translation, interpretation or other online/phone interpretation/translation?
  • What language combination(s) is required?
  • Where will the translation be used - internally or externally?
  • Is proofreading and/or editing necessary?
  • What is the subject field? Is it technical, legal, medical, marketing text or another subject?
  • Is it necessary for your provider to speak your own native language or can you communicate in another foreign language (e.g. French, Russian, Chinese etc.) in order to set up the project?
  • Is the location (virtual and/or actual office) of your LSP important?
  • Do you require an educational diploma or degree from your translator?
  • How much extensive experience is necessary?
  • Do you have reference materials and translation memories available?
  • Does your provider need to use certain software (e.g CAT tools or presentation software)?
  • Is post-translation DTP necessary?
  • Is back-translation necessary? And who will be doing this?

4. Translation turnaround - Price - Quality

In business, it is common practice for all deadlines to be met yesterday, for budgets to be limited and top-quality requested! This practice has been applied by many translation agencies around the world. They agree to take on any kind of translation projects, meet impossible deadlines and offer competitive rates. They often succeed in squeezing all this together, but if we look at what they really offer, these projects are often ordered one time only, by clients who do not ultimately provide payment due to bad translation quality.

Companies that follow certain policies will agree that it is better to occasionally turn down an offer when it is necessary rather than lose the client, and the company’s reputation, at the same time. As a language service provider - we suggest you prioritize and emphasize two out or three pre-conditions:
  • Low cost + good quality, but extended deadline
  • Low cost + tight deadline, but get by without proofreading or editing
  • Tight deadline + good quality, but with an additional surcharge for speedy delivery

5. Get to know your LSP for long-term cooperation

It is essential to treat each project individually, but it's also equally important to establish a long-term cooperation with your LSP. Long-term cooperation will allow you to save money by using translation memories and build up a relationship with the same translators, who will quickly become familiar with your requirements, and by having the same point of contact (Project Manager), you can maintain your desired service level. How do you do that? Easy: just get to know your LSP better:
  • Look at your LSP’s client package - this way, you can find an LSP that cooperates with representatives of your industry and understands the specific terminology.
  • Check your LSP’s financial standing - it's important to know if a language service provider can continue to meet their commitments if they were to lose their biggest client. Note that this can also affect your own inquiries.
  • How does your LSP work - check your LSP working methods. What methods do they use, what kind of QA (quality assurance) policy they have, what selection procedure they use to hire translators and proofreaders. Do not hesitate to ask about every single detail that interests you.
  • Talk all this through before the first project has been started - meet with your LSP and talk through all the cooperation issues and details before confirming the first project (from A to Z, from placing an order to invoicing).

6. Ask for a test translation

Most translation agencies offer a test translation no longer than one page. Normally, these are provided free of charge and allow you to evaluate the translation quality provided by the LSP. They also help to show that the LSP is interested and willing to establish a new and long-term cooperation.


To find the right LSP for your first project as you browse through so many well-presented, colourful websites  is not easy.  We have tried to help you through our own experience, so that you can succesfully make  the right decision by choosing a respectable, highly experienced, good quality language service provider that will meet your needs in short turnaround times and at a reasonable price. 
Don't be content to find the so-called 'best' language service provider. Set your priorities so that you can assign the right LSP.

To sum up, I would like to quote a saying that is very important in this business - always choose the golden mean:

"Not all LSPs that charge high prices offer high quality services and not all LSPs that charge low prices deliver low quality services - the best suppliers charge mid-range prices!"

RIX Translation Service Agency
About the author

RixTrans (www.rixtrans.com) – rapidly growing translation agency providing innovative language solutions.