Business Translation Center

Supporting Government Agencies to Find the Right Language Service Provider

by OFER TIROSH 12/09/2019

Many central and local government departments regularly use interpreters and professional translation services in order to best serve their constituents. We live in a multicultural world and there are times when that means communicating in multiple languages in order that everyone can enjoy the same level of service. 

Do you work for a government agency that is in need of a reliable, cost effective language service provider (LSP)? If so, read on for advice on how to source the best LSP to meet your department’s particular needs. 

First, let’s take a look at a few reasons why LSPs are in so much demand. 

Why Do Government Agencies Need Language Service Providers? 

Cheap air travel and widespread internet connectivity have done more between them to make our world a smaller place than pretty much anything else in history. We are now connected with people around the globe and people have more confidence than ever when it comes to leaving the country in which they were born and starting afresh somewhere new. 

According to the UN’s International Migration Report, the number of international migrants worldwide has been steadily increasing for years. In 2000, it stood at 173 million. By 2010, the figure had risen to 220 million. In 2017, the last year for which data is available, there were 258 million international migrants worldwide. 

Those moving to another country often need linguistic support when liaising with government departments, but it is not only migrants who give rise to government agencies’ need for LSPs. There are also many countries that have more than one official language or, as is the case with the US, have no official language at all. 

The US is a great example. Some 80% of the population speak English as their main language. 12.4% speak Spanish. 3.7% speak other Indo-European languages, while a further 3% speak Asian and Pacific languages. Then there are at least a dozen indigenous languages, as well as regional dialects and multiple immigrant languages. 

For government agencies to treat all of their citizens equally with all of this linguistic diversity around them, having an LSP on hand is essential. 

Examples of LSPs Working with Governments

LSPs can help a huge range of government departments to deliver their services. Here are some examples of LSPs in action. 

In the US, the largest contractor of LSPs is the Department of Defense. The right words can often lead more effectively to peace than a show of strength, hence the department’s procurement of a $10 billion translation and interpretation services contract back in 2017. Govconwire reports in this article that nine companies were appointed to manage the contract, which has the scope to run for an entire decade. 

Military departments also regularly use translators in foreign bases and battlefield environments (usually sourcing local individuals), as well as for off-field work such as the translation of foreign documents and intelligence information. 

Health departments also have a strong need for language expertise, with requirements based around the linguistic diversity of each particular region. Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, Texas, for example is looking to spend more than $1 million in order to double the number of Spanish interpreters it has available. 

The medical tourism industry has also given rise to a need for translators. India, Brazil, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, Mexico, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea are all popular medical tourism destinations. While many procedures are undertaken privately, there is often the need to liaise with health departments ‘back home’ in order to access relevant data about the patient. The use of LSPs in these situations can, at times, be quite literally life-saving. 

Trade and commerce departments also make good use of LSPs. Money makes the world go around and language service providers are central to ensuring it flows smoothly. From international trade-related documents to field work requiring translators and interpreters, there is plenty of demand out there. 

An example is China’s One Belt One Road initiative, which is providing immense opportunities for LSPs right now. The massive global commercial initiative spans 71 countries and could be worth in excess of $1 trillion according to The Guardian, with LSPs playing a key role in making it happen. 

Foreign affairs departments also rely on LSPs for their translation work. Diplomatic cables, cultural missions and a variety of cross-border consultancy initiatives all call for top-quality language skills. As such, LSPs are supporting departments as far afield as the US State Department, the UK’s Foreign Office and the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as many, many others. 

Domestic departments’ needs are being met by LSPs as well. From social welfare and housing teams to legal departments needing legal translation services and agencies such as Homeland Security, there is plenty of call for translation and interpretation support. The ability to buy in less frequently used language expertise at short notice is often particularly important to these agencies. They deal with a huge range of issues, from illegal immigration to crimes committed by multinationals and global trafficking cases. Cases of abuse and neglect involving immigrants, multinationals and those who speak minority languages also require the swift involvement of top-notch language services. 

On a happier note, LSPs can also do much to support tourism departments. Governments around the world are doing all they can to court tourists and ensure that their particular destination benefits from the $1.34 trillion that tourists spend globally each year (source: UN World Tourism Organization). The internationally pitched ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ campaign is a prime example of this in action. 

What Are the Advantages of Using LSPs?

The key advantage of working with a language service provider is access to a vast range of languages. The need for different linguistic support varies over time, so having a resource that can provide all of the languages that are required now, as well as those that could potentially be needed in the future, is invaluable. 

Using a translation agency in this way can also be far more cost effective than having an in-house translation team, particularly when it comes to languages that the department only needs to user intermittently. With an LSP, these services can simply be called on as required, without the need to fund a fulltime, in-house position. 

LSPs also have the advantage of being able to deal with huge volumes of work to strict deadlines. Professional agencies are used to juggling the demands of large projects and this includes delivering high quality translations in line with government departments’ requirements. 

How Government Agencies Can Choose the Right Language Service Provider

Choosing an LSP can be tough. The right company can help your department to run smoothly and ensure that you have a handle on your languages budget. The wrong one can mean missed deadlines, unhappy service users and (in the worst-case scenario) legal proceedings. That’s why it’s essential to put time into finding the perfect service. 

Are you ready to get started on selecting the right language service provider for your government department? Then let’s get started. 

Firstly, investigate the LSP’s language offering. Don’t base this solely on the languages that you need translators and interpreters for right now – consider future need as well. Will the LSP commit to providing language professionals at short notice for a wide range of languages, as well as undertaking bulk work in certain core languages? If so, great! If not, move on. 

Next, consider what the LSP is offering in terms of quality. A poor translation can lead to all kinds of headaches, so what checks and balances does the LSP have in place to assure the quality of their work? And do these quality assurance processes still apply when there’s a rush job on? 

Look into their security arrangements as well. How do they vet their translators? Do they have any industry accreditation for the security of their IT systems? Have they ever been hacked? The needs of your particular department will likely dictate how important security is to you, but as a very minimum the right LSP should be able to commit to keeping all of the data it encounters secure and strictly confidential. 

Next, it’s time to grill the LSP on their tech credentials. Translation technology is evolving fast, so how is the LSP using that to its advantage? What technology do they use to ensure that they can translate faster and more accurately than any other LSP? And what are their plans for keeping up with technology as it changes? Ultimately, the LSP needs to be harnessing technology in such a way that it can cope with an extremely high volume of translation requests on an ongoing basis. If it can’t evidence this, find an LSP that can. 

The right LSP should tick all of the boxes when it comes to your requirements, so be sure to keep looking until you find the translation and interpretation service that works best for you. This is not an area for compromise!