In our world of increased interconnectivity, the need for language services has never been more evident. Businesses that could never have dreamt of reaching new communities before now have the opportunity to expand globally thanks to a range of solutions from a wide array of potential language service providers.
But, as we all probably experienced at some time or another, the option of choice can sometimes lead to analysis paralysis—or worse, leave us with too much of something but never the right fit.
So, how do you know which LSP is the best for you? Whether you already have a long-term partner or are searching for your first collaboration, these questions will help make your decision concrete. Because transparency is at the very heart of a company’s authenticity, making it important for you to know exactly who you are dealing with.
Can you provide references or case studies related to projects similar to ours?
Any good LSP will be happy to share with you their references before you even ask. What better way to demonstrate knowledge in the field and showcase some of the big names they have worked with? If an LSP is unwilling to provide names of clients or examples of accomplished projects, beware: this might mean it may not be totally forthcoming about its experience or clientele. Sometimes this is due to poor experiences (so check to see if any reviews online exist) or a complete lack of actual practice.
How do you ensure accuracy, consistency, and cultural appropriateness in translations?
An LSP may answer this question by focusing on qualitative data rather than hard evidence, but don’t be fooled. It is industry standard that all translators work into their native tongue, and simple proofreading is not enough. Any LSP that cares about quality will have certain measures in place to guarantee that these boxes are checked off every time. We advise that you only work with companies that have ISO-certifications and translation memory (a cost-efficient means for large scale projects) capabilities for every client in any industry. This way, your translations are not only accurate and consistent, but they have a coherent brand voice throughout.
What quality control processes and measures do you have in place?
Any LSP that takes itself seriously has a detailed quality policy and quality control process that indicates the various steps taken by its project managers, editors, and linguists in order to guarantee a high quality output. It’s not enough to entrust this detail-oriented job to just one individual; the more eyes you have on a project, the more likely even the smallest mistakes will be detected and corrected.
Who will be handling our projects? What are their qualifications and expertise?
This question should provide you with some insight regarding how many layers are involved from the start until the end of your project. Some LSPs outsource the entire project management process, so it is a third-party that deals with the language vendors. Some also foster close and long-term collaboration with our linguists.
What translation and project management tools do you use?
Understanding what kind of translation and project management tools an LSP works with allows you to evaluate whether it is investing in software that’s top of the line. High-powered CAT tools like Trados or MemoQ, for example, can cut translation time in half and help ensure consistency throughout. And there are a wide variety of project management tools out there, but some LSPs still don’t take advantage of their availability. Not having any project management tool means little organization, which is something you may have to pay for later.
Do you have a secure and confidential file transfer system?
Your privacy matters. That’s why you shouldn’t trust any LSP that cannot guarantee secure treatment and transfer of your content. When you know that your files are being handled with confidentiality and care, you can focus on growing your business and reaching new communities with complete peace of mind.
How do you ensure timely delivery of projects?
In our fast-paced world, time is truly of the essence. A delivery that is late could make or break a company. The LSP you select to work with should have a clear-cut policy about late delivery: this is proof that it will hold up its end of the bargain. There are other ways a language service provider can demonstrate their timely delivery commitment to you.
What is your pricing structure? Do you charge per word, per hour, or per project?
Knowing how an LSP prices its translation services will allow you to have an idea about how much your project costs. Generally, in the industry, translations are priced per word, editing is priced by hour, and interpretation missions are priced per project (or day). Make sure you speak to your LSP about whether there is a cost for any post-delivery modifications. For example, at Tomedes, we will take back and revise any project for free for a full year.
Can you provide a detailed breakdown of costs and any additional fees?
We all like to know where our money goes, so it would make sense to want a detailed breakdown of a project’s cost. Ask your LSP for more information if you receive a quote that does not make sense. Make sure your LSP is transparent about pricing…because if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
When it comes to translation, we at Tomedes break down the costs of repeated words (also known as “fuzzies”) so you don’t have to pay for something that has already been done. And our integrated translation memory benefits you over time, as all repeated words that come from your projects combined have a reduced rate.
What technologies and tools are utilized in your process?
A language solutions provider who refuses to adopt new technologies and tools has clearly demonstrated that it is stuck in the past and not very keen on R&D—a big no-no for a supposed leader in innovative solutions for business growth. And let’s not forget that when an LSP neglects to invest in technology, your pocketbook is affected, too. Technology can make translation and other language solutions more efficient, accurate, and cost-friendly.
Do you use machine translations (MT)?
Would you be surprised to learn that approximately 20% of language service providers do not offer MTPE (machine translation post-editing) services? Machine translation continues to surprise us every day with its exponential ability to translate human speech and text. Having a professional linguist who knows just how to enhance the outcome of the technology to its full potential is crucial.
We at Tomedes have an entire department dedicated to research and development in machine translation, giving birth to our innovative tool MachineTranslation.com.
What is your process for handling revisions and client feedback?
We’re human; mistakes happen. An LSP will be defined by how it responds to them. Make sure that your provider has a procedure for revision—and that you aren’t paying extra for it. And again, because timeliness is key, understanding the turnaround for all modified texts will ensure you have the finished product exactly when you need it.
Working with an LSP that is transparent and willing to answer these questions will save you time and maybe a few headaches later down the line. Remember that you have the right to know exactly who it is you are working with. A leader in the language services industry will be delighted to help you in any way it can—which means providing you with clear, straightforward answers for any inquiry you have. Tell us what other questions you would ask a potential LSP; we’d love to include them in an updated version of this article.