Choosing a language service provider is an important investment for multinational organizations. If you’ve been tasked with vetting translation agencies, you’re smart to do your homework before making a decision. Getting language translation services that meet your expectations involves a rather complex process behind the scenes.

While there’s no “one size fits all” approach to finding the right supplier for your language translation services, there are some nearly universal considerations to take into account. In order to ensure that all the moving pieces fit together giving you a product you are proud to put your company’s name on, it is crucial to think about what you’re looking for in a translation partner.

Below you will find a checklist to guide you through the process after you’ve gathered some initial information, so let’s start there:

Gather information to make an informed choice

It may seem obvious, but your first step in the process should be to gather information. There are thousands of LSPs you could engage for any given translation project. How can you possibly decide which is the best fit for you?

While you cannot hope to research every LSP out there, you can narrow down your search in a few different ways:

  • Research local agencies offering language translation services: Although there’s certainly no requirement that your translation and localization be done around the corner, knowing that your direct contacts, at least, are local will give you some added security. 
  • Ask your network for recommendations: You don’t need to do a Google search and sift through hundreds of web pages to find translation agencies to contact. Your best resource is your network of contacts. Ask around to see if anyone has good referrals. 
  • Check with respected translator associations: Reputable translation agencies send representatives to participate in industry conferences and associations. For example, here are a few association websites to check: the ATA (American Translators Association), the GALA (Globalization and Localization Association), and the ALC (Association of Language Companies).

Once you’ve narrowed your list to 10 or fewer possible language providers, you can begin the process of contacting each one. When you reach out initially, you can simply fill out online forms or send emails to the contact listed to request a quote. Depending on the complexity of the project and whether it calls for an ongoing relationship, it may be faster and easier to simply pick up the phone.

The other advantage of calling is that you can better gauge the customer service experience you can expect. If you can’t get through to speak to a real person, that will give you a good idea about how difficult it will be to address any issues that could arise.

The process of requesting quotes should help to narrow your field of LSPs further. From here you can ask for proposals and sample translations. If at any point in the process, something feels off, that could mean the agency is not a good fit for the project or for your organization. Pay close attention to those gut feelings because they’re often right.

Checklist:

  1. Request quotes:
  • How much will this translation or localization project cost?
  1. Gather proposals:
  • What is the proposed approach to the project (including skills, team, technology, milestones, and deadlines involved)?
  1. Ask for sample translations:
  • Has this LSP performed similar language translation services in the past?
  • Are they willing to share the results?

Now, if all goes well, you have a few proposals and sample translations to evaluate with your team. From here it’s time to really take a peek “under the hood.” Sit down with your potential language partner to get a feel for how their teams work. Consider the following criteria and key questions to ask during this next phase in the procurement process.

  1. Consider the scope of work:
  1. Ask questions about volume:
  • Can this LSP handle the volume of words and our deadlines?
  • Do they have enough translators to cover the hours quoted in the proposal?
  • Can they help with software testing if e-publishing is part of the project?
  • Do they also provide screen-capturing services?
  • Can they help with localization of graphics?
  1. Understand your technology needs:
  • Does this LSP have the tools necessary to complete our projects?
  • Will they charge extra for any needed translation technologies?
  • Do they provide Translation Memory services?
  • Are their technological tools all updated?
  1. Evaluate the translation process:
  • Does this LSP have a demonstrated process?
  • Is this process automated or manual?
  • Will we have access to status updates when different internal departments ask?
  • Is the process customized to our project?
  1. Get to know the language team:
  • Does this LSP have enough personnel to complete the tasks in the proposal on time?
  • Is the team experienced in this area of service?
  • Is the team in-house or in-country?
  • Is our project manager in the same time zone as we are?
  • Do we need to provide specific training for translators?
  1. Look at the quality assurance protocol:
  • Do the translators have previous expertise in this domain?
  • Does the LSP provide back translation and review as part of the service?
  • Does this proposal include provisions for client review and corrections?
  • Does this proposal include glossary or style guide creation?
  • Can this LSP leverage content from our previous Translation Memories?
  • Can they offer third-party review if we don’t have reviewers in-house or in-country for certain languages?
  1. Nail down your project deadlines:
  • Does this LSP have guaranteed delivery deadlines?
  • Do they have contingency plans?
  • What is their expected output per day?

For simpler translation projects, this type of extensive search may be unnecessary. But do keep in mind that to get the best, most consistent results, it’s smart to develop a relationship with a language partner you can trust. So, it may be worth putting in the time upfront for peace of mind down the road.

When you do anything for the first time, there will likely be some bumps along the way. But if you follow the approach outlined above when procuring language translation services, you will save time and energy. At DTS Language Services, Inc. we pride ourselves on offering our global life sciences clients a transparent process that takes their specific needs into account. Contact us today to discuss your translation or localization project.