Finding a good translation vendor is difficult for a number of reasons. For one, the language industry offers a wide array of services that aren’t differentiated very well in the way they’re advertised. Every company claims to provide exactly what you need. Yet, behind the scenes, they differ vastly in operational function, price, and quality. Without some insider knowledge, it’s difficult to determine which services you actually need.
If you’re translating a handful of web pages into a single target language, a basic SLV (single language vendor) might be enough. But if you’re translating software, a mobile app, or extensive elearning content, you’re actually looking for way more than a translation vendor. You need a comprehensive localization platform—but unless you’re familiar with the pros and cons of each strategy, you wouldn’t know that outright.
With an industry full of LSPs marketing themselves as the best in the business, it’s even more difficult to identify companies that are trustworthy. However, it’s pretty simple to catch those that aren’t operating with your best interests in mind. The following three steps will help you find transparent localization services that provide high-quality results and a positive return on your investment.
Step 1: Determine How Much L10n Technology You Need
The first step in finding a good translation vendor is understanding what you need beyond basic translation services. Localization managers at major enterprises are often frustrated at having to change vendors year after year because these companies aren’t doing enough to provide efficient and effective translation. You shouldn’t have to wait five years before discovering a localization service that’s actually worth your investment. Start now with a thorough understanding of what you need and what your short list of vendors can actually deliver.
There are plenty of options on the table. At the most basic level, you could translate content using machine translation and get by with passable results for a little while. You could also hire in-house translators or contract out to individual vendors for each of your target languages. But if you’re looking to get the best possible return on your investment, you’ll want to look for companies that offer the latest in translation technology. A centralized localization platform can empower your greatest resource potential in a highly organized ecosystem.
The best localization services offer automation at every step of the process, keeping costs low and eliminating the majority of administrative labor you’ll have to provide in order to manage your projects. They automate project requests, file management, terminology management, QA, and even translator assignments in order to create an environment where truly efficient and scalable localization is attainable. When you combine the cost savings and quality improvements of cutting-edge translation, it’s clear that some localization partners offer a product that’s better than the best online translation services.
To find these unicorns, ask specific, detailed questions about how a vendor will ensure the end solutions you need. Look for a vendor with a multifaceted and comprehensive solution that is ready to get to work on day one to do the hard work necessary to front load the system—so that, in the long term, you have a functional, smooth-flowing solution. Don’t be fooled by a quick locked-and-loaded kind of solution; it’s not very likely to succeed because the reality is that each company’s needs are complex.
Step 2: Evaluate Translation Vendors’ Pricing
The untrustworthy vendor’s motto is always “we can beat that price.” You should be very suspicious of any translation company that continually lowers their prices because they’re not actually going to be taking that loss. They’ll be taking funds directly away from translation resources.
Linguists are human beings who need to make a living. They’re key to making this entire industry work. Squeezing these individuals to continually lower their rates year after year is completely unethical.
It’s also detrimental to content quality. The best translators will jump ship if they’re asked to lower their rates past a certain point—leaving the rest to tackle your upcoming localization project for even less money than they were making before. Nothing about this system incentivizes translators to invest more time and effort into your content. Too-low prices always lead to poor-quality results.
Low prices are also indicative of a vendor’s approach to innovation. Companies that save money by draining their talent pool aren’t looking for creative ways to improve the localization process. They’re not investing in tight systems integration. They’re not automating workflows. They’re depending on the “black box” mentality of the past, and they’re not likely to innovate as long as the existing system fills their bank accounts.
Keep your eyes peeled for vendors that price their services fairly. You’ll recognize them by the fact that they can tell you exactly who their translators are (because they’re not working with middle-men), and they aren’t willing to come down on price out of respect for the talented linguists on their payroll. You definitely don’t have to purchase the most expensive translation services on the market—but you want to avoid those that are priced too low. It is possible to find a localization vendor willing to make your ROI a priority.
Step 3: Provide a Sample Localization Project
Steps 1 and 2 should help you narrow down your hopeful list of vendors. Now it’s time to test their skills. Come up with a small sample project—maybe one elearning module or a set of 10 multimedia files—and invite each vendor to run with it. Pay close attention to how companies respond:
- Are they willing to provide a specific dollar-amount quote? Comparing these numbers will give you a far more accurate gauge of total price difference among companies.
- Will they let you test their translators before you sign a contract? If not, this could be an indication that they’re operating within the “black box” of intentionally obscured business practices.
- Do they allow sample translations at all? Some companies aren’t willing to “shell out” for sample translation projects for potential clients. They all have their reasons, but we consider this a blatant red flag.
- How long did they request to complete the project? The best vendors will take time to research terminology and gather style information before starting in on your project. This might make the timeline a bit longer than you expect but for very good reason.
The goal of the sample project is not necessarily to evaluate the quality of word-for-word translation; great translation comes with time and engagement. But you want to keep a close eye on the vendor’s process, communications, and leg-work. Were they transparent about their assumptions from the beginning? Did they do their research? By paying attention to the behind-the-scenes experience of a sample project (if they’re willing to give you that transparent look in the first place), you’ll be able to recognize the best professional translation services and choose a company that’s a perfect fit for your needs.
The Benefits of a High-Quality Translation Vendor
This three step how-to might seem simple at first glance, but we all know how much time it will take to weed out the countless vendors who don’t make the cut. Rest assured that your time is going to very good use. Finding a trustworthy language service provider isn’t easy—but it is worth it.
With the right company, you get much more than translated content. Wrapped up inside a fantastic localization bureau, you get a partner that can keep up with your agile development schedule. A consultant who can help you assess specific locales where localization would be most worth the spend. A powerful set of technologies that make translation quicker, easier, and more cost-effective. And you get high-quality translated content that exceeds your expectation.
When all of these benefits come as a result of your dedicated search for the perfect translation vendor, what do you possibly have to lose?
Bureau Works is a high-powered localization platform backed by additional services that make localization look easy. If you’re on the hunt for a good translation vendor, consider leveling up and trying out the services of a leading localization firm. Your extensive search could be over today. Contact our team to find out.
Written by Aaron Schliem
Aaron is the chief marketing officer for Bureau Works. He also loves to tickle the ivories and is a wiz at designing cocktails.