The Best
Translation Services
2019

A Practical Guide to Finding the Best Business Partners for Your Enterprise Language Translation needs

In this 2019 edition of the Best Translation Services Guide, we’ve included additional criteria necessitated by the latest developments in the industry. From automated translations to agile language requirements, evaluating translation companies has evolved in order to meet the growing demand by international organizations for such services as on-demand translation, MTPE (machine translation post-editing) capabilities, and Uber based translation management system.

On-demand translation: On-demand language translation services are no longer a luxury that’s only reserved for the most deep-pocketed translation buyers. Companies of all sizes now require translation services when and where they need them regardless if they specialize in IT, financial services, medical, and manufacturing industry fields. Gone are the times when businesses used to spend months or even years developing a product and then having to wait for weeks to get the content translated in order to launch internationally. Modern businesses operate on much shorter R&D wavelengths. In the current economy, companies now often need product manuals, software strings, and marketing collaterals translated in near real time in order to compete most effectively in international markets.

The good news is that real-time professional human translation service is very achievable with today’s technological breakthroughs in communication and machine assisted translation solutions. Ask your localization vendor if they can translate 200 words into multiple languages in one hour. If you get a fish-eyed look and all kinds of arguments why quality work takes time, it’s time to look for a translation

partner who can deliver the results. Here is a real-world example. A large energy services company needed a solution to translate their global IT support alerts and answers in one hour. The customer went to the two existing translation vendors they’ve been using for years to see if they could provide such a solution. Instead of getting an affirmative reply, the customer received a lengthy ‘education’ on why they shouldn’t expect quality language services with such ridiculous turnaround requirements. Without a choice, the customer had to research for other translation companies with better, more flexible options and found Stepes. They signed up for an online account and tried 20 pilot projects for French and Brazilian Portuguese, each with a word count ranging from 75 to 250 words. The customer was amazed by its simplicity and speed because as soon as they submitted content for translation, translators immediately began to work on the projects. The company evaluated the results with their own language reviewers and were very pleased with the quality. They chose 3-5 of the best translators for each language and made them their dedicated translators for all future projects. After six months of actual project execution, the customer cannot even imaging going back to the old way of translating which was slow, labor intensive, and often exceeded their estimated budgets. Since then, the customer has happily signed a master services agreement (MSA) to use Stepes for both on-demand and regular document translation services.

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Best Translation Services Guide 2019

Overview

This guide provides valuable information for language service buyers. It includes real world examples, best practice discussions, and helpful tips designed to help you identify the best translation companies with the experience, linguistic resources, language technology, global infrastructure, and good old-fashion customer service to serve your organization’s language requirements. Our industry veterans (both on the buyer and vendor side) and expert language professionals spent the time and effort to compile this easy to follow Best Translation Services Guide 2019. Our goal is to help you see through the marketing myths and identify the right language partner, with the track record and breadth of services that your business can trust and depend on, to meet your enterprise language requirements for years to come.

Quality Management

Professional translation companies must deliver high quality translation services that meet the customer’s turnaround time and budget requirements. Consistent quality language deliveries require the translation service provider to have a quality management system (QMS) with documented processes in place to facilitate consistent and quality execution of each step of the localization production cycle. These may include mature methodologies, localization workflows, best practices, check lists, and quality assurance programs.

One good gauge of a translation company’s QMS maturity is to check for their internationally recognized quality certifications, such as ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485:2016. In addition to checking for these certifications, also make a point to check which certification body or registrar issues the certificates. Not all registrars are accredited and globally recognized.

Language Quality Management

Language quality is the lifeblood of professional translation services. It’s also a great measure to differentiate the best translation services from the mediocre ones on the market. Only the most established companies have the resources and best practices to carry out full-scale language quality management as a part of a language organization’s regular business operations.

Language quality management involves both linguistic accuracy and technical precision of the translated content. However, language quality is not always the easiest thing to measure due to the intrinsic limitations of most translation reviewers, i.e. personal preference and subjectivity. This is why the language industry has tried to devise a number of different frameworks or metrics to evaluate and measure translation quality objectively. These quality standards include the LISA QA model, SAE J2450, and recently, TAUS DQF. However, all of these metrics have their own strengths and limitations.

For example, originally created by a consortium of automotive companies, J2450 has become a widely used QA standard by major language service providers to quantify language quality during the linguistic review process. J2450 employs a seven-point metric to measure the accuracy of translations by calculating the weighted score of different types of errors, such as mistranslation, missing translation, terminology errors, inconsistency, grammatical errors, etc. Its goal is to remove personal preference during linguistic review. However, these standards don’t mention anything about the readability of the translated text. The actual implementation of J2450 or other QA models in real projects can also add a substantial amount of extra work. Only the best translation service companies have the experience and precision to conduct language quality management on a continuous basis. To ensure quality compliance, you should request your vendor to provide their quality manual and documented records of quality assurance programs.

Linguistic Resource Management

Effective language resource management is perhaps one of the most important steps to ensure consistent linguistic quality. Only the best translation companies have the experience and human capital to conduct rigorous and on-going translator evaluation programs to ensure the highest linguistic output the first time around. Correcting poorly translated results is time consuming and often ends up with subpar outcomes because very poor translation can also impair the reviewer’s ability to think independently, resulting in translations that lack technical fluency and cultural nuances required. This is why finding the most qualified professional translators with the linguistic capabilities and specialized trainings in the subject matter is critical for an LSP’s language output.

Size Does Matter

When it comes to multilingual localization, only companies having a global presence with large technical infrastructure can produce the best results on a consistent basis.

Organic versus M&A

Terminology

On average, the accuracy and consistency of terminology accounts for 70% or more of all translation quality issues. Terminology consists of technical words and phrases that have well-defined meanings that are highly specific to an industry or subject domain field. As such, they must be translated accurately and consistently to ensure the highest level of language quality. Incorrect terminology translation not only leads to confusion in the localized material, it can also have a direct impact on product usability or even consumer safety, affecting the customer’s international brand and business growth.

In the localization industry, the process, or best practice, to ensure technology translation accuracy on a systematic level is called terminology management. A terminology management system is a good way to differentiate the best translation services from the less professional ones that use ad hoc approaches. Despite the importance of terminology management, many translation companies either lack mature processes that allow them to systematically manage terminology translations, or don’t manage their terminology at all.

When choosing your translation partners, make sure to check if they have a documented process in place to ensure terminology translation accuracy and consistency on an ongoing basis. Better yet, ask them what tools they use to manage terminology work. Although there are many off-the-shelf solutions, the best translation vendors, like Stepes, develop their own terminology management tools for customized solutions that are best suited for the customer’s requirements.

As explained above, there are many terminology systems on the market such as MultiTerm, Acrolinx Terminology Manager, and TermWiki Pro. However, not all terminology tools are built equally. The best terminology systems must be online and centrally accessible, allowing terms to be defined, translated, reviewed, and approved for use by global users. At the same time, the entire terminological process must be tracked to ensure transparency and consistency due to the fact that the terminology management effort is highly collaborative. Your translation vendor should never use Excel or Word tables to manage terminology. These offline and static files are impossible to track so if someone changes the translation of a term, others don’t get notified automatically, causing translation inconsistencies.

Effective terminology management is about more than delivering the best translation results, it also has a direct impact on a company’s global revenue growth. However, that topic is beyond the scope of this discussion. Interested readers can visit http://pro.termwiki.com for more information.

Localization Quality Assurance

Online Capabilities

The Internet is affecting the way companies conduct global business regardless of the industry field in which they specialize. Translation services are not an exception. In fact, translation companies that embrace the online model early, stand to gain the most as the digital economy continues to demand ever-faster turnaround times and 24/7 services. However, the online translation model doesn’t mean a translation agency simply supports file transfers through Box, FTP, or a customized client portal (fancy FTP.) Instead, professional translation services must develop a fully online localization ecosystem that has the ability to automate most of the human touch points throughout the localization cycle, such as automatic quoting, translator provisioning, browser-based translation, project tracking, online reporting, single-click delivery, and automatic billing and payments.

Benefits of Online Translation

Like Amazon, that revolutionized online retail business, translation companies use modern web-based systems (customer dashboards) to streamline the entire localization process for a faster, more affordable, and efficient translation production. There are many benefits with the online translation services model.

  • Instant project quotation – The best online translation services rely on backend systems with sophisticated file analysis and text extraction capabilities to accurately output word counts and calculate projects costs in real time. Well-developed online systems today can process a variety of file formats such as PDF, Word, Excel, XML, or software resource files on demand without human intervention. The ability to receive instant translation quotations allows businesses to have the flexibility to make the best translation decisions.
  • Reduced localization cost – Online translation services automate many of the labor-intensive tasks commonly associated with conventional offline localization models, including manual Transkit creation, basic project management, reporting, file delivery, translation memory (TM) updates, billing & invoicing, and project archiving. On average, online translation companies cost 15% to 30% less compared to offline services.
  • Faster project turnaround – Online systems streamline and automate the localization process so translation projects can be completed more efficiently compared to conventional models. The ability to localize products faster allows businesses to reduce time-to-market and accelerate international revenue growth.
  • Real time project tracking – No one likes to be surprised when opening an email on a Friday morning only to learn that their translation vendor can’t deliver the project on-time as promised. Online translation systems have the ability to track translation projects in real-time, which allows businesses to proactively manage risks in international product development and prevent launch delays which are so critical in today’s fast development cycles.
  • Full access to project TMs – The best online translation systems allow customers full access to their translation assets, such as terminology and the latest translation memory files any time. Customers should be able to download TM files online anytime, as not to be held hostage by translation vendors, especially when a business decides to switch suppliers.

Technology

Technology strength is one of the most important criteria for judging the best professional translation companies that your business can trust for all your language translation needs. In fact, technology plays such a critical role in today’s agile language localization methodology that we have decided to include technology as a standalone category in the 2019 Best Translation Services Guide. Please note, however, technology strength in this case is not the ability to work with off-the-shelf translation software tools such as CAT, CMS, TMS, and MT. In fact, all translation companies should be able to do that. Instead, technology strength is the actual programming or R&D capabilities of a translation service provider to develop their own customized translation software applications to support your organization’s long-term globalization strategies. Only the most successful and reliable translation partners have the technical know-how and human engineering resources available to consistently invest in language technology R&D and innovations.

Disruptive technology: One way to evaluate a translation vendor’s technology strength is to see if they are a typical follower or innovator. Over the past 20 years, the language industry has developed many standard technologies such TM (translation memory), terminology management, linguistic review, and client portals. However, while innovative at the time when they were initially introduced, these technology solutions have now become routine, considering that we now live in a digital economy in which a major information explosion is taking place. Modern language translation technologies must be agile, continuous, and scalable in order to meet the always-on and multi-channel translation requirements of the 21st century. You should look for smart translation technology leaders that focus on tomorrow’s translation needs and think outside of the industry (box.)

New economy model: Today’s translation requirements are drastically different from what existed even five or ten years ago. Specifically, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the way the world communicates in our increasingly digitalized world. For example, more businesses today connect with their customers through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram than using traditional communication channels. Global e-commerce increasingly takes place on mobile (for example, 90% of Alibaba’s 2017 Singles’ Day sales were conducted on mobile.) On the other hand, location-based services (LBS) are rapidly gaining market share as business like Uber, Didi, and Lyft transform old industries. This is why you need to focus on identifying the best translation companies like Stepes that have developed cutting-edge language translation technologies that deliver agile, mobile, fast, scalable, and location-based translation solutions to meet tomorrow’s translation requirements.

Customized technology: Today’s translation requirements differ greatly among businesses and therefore demand customized translation solutions to meet unique translation needs. Only the most experienced and best translation service providers have the ability to create customized solutions on-demand and within budget that are best suited for an organization’s needs. Make sure to ask a translation vendor if their language software supports APIs and RESTful APIs. If their response is a blank stare, move on to the next supplier. With APIs, many of the human labor-intensive tasks can be automated or streamlined to deliver the best translation results. The good news is implementing such a customized solution doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, most modern software architecture allows plug-and-play capabilities through APIs that dramatically reduce development time for very fast time-to-market and ROI (return on investment.)

Services

On-demand translation: On-demand language translation services are no longer a luxury that’s only reserved for the most deep-pocketed translation buyers. Companies of all sizes now often need translation services when and where they need them regardless if they specialize in IT, financial services, medical, and manufacturing industry fields. Gone are the times when businesses used to spend months or even years developing a product and then had to wait for weeks to get the content translated in order to launch internationally. Modern businesses operate on much shorter R&D wavelength. Companies now often need product manuals, software strings, and marketing collaterals translated in near real time in order to compete most effectively in international markets.

The good news real-time professional human translation service is very much achievable with today’s technological breakthroughs in communication and machine assisted translation solutions. Ask your localization vendor if they can translate 200 words into multiple languages in one hour. If you get a fish-eyed look and all kinds of arguments why quality work takes time, it’s time to look for the next translation partner who can deliver the results. Here is a real world example. A large energy services company needed a solution to translate their global IT support alerts and answers in one hour. The customer went to the two existing translation vendors they’ve been using for years to see if they could provide such a solution. Instead of getting an affirmative reply, the customer received a lengthy ‘education’ on why they shouldn’t expect quality language services with such ridiculous turnaround requirements. Without a choice, the customer had to research for other translation companies and found Stepes. They signed up for an online account and tried 20 pilot projects for French and Brazilian Portuguese, each with a word count ranging from 75 to 250 words. The customer was amazed by its simplicity and speed because as soon as they submitted some content for translation, translators immediately began to work on the projects. The company evaluated the results with their own language reviewers and was very pleased with the quality. The chose 3-5 best translators for each language and made them their dedicated translators all future projects. After six months of actual project execution, the customer now can even imaging going back to the old way of translating which was slow, labor intensive, and often cost a fortune. Since then, the customer has happily signed a master services agreement (MSA) to use Stepes for both on-demand and regular document translation services.

MTPE:  MTPE stands for machine translation post editing. It’s a process whereby a project is automatically translated first by a computer program such as Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, or Stepes Translate. Next, professional human translators review and edit the machine translated results so the final output is the same as what would be achieved by a human linguist translating from scratch. In recent years, machine translation or MT has drastically changed the way the translation industry works. In fact, it’s been predicted, the word “translation” may eventually disappear altogether because all future translations will be first done by MT and then post edited by a human translator.

This is why it’s critical that you verify your localization supplier’s capabilities and willingness to do MTPE to meet your future translation needs. There’re plenty of translation companies who would fight the changing tide by refusing to acknowledge the viability of MTPE. Others simply don’t take an active stance to proactively train their linguists to most efficiently perform MTPE. Still others who’re reluctant to make the required investment to develop MTPE related technologies to achieve the best results. Instead, you should focus on companies who perform MTPE as an integral part of their standard translation process.

There’re many software programs on the market for MTPE that allow you to select a specific MT engine or give you the ability to train the algorithms with technical terms relevant to your industry fields. Stepes MTPE solution even allows translators to perform machine translation post editing on their mobile devices while allowing them to rate the MT quality of each sentence by swiping left and selecting from a set of pre-defined quality metrics.

The Uber model: There has been a popular misconception about applying the Uber model to professional translation services. An obvious argument against using the Uber process is that the best translation quality can only be achieved by professionally trained linguists with the right subject matter expertise. But by its seemingly apparent definition, the Uber model opens up the trade of translation to everyone bilingual, leading to uncontrollable, poor linguistic results. Although there’re some validities to this argument, it misses what we mean for the Uber translation model.

The modern, connected network provides a powerful system for organizing and managing individual talents very efficiently. In many ways, it’s less biased and more systematic in managing human resources to work for a common goal compared to the traditional hierarchical bureaucracy within a typical translation company. Since the translation business often deals with content in a variety of subject matter fields translated into many languages, effectively managing a large web of highly distributed language resources is the key to ensure the best translation services. There are many inherent advantages of the modern network compared to the conventional top-down structure in managing these diverse individuals. This is where the Uber model is most effective by classifying pre-approved professional translators based on their technical expertise and directing their efforts to achieve the best translation results on a consistent basis. For example, the Uber model allows a translation management system to easily track each translator’s performance based on on-time deliveries, quality scores, and customer ratings. The modern network also has the ability to constantly learn from each linguist’s performance in order to deliver continued improvements. Since all of these performance metrics are automatically saved and leveraged for future projects, Uber based localization model will ultimately beat out traditional translation method for near perfect language services.

Automated Translations

The digital transformation has drastically changed the way companies develop and market their products and services. The legacy waterfall approach to R&D is outdated, and no longer fast or flexible enough to meet today’s rapidly changing digital requirements. Today, companies must employ agile, nimble, and iterative processes to maximize business efficiency and get ahead faster in domestic and international markets.

The modern agile development methodology businesses have increased needs for smaller volumes of content translated at a greater frequency. This results in a large number of micro projects (often consisting of no more than 100 words) that need to be translated quickly into many languages at the same time. These requirements can easily overwhelm conventional localization models that involve varioushuman touch points to hand off files, assign translators, and deliver translated results. The traditional translation process that rely on human project managers and engineers to manually quote, translate, deliver translations are simply no longer enough. Today’s global enterprises require fully automated human translation services to gain speed and scale, and translate content on-demand and whenever it is needed.

This type of automated translation workflow requires localization service providers (LSP’s) to have strong technical capabilities, to develop complex translation APIs that are seamlessly integrated with a cloud based translation workflows. This is not something just any LSP can deliver. For these reasons, automated translation capabilities are the best measure of quality translation services available. As the digital economy continues to gain speed, automated translation solutions will surely be in hot demand.

Click here to learn more about Stepes Automated Translation Solutions.