Finding the Best Translation Services


In the market for a good language service vendor for your global expansion efforts? If so, chances are you have found the sheer volume of choices to be overwhelming. In fact, there are well over fifty thousand (50,000) translation companies in the world. While it is beneficial to have a variety of suppliers to choose from and compare, having too many choices can lead to frustration as you look for the perfect partner for your language translation needs.

The translation and localization industry is one of the most fragmented sectors in the world. There are many reasons for this reality, both historical and technical. Nevertheless, the following are some of the important factors which contributed to this development:

  1. Unlike many other professional service fields where starting a new business requires either a steep capital investment or deep technical know-how, barriers to entry are almost nonexistent for the language business. In most cases, a computer and bilingual knowledge are all that is needed to set up a translation agency. This is perhaps the most important reason why there are so many translation companies in the world.
  2. The rapid development of the digital economy enables easy delivery of translation services. There is no logistical support needed to receive raw materials, no warehouses required to store inventories, and finally, no shipping services involved to deliver finished products. Much of the translation work can be completely provisioned, performed, and delivered via digital means, in this case, a bunch 0’s and 1’s. Such a digital business model is ideal for entrepreneurs struggling to make things work in the beginning.
  3. The translation business by definition seems unconnected or unrelated amongst the different languages. Therefore, it’s quite common for the industry to have many small and single language vendors that are based locally in-country and only provide translation work in one or two language pairs. In fact, small single language suppliers make up at least 60% of the entire translation supply chain.
  4. Finally, being one’s own boss with flexible work-at-home (especially for stay-at-home moms and dads) lifestyles are increasingly becoming attractive amongst the working population. Starting a translation business fits the situation quite conveniently.

As a result, the world has tens of thousands of language service providers and identifying the best translation services and managing these vendors is increasingly becoming a full-time job in itself. In fact, many large companies hire full-time professional localization vendor managers that regularly conduct translation service RFPs (request for proposals) in order to identify the best suppliers. This is made all the more imperative because the translation space is rapidly evolving and innovative translation technologies are redefining traditional service models all the time. For example, the latest neural machine translation (NMT) and automated translation management systems have dramatically improved service efficiency while reducing costs. By frequently evaluating the market for the best alternatives, enterprises can ensure they can effectively compete against their competitors globally.

All of the above information brings us to the original point, how you can better identify the best translation company to meet your language service needs? What makes things even more challenging is that translation vendors all claim to deliver professional services with the highest quality, fastest speed, and lowest price. As a customer, it’s no small task to sort through these unsubstantiated claims to identify the best translation service that you can depend on to consistently meet your language services needs over time and with year-or-year performance improvements.

To make things easy, here are some tips to consider when choosing your translation service suppliers.

  1. Getting an instant quote. Conventional localization companies are full-service translation houses that rely heavily on human manual work for most tasks within the translation process. These include file analysis in order to provide you with a translation estimate. It’s typical for them to return even a simple estimate the next day or after a few days. However, time is money and in today’s fast-moving economy, these old models that used to take days to complete the simplest translation estimate is not a supplier you should consider. The ability to get instant quotes is a must which also allows you to compare prices with other vendors easily to make the most informed business decisions.
  2. Minimum charge. It’s one thing for a translation company to say their services are very affordable and quite another to have a minimum charge. We live in an agile economy so more and more translation requirements are consistently coming down in size. Gone are the times when a user manual can account for hundreds of thousands of words. Digital content today continues to shrink in size and a typical document today contains 500 words or less. In the case of product updates, translation needs for a couple strings or a few sentences are increasingly the norm rather than the exception. As a result, you must make sure your translation vendor doesn’t end up charging you a minimum fee for such requests because they can quickly add up. Online translation services like Stepes have done many projects for less than $0.80 for translating just a few strings. You can give it test drive here:
  3. Translation samples. Many companies send out translation samples to test a supplier to check for linguistic quality. However, such a practice not only is time consuming and costs money to review translated results, it often leads to disappointment when a vendor is finally brought onboard. This is because conventional localization service providers (LSP) don’t have idle translators sitting around just waiting to take on your translation tests. What ends up happening is they utilize a dedicated sample translation team, or in some cases, hire an outside sub-contractor, to take on these tests. This means once the vendor is brought onboard, the same translation team that worked on the initial tests are not the ones working on your actual projects. Therefore, you should forgo doing the sample tests and instead use the other steps discussed here to choose your translation agency.
  4. Online translation. Traditional translation processes are opaque and customers never really have the ability to check for real-time project status and progress. Like Amazon and Alibaba that revolutionize traditional industries, translation services are going online. This is why a new generation of online translation services are changing the game by providing customers much faster performance with unprecedented flexibility and the ability to monitor the process including viewing the actual translators working on their projects. By being more transparent, online translation companies instill better trust amongst customers, leading to higher client satisfaction. The best online translation services, like Stepes, allows the customers to rate their translators. Linguists that receive good ratings will automatically receive future projects for the same client for consistent linguistic quality over time.
  5. Quality accreditation. Vendors like to claim they produce the best translation quality. However, consistent quality work requires experience and mature processes. It’s one thing to occasionally produce a good performance and quite another to provide consistent and outstanding executions on a continuous basis. A good way to ensure good and stable performance over time is to check for vendor ISO certifications. After all, ISO accreditation organizations are in business precisely because they do the legwork for companies like yours to easily identify good suppliers and business partners from the mediocre ones. When it comes to consistent and quality translation work, vendors that have invested in their quality assurance programs are the ones to trust.
  6. Customer testimonials. Additionally, good customer testimonials are still one of the best way to verify a vendor’s claim and check out a vendor’s real performance. Don’t just go by what a vendor puts on their website, instead ask for client references from customers that they have served that are most related to your industry and subject matter field.
  7. Big Translation Model. We live in a shared economy. Increasingly the traditional hierarchy business model in which workers work for bosses in a top-down organization is no longer the most efficient. Services that are rendered with a flat organizational structure and use a Linguistic Network to match business needs with the world’s talents in a shared services model like Uber will stand to gain tremendous success and achieve the best translation results. There are only a few such translation services, including Stepes, in the world but the trend is surely going to grow fast.

You may find these seven steps to finding good translation suppliers outlined above to be quite different from other online discussions on the same topic. However, these are based on firsthand knowledge gained on the battlegrounds and are consistent with a new trend the industry is moving towards. They will surely disrupt the existing models more so than earlier advancements. Unlike previous developments that focused on the text itself such as innovations on translation memory (TM), terminology management, J2450 quality assurance, and machine translation (MT), the latest trend is about how to best organize the world bilingual, trilingual talent with subject matter expertise to better serve global translation demands with speed, scale, and quality.