15 questions to ask your language service provider (LSP)

This post is aimed at clients new to the translation industry who may be seeking guidance in finding the right language service provider (LSP) for their business. The 15 questions below should be asked in initial discussions and negotiations, before sending out a project request.  

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About the LSP

  1. Do they have experience in translating for your industry? Is it included in their specialisation?
    1. You need to know if they can handle a project specific to your industry (clinical trials, technical manuals, marketing releases, or legal contracts, for example). Specialized translators with knowledge of industry-specific terminology is an absolute necessity for reliable, quality translation.
  2. Do they speak your native language?
    1. You’ll want to avoid miscommunication at all costs. If upper management does not speak your language, see if you can be assigned to a project manager who does.
  3. What is the background of the senior management and project managers?
    1. Senior managers and project managers should have experience in linguistics and/or translation. Better still, translation should be their passion. Those who simply treat it as a business may not be flexible to your requests, and a lack of personal experience in translation may mean a lack of understanding of what makes for a quality translation.
  4. What clients have they worked with, and are they well-reviewed?
    1. Check for client reviews on their website, and if they are not provided, ask them if they can personally provide them. You’ll want to specifically see reviews from clients in your industry.

Services

  1. What is their range of services offered? Are they focused on just one service or can you turn to them for other services in the future?
    1. An ideal LSP is one that deliver text translation and website localisation and interpreting (and more!) when you need it. Just make sure that quality is guaranteed for every service offered.
  2. Are they willing to negotiate prices?
    1. You need an LSP that can be flexible in meeting your needs. Ability to negotiate prices shows that they fully understand your business operations, needs, and goals.
  3. Do they offer anything unique?
    1. Many LSPs offer similar services and prices, especially within the same industry or country. Find out if there is anything that sets them apart from the crowd and if it can be an advantage for your business.

Global Reach

  1. Do they meet your language combination requirements?
    1. Not every language combination is guaranteed, even by LSPs with a far global reach. You’ll want to ask if they have translators available to work with your language combination. And if they don’t, are they willing to find one?
  2. Do they have many in-house translators in multiple offices worldwide, or rather a global network of outsourced translators?
    1. In-house translators are readily available and well-tested by the LSP. Outsourced translators can provide a wider range of language combinations, and are experienced in specific fields of translation. Ideally, you’ll want an LSP that offers both in-house and outsourced translators.
  3. How do they find and test their outsourced translators?
    1. Your LSP should be using well-reviewed websites for finding freelance translators and translation teams, such as Proz.com. Furthermore, they should know how to search for translators based on industry experience and language combination. Translation tests should be given to all translators to check for commitment to project and deadline requirements, CAT tool proficiency, knowledge of industry-specific terminology, and quality translation in the language combination.

Technology

  1. How do they conduct Quality Assurance (QA) control?
    1. You’ll want to learn how they check the accuracy and overall quality of a completed translation; the overall process, specific steps taken during a routine QA check, and if there is a specific person in charge of QA. Find out if they also offer to check that the finished translation has met the layout and terminology requirements of your project request. Finally, if they use QA software, find out how it works.
  2. What CAT tools do they prefer?
    1. All LSPs have a preferred CAT (computer-assisted translation) tool, whether it be SDL Trados Studio, memoQ, or a cloud-based platform such as smartCat. It’s important to learn if their tool will support your project specifications. Furthermore, you’ll want to ask if they are flexible to working with a different CAT tool, if necessary.

Availability

  1. How do they handle contact over different time zones?
    1. If your LSP is located outside of your time zone, you’ll want to know whether a project manager can be available within your working hours. If that is not possible, you’ll want to schedule a contact time that works for both parties.
  2. Are they available over holidays, peak seasons?
    1. Clearly discuss your month-by-month or annual schedule. Let them know if there is a busy season for your business. If so, you’ll need to make sure that they can take a large number of projects over a short period of time. On that note, be sure to ask about their schedule, and if they cannot guarantee availability at any time of the year.
  3. Are they flexible to requests?
    1. Your LSP should openly claim to be flexible to client requests. Requests can include project and deadline changes, questions about translators, and price negotiations. Your assigned project manager should quickly respond to all requests, in a friendly and personal manner. If requests cannot be met, they should be able to offer an alternative solution.

Asking the right questions will help you decide whether an LSP is right for you and your business. Remember that you are a person in need of a business partner, and your LSP should be open to questions. Initial discussions and negotiations should reflect a level of respect and flexibility from both sides.

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