Finding the right service provider for your translation needs can seem daunting at first. To help our followers navigate these first steps, we thought it would be useful to share our insider’s view and recommend a number of points to consider when shortlisting potential translation service providers.

Certification – what should you expect?

translation services - ISO certification

This may be one of the first pieces of information presented to you when you contact a certified translation service provider, but what certifications are you likely to see and what do they mean?

  • ISO 17100
    This ISO certification provides guarantees regarding the core processes, resources, and aspects necessary for the delivery of a quality translation service.
  • ISO 9001
    This standard is focused on implementing quality management principles, including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement. It can be applied by any organisation, large or small, regardless of specialism. Over one million companies and organisations in over 170 countries are certified to ISO 9001.
  • ISO 21500
    This certification provides guidance for project management standards, irrespective of complexity, size or duration.
  • ISO 18587
    This is the international standard for Post-Editing of Machine Translation Output, which demonstrates a commitment to providing a high-quality service using machine translation. Pre-production processes, post-editing processes and specific competencies and qualification requirements for post-editors are all covered by this standard.
    By knowing what the certification means, it can empower you to ask more insightful questions.

References – what to ask for?

When you are discussing references, the translation service provider should be able to provide relevant examples. If you work in the medical field, they shouldn’t offer financial translation references for example. The references should rather be tailored to your specific industry and highly relevant and appropriate.

Do not be tempted to take any big names mentioned at face value, instead take the time to delve deeper. What did they deliver, when was it, how is it relevant to you?

Company history – key points

This mainly relates to the longevity of the company, and, depending on your business and its needs, all options from a start-up to a mature, established company can each have their pros and cons.

Start-up companies are, by their very nature, often smaller and can therefore deliver a more personal service. A start-up may also have fewer projects overall so can possibly offer more flexibility regarding turnaround times. Due to lower overheads, prices may also be very competitive.

However, if your company is more risk averse, then a start-up may not be the best choice. If you want peace of mind regarding longevity and experience, then an established provider with a proven team of talented and long-serving employees may be the preferred choice. An established company will also have built up a multitude of industry connections, which means they can command a certain level of trust within the industry.

Team size – what do you need?

If you have a niche requirement, can be patient regarding timeframes and value a highly personal approach, then a smaller team may tick your boxes. But if you need a quick turnaround for a more standard project, then a medium to large-sized organisation may be a better fit. In the case of the biggest “brands” in the translation industry, it is sensible to be aware of where your job might fit into their workflow. Can you be assured of who will complete your translation and by when? If a larger client approaches them with a rush job, can you be confident that your project will not get bumped? Larger providers can tend to be very fast paced and smaller jobs might get moved around the team, so you need to ensure that you are comfortable with who is actually managing and translating your project.

Associations – what to look for

translation service associations - GALA

You should ask if the translation provider is a member of any associations. One such organisation in the translation industry is The Globalization and Localization Association (GALA). GALA connects and supports an international network of translation specialists, providing expertise on industry trends, technologies, and best practices.

There are also national translation industry associations, such as the UK Association of Translation Companies (ATC). ATC is a professional membership association representing the interests of language service companies in the UK and internationally. It is the leading voice for companies operating in the UK’s language services industry. Each country will have its own professional body and any translation service provider should be both aware of and knowledgeable about them.

If you require a specific industry specialism, you could look for service providers who are members of those industry-specific associations. For example, if a service provider claims that it specialises in materials handling and automation, check whether they are part of the AMHSA, the Automated Materials Handling Systems Association. Each industry will have its own association.

Personality and values – do they fit with your ethos?

Once you have screened your options using the above criteria, you can then start to consider whether each company fits with your brand ethos. What are their values? How do they differentiate themselves within the market? If you are a very ethically conscious company and the translation specialist you are considering works extensively within the oil and gas or tobacco industries, then there may potentially be a mismatch in terms of ethos.

Get under the company’s skin and find out what they really pride themselves on – is it client retention, the quality of their work or speed of turnaround? If you can find out how they measure their own success, you can better appreciate whether they will fit with your company’s values.

Trial projects


If you still have a number of potential service providers on your list, the final challenge is to present them with a trial project. The trial project should preferably always be based on one of your historic projects, in order to ensure that you have the signed off translation available for quick and easy comparison.

A trial project allows you to establish what it is really like to work with the company, how they communicate and what you can expect from an ongoing relationship.

To some degree, it also takes subjective impressions out of the equation, placing the finished translation under the microscope. This lets you focus on the quality of the end result alone.

Making the final choice

Once you’ve done your due diligence on the above, you will have a complete, nuanced view of the translation service providers left on your shortlist.

For those considering Albion Languages for their projects, you can be assured of our personalised approach and professional expertise. We are active members of a number of professional bodies involved in building expertise and improving international standards within our sector, including GALA, Tekom and ATC. With more than 20 years experience in providing translation services, we translate into 40 working languages, offering a highly customised approach, and rapid turnaround times. To speak to a member of our team, get in touch today.