What is a Language Service Provider? / LSP 101

What is a language service provider (LSP)? What solutions are available and how can you choose the right one?


What is a Language Service Provider?

A language service provider is a type of service that enables communication between a brand and audiences outside of their language and culture.

What is a language service provider, and what services does an LSP (language service provider) offer? Services offered by a language service provider include professional translation, transcreation, translation management system, international SEO management, linguistic asset development, and more.

When a business plans to enter a global market and serve a new set of customers in different countries, a language service provider is a partner organization that powers the business’s localization efforts.

Through neural machine translation technology, computer-assisted translation tools, and professional human translation services, an LSP enables a business to connect with its customers and enhances their experience with the brand no matter what language they speak.

So, in short, an LSP language service provider provides all things localization, anywhere from translation services to translation software. An LSP does much more than just translating English to another language.

Who Needs a Language Service Provider?

Businesses that collaborate with or sell products to customers who speak different languages may need a language service provider.

The world is lived through words. Suppose you are a business looking to enter a new market with languages and cultures outside of your own. In that case, you need an LSP (language service provider) to help your brand effectively communicate with your unique audience.

Like it or not, the events of 2020 led to the incredible acceleration of the world’s digital transformation. More and more companies are expanding their businesses into a global market, and this is when a language service provider needs to come into play. A language service provider plays a critical role in your brand’s globalization and localization due to their expertise in language translation and cultural knowledge.

To serve an audience in an entirely different language, you will be tasked with so much content to translate: website, marketing pieces, products, applications, reports, case studies, and offline content, to name just a few of an endless list of content associated with a brand.

To be cost-effective and achieve a quick turnaround with high-quality translation, it makes more sense to hire a language service provider rather than managing in-house or freelance translators. Large companies with significant enough content to translate all the time may consider an in-house department of translators. However, it is often challenging and expensive to recruit and house 100 percent native translators with industry-specific experience and cultural competency suitable for your unique brand.

Who needs a language service provider?

  • A business that has no translation process or technology in-house
  • A business trying to enter a new market
  • A business that is looking for a sustainable, cost-effective localization operation
  • A business that is looking to improve and modernize its existing localization program

How to Choose a Language Service Provider

Now you know that language service providers are more than just a group of translators. Let’s take a look at what to keep in mind when considering a tool like this. Here’s how to choose a language service provider.

Experience in Your Industry

Choose an LSP that has experience in your industry. Because there are unique terminology, nuances, and other details distinct to different industries, ensure the LSPs you are vetting have translators with expertise in translating specialized content specific to your industry.

Flexible Price Offerings

Different language service providers have different pricing options, and every business has varying needs for translation. So search for an LSP that offers pricing options that align with your budget. Some companies will charge a minimum word fee, especially if it is a translation agency without software. Some agencies may have fees associated with their services, such as project management fees or translator management fees, etc. Ask questions about pricing and fee structures to avoid surprises with contracts outside of your budget plans.

Standard of Qualifying Translators

Find out what kind of system the LSP has for qualifying their translators. These translators are essential players in determining the quality of the language services you will receive, so feel free to discuss what training or experience the translators have under their belt. Are they native speakers? Do they specialize in any specific industries or types of content?

Direct Communication with Translators

There are benefits to communicating directly with your assigned translators, but some companies don’t let you while some do. So make sure to ask whether you will be able to speak with the translators. By connecting directly with the translators, you can share feedback promptly, talk through your brand’s preferences, get the job done faster, and reduce the risk of miscommunication.

Free Translation Test

The vetting process of an outsourced company can be a big commitment. No one would want to hire a language service provider and regret their decision because the partnership didn’t work out as they had hoped. That’s why it is always a good idea to see if the LSP you are considering offers a free translation test. Translation test is where the LSP will perform a small language services job on your content for you to review, so you see if they will be a good fit for your brand. It works just like a 30-day trial on a video streaming service or free food samples at a wholesale store! It will help you get a feel for the LSP’s translation job and know if you can trust them with translating your content.

Software Capabilities

The days of manual transition are long over. Many different tools and technology such as translation management system, automation and integrations, translation proxy, CAT Tool, transcreation tool, and translation analytics make it possible for you to compete in the global market by optimizing the quality and speed of your localization and translation projects. Look for an LSP with software capabilities that your brand needs to meet your localization goals because those will cause a world of difference for your business. Some language service providers will have integrations for your tech stack or even build a customized integration for your brand, so don’t hesitate to discuss your integration needs with them!

Your partnership with a quality language service provider will be invaluable in fulfilling your brand’s vision for localization and meeting business goals as a whole. Learn more about Smartling’s language services here: https://www.smartling.com/translation-services/