When companies expand internationally, translation is often one of the first ideas that they have. To appeal to the locals then great localisation and translation management is necessary to ensure that the text you’re creating really hits the mark and converts into sales. Selecting a language service provider is therefore a critical part of the process.

Localisation goes further than mere translation – it involves really converting the content into a local form. When you start to talk about marketing copy though with many clever word plays and implications then you need to use so-called transcreation skills to achieve the same effect in an overseas target market.

Introduction to Suzan Brown

Suzan Brown - selecting a language service provider

That Yorkshire Lass. Suzan’s Yorkshire upbringing has made her appreciate what she has in life as well as teaching her the value of hard work.  

Jobswise, it’s been an eclectic mix: civil servant, fille au pair in the Swiss Alps, starting up a bakery in France, brake pads, PTFE hoses, police staff, customer service and back to sales. She loves home and dogs and feels that nothing beats a good saunter up the hills of the Scottish Borders. A blissful evening is a cheese platter with red wine and some dark nordic subtitled series.

Imagine a world in which language and cultural barriers no longer exist – where understanding is universal and everyone is empowered. This is what Suzan and the team around her offer at Language Line Services.

Customer Experience at the Forefront

You need to think your customer journey with the customer experience at the forefront. How will they discover and find out about your products?

Usually this journey begins these days with an online search for your type of product or service, however for overseas audiences there is a potential language barrier.

We found that: 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language. 72.4% of consumers said they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.

Harvard Business Review

If you only offer your website in English, then you are missing out on huge global potential. These days it’s essential to offer a multilanguage option if you want to be taken seriously as an international player.

But why spend all that money on localisation and translation management? Surely I can just use Google?

Err…no, just no… Don’t do it or even think about it!

Google Translate isn’t intended for this purpose – they even state that themselves in their own explanations about the tool. If you do go ahead and translate your homepage just using Google then it will be penalised from an SEO perspective.

A machine translation is great for getting the gist of a document if you’re just skimming something but isn’t enough for marketing copy that will convert your audience. It simply lacks the human and cultural touch that provides an emotional connection.

For example, if you have a website with beautiful photos but really poor copy then you are unlikely to convince website visitors of the value of your brand. Without that, your website is unlikely to convert many sales.

What about your Grandma’s daughter’s friend?

This is also a no-no… unless said friend happens to be a professional in whatever it is that you offer.

Just because someone speaks a language at native level doesn’t qualify them to translate your marketing copy. As I mentioned in my introduction, preparing marketing copy for an overseas market is almost as much work as creating something completely new (hence the name “transcreation”). A random bilingual person doesn’t have the specialised knowledge of how to create audience engagement for your brand.

There are huge language differences between the UK and the US which are so often overlooked because we all speak “English”

Allison Yeager

How much time and energy went into weighing the suitability and impact of every word in your native language? It’s unlikely you trusted this challenge of how to communicate your brand values to a random stranger with no obvious qualifications, so why do this with your multi-language copy?

If working in the translation and localisation industry had such a low barrier to entry, it wouldn’t be a specialised degree course, offered by many illustrious universities.

So if you have language speakers in your team, of course you can ask them to do some checks on any copy prepared, but it’s unfair to expect them to translate everything.

Think about it also this way: not everyone from your class at school was great at writing essays or short texts were they? So why should they be able to do a translation, just because they happen to speak the language fluently.

Why Work with a Professional from the Translation and Localisation Industry?

There are several reasons why companies should use a professional language service provider.

Firstly, a professional agency can help ensure that your written or spoken communications are accurate and effective in your target language. This is important because even small errors or misunderstandings can have significant consequences for your business. Your credibility and professionalism can quickly be questioned if there are mistakes in your texts.

If you are able to communicate more effectively with customers, clients, and partners who speak different languages, this can help the company expand its reach and build stronger relationships with its stakeholders.

Secondly, working with a pro can save your company time and resources by handling all of your language-related needs in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Finally, using a professional provider can help your company build and maintain a positive reputation with customers and partners who speak different languages.

This ensures you’re able to comply with local language laws and regulations, avoiding fines and other penalties.

localisation and translation management
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Talk to Several Companies when Selecting a Language Service Provider

Before you make a final decision about which company to work with it’s important to talk to a few and check that the company you decide to collaborate with fits well with you. Can you get on with the contact person. It may sound trivial but you have to be able to rely on this person to coordinate your project internally and solve any problems so if you don’t feel comfortable you need to look further for someone who is a better fit.

For example do they explain clearly to you, how their working process will look and “demystify” some of their terminology?

Don’t underestimate the job of a localisation specialist – these are highly skilled professionals. You can’t just run a website through a machine translation tool and be finished within 10 minutes – this kind of work can be complicated and takes some time.

Questions to ask yourself prior to Selecting a Language Service Provider (LSP)

This may not be an exhaustive list, but provides a starting point

  1. What is your target market? If you say “South America” then ok, Spanish may be the language that you need, but which version of Spanish? Where is your business mainly focused as there are differences between the Spanish spoken in Colombia and that in Argentina or Chile.
    Same goes for English – there are definitely some misunderstandings occur between Brits and US Americans…& that’s before you added countries such as Australia, South Africa or many others into the mix
  2. Have you done your homework and market analysis to ensure that this really is the right strategic market for you to focus on? You don’t want to spend your time and energy preparing an unnecessary localisation.
  3. Who are your ideal clients? You will be speaking differently to a 30 year old university graduate with 2 kids than to a retired miner who never married and has no family.
    What kind of level of language do you need and in which industry?
  4. Which kind of content do you need? Is it a website, a product manual or marketing copy? Perhaps you need an interpreter team for a conference you are organising for your partners.
    If you know that you are translating your astrophysics document into Japanese, then you need a different LSP to if you need a presentation about ice-cream trends interpreted live into 20 languages at an event in Sydney.
  5. How much time do you have for the project? Don’t underestimate the timelines needed for clarification loops and checking. After all, you need the tone of voice to match your existing copy (in most cases) as well as being suitable for the task in hand in the target market.
  6. What about your budget? Localisation doesn’t have to cost the earth, but you do need budgets to do a good job. I’m sure you’ve seen the meme below before – & it’s true. You need to budget enough time and resources for this kind of a project.
  7. How much experience does your team have with this kind of project? Are you selecting a language service provider who can support you strongly with project management and best practices, or do you prefer to use your own tried and tested internal systems?
When your client asks if you can do it cheaper horse meme

Questions you need to ask a potential LSP

What is their specialisation?

If you are working with a big multinational then of course you can expect them to cover many languages and industries, however of course a smaller company will probably offer a more limited scope. If you are just starting out on your internationalisation journey and need to balance budget now with your future growth plans then you might decide to go with someone who offers less languages but is specialised in your industry. After all, there’s no point paying for something you don’t need.

Do you need localisation of the written word or are you also needing interpreting services? (Interpreting refers to the spoken word: translation & interpretation are NOT the same thing, they are two very different skill sets.

How do they qualify their linguists & how does the quality assurance process look

Want to be sure that a) the linguists working on your project have suitable qualifications and experience and b) that they didn’t just have a brain implosion whilst working on your project.

Which tech stack will the LSP use?

How will you receive the files back from your service provider?

Is their tech compatible with yours (you don’t want to spend a lot of time fiddling around trying to transfer data to the format or location you need) and how is their data security?

Will the translation be done by a machine or a human?

Yes, I know I said at the beginning that you shouldn’t use Google for your translation, however there are machine translation tools out there which can be a big support for the language service provider and help to keep costs down.

It also depends on what needs translating as a car manual is different to ad copy for the annual Christmas campaign.

It’s increasingly likely that a combination of both will be used – a machine for the first draft and then to be refined by a human translator to ensure than the emotive element fits.

How would my project be managed?

It’s important to ensure that the style of working matches with your own or it will result in unnecessary friction. If the project manager is in a different time zone, it can also get quite complicated to manage questions within a practical time frame which can lead to considerable delays over the course of a longer project.

Which kind of reporting do you expect from your service provider?

Translation Memory Database

Will the LSP create one, and who will own it?

A translation memory database is a collection of all of the words and phrases that you use consistently in your communication and messaging. Even if you think that you’re just using “ordinary” words and phrases, it’s important to ensure consistency.

For instance, I use International Expansion Explained as the tagline for my website, but this could also be summarised as Explaining International Expansion (especially when you translate into another language) so it’s vital to note how the “standard” wording is.

How are the costs structured?

You need to have transparency about how the LSP will be calculating your invoices, as well as what is included and what isn’t.

For instance if you are still preparing copy for a new website, it’s important to be clear on the wording in the base language before handing it over for translation as the number of revision rounds will probably be limited in your agreement. (You also should make sure that your base language copy is consistently worded or the linguists will be going crazy trying to translate for you).

Picking the Right Service Provider in the Translation and Localisation Industry is an important step to success

Asking lots of questions and also evaluating the questions that the LSP poses to you is an important step of selecting the right partner. As with any other project, doing the homework up front makes the later process so much smoother. A good translation can make the world of difference to your perception in that new market.

As I hinted above though, you as the client also play an important role in the success of a project because if your basis texts are frankly rubbish – full of inconsistencies and bad grammar – then it’s a horrible job for the localisation expert.

The better you know your ideal clients (eg tone of voice, their motivators) and the more good reference materials you can provide, the easier the task of the agency will become.

I think I also don’t need to tell you that if you work longer term with one partner, then this will improve the collaboration and make things simpler as time goes on and you know one another better. This is an investment worth making for the future.

Full Video Recording

You can find the full recording on YouTube – please don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to my channel!

If you’d like to get in touch with Suzan, you can get in contact via LinkedIn or the LanguageLine website, where there is also a white paper about working with LSPs.

You might also enjoy these two interviews:

Thinking that working with a consultant would accelerate your international expansion?

If you’d like to learn more about working with me for support on your internationalisation projects or personal export knowledge, you can book a 30 minute international clarity call here.

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