As globalization expands in depth and breadth, more and more large enterprises have begun to engage in long-term and stable cooperation with language services providers (LSPs). In this process, LSPs have provided foundational and value-added language services to business operations and become a key force of globalization. However, many enterprise clients are skeptical of the value created by LSPs in translation. Are LSPs just middlemen who profit from selling the services of translators?
“Any Native Speaker Can Translate”
While this may be true in day-to-day life, professional enterprise needs are another matter.
Many people erroneously believe that translation and language ability are the same things. As a result, decision-makers in charge of internationalization efforts have often asked themselves the same question: “If I know this language or can find resources that do, then why should I outsource it to an LSP?”. To answer this, we will need to consider several factors.
- Who will manage the project if you need to translate to several target languages? This includes developing plans, preparing documents, assigning tasks, receiving work, making revisions, assuring quality, layout design, billing, and more.
- If your resources are not professional translators, how will you control translation quality in formats such as .docx and .xls? How will you ensure productivity? How will you manage and re-use corpora such as termbases?
- If your resources are not in-house, then how will you find target language linguists that are competent, experienced, affordable, and suited for your business?
Translation Is Only the First Step in Language Services
The general view that LSPs are first and foremost “translation companies”, meaning that they are primarily made up of professional translators, has been true for a long time. However, globalization's continued evolution has led to more complex enterprise translation needs, which has driven delivery requirements ever higher. To meet these needs, the translation industry has gradually developed into a more comprehensive language services industry, covering far more than translation itself.
With the rapid development of Internet technology, the functions and forms of certain LSPs have begun to more closely resemble Internet companies, with a greater division of labor and higher degrees of specialization. If you were to think of professional language services as a restaurant, then the translations produced by linguists can be likened to ingredients on a chef's board. Sourcing quality ingredients is only the first step in preparing a good meal. The chef's skills, restaurant environment, and quality of service are all indispensable parts of the dining experience. The LSP's role in the language service industry goes far beyond delivering translations, as the end of the translation process is only the beginning of language services.
The True Value of Language Services
Unlike simple translations used to facilitate communication in our day-to-day lives, the value of professional language services lies in the ultimate goal of delivering translations faster, at lower prices, and with higher quality. To strike a balance between speed, price, and quality, LSPs must have a range of core competencies beyond basic linguistic skills.
- A core competency required of any LSP, project managers play a core role in the management of customer projects. The project manager is responsible for developing a delivery and quality assurance plan in accordance with the customer's timetable and the LSP's internal delivery capabilities, preparing for possible risks and setting aside buffers, coordinating relevant departments and roles to make timely adjustments to abnormal conditions, and ensure that the project is delivered in accordance with the schedule and quality standards required by the customer.
- Primarily concerned with production resources with professional language and translation expertise, such as linguists. Resource management includes resource recruitment, evaluation, onboarding and removal, project billing and recovery, feedback tracking, incentive management, settlement, and more. In addition to serving the procurement of LSPs, resource management ensures that customers can obtain high-quality and affordable services by continuously optimizing the allocation of resources.
- Though the most common service requested by customers is “translation”, their demand for language services has never been limited to the translation itself. The core thread that runs through most customer demands is to solve more problems and create greater value through translation, such as by using technology and tools to improve productivity, optimizing processes to improve work efficiency, and other solutions. Helping customers reduce costs and increase efficiency through comprehensive solution design is a key aspect of language services.
- Along with ensuring normal delivery through project management, language asset management is also a key function of LSPs. In addition to standard translation memories, termbases, and style guides, language assets also include translation rules accumulated through long-term organization and communication during project execution, project templates in Trados, language resource templates, and more. The centralized management of these assets ensures that similar translation projects' normal execution and delivery quality will not be affected, even when project managers and translators change.
Though language services start with translation, they never end there. The role of an LSP is to provide constant value to customers by managing language as a medium rather than serving as a middleman between translation resources. Therefore, high-quality language services are always an indispensable element of internationalization.