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By OXO Innovation
November 17, 2023

Content Localization: Who You Gonna Call?

The process of taking your content to a wider audience is challenging but rewarding. The value you get from additional customers in other parts of the world, however, can be tested by the complexities of ensuring that the right message is delivered the right way to a group that, by definition, you are not very familiar with. So how do you know you are talking to them in the right language? Hiring a content localization vendor is certainly the best way to reduce risks and increase your company’s ROI. But, if you don’t know what kind of vendors are out there, or how they can streamline and automate your work, you could jeopardize your localization efforts. Ultimately, this means more time, more money and more risk to your brand reputation.

Choosing The Right Content Localization Partner For You

Before launching your search for vendors, understand that localization goes beyond the mere translation of content into another language. While the translation of  the content is a large aspect of the work, localization engineering, project management and cultural adaptation are all part of the process. Your needs as a customer must match the skill set of a vendor for the magic to happen. The services and strengths a localization vendor brings to the table will vary according to their size, location and capabilities. For instance, while freelance translators may provide good quality at a lower rate, complex desktop publishing or multilingual support may be a challenge. A large language service provider, on the other hand, can and will certainly provide full localization into multiple languages.

To deploy a completely successful localization effort, you need to know the types of vendors that are available and which one can be the most beneficial to your project. Let’s take a look at the types of language service providers and some detail on what services they offer.

More Acronyms: What Do They Mean?

Language service providers, or LSPs, vary in size and capacity, ranging from individuals to small, medium or large corporations providing a variety of content localization services. Language service providers fall into one of three categories:

  • Localization Freelancers
  • SLV: Single-Language Vendors
  • MLV: Multi-Language Vendors

Each focuses on a different array of language and technical requirements and levels of service.

Me, Myself and Irene: The Content Localization Freelancer

You may want to work with either an individual managing a small group of professionals or a freelancer who focuses on smaller-scale translation needs. The freelance localizer, one person who knows two languages, tends to provide personalized attention to their customers and is an excellent option if you are looking for a translator who will make you the top priority. Freelance localizers may focus only on translation, or they may go a little further and offer one or two specialized services beyond translating text-based content, such as desktop publishing, translation memory management, style guide and glossary development, or quality assurance.

One Source to One Target: Single-Language Vendors

A single language vendor provides translation services into one language, often from English as the source language. The smaller size and single-language expertise frequently allow for more specialized attention during the translation process. And smaller scale projects using smaller vendors often mean lower costs. However, if you anticipate the needs for your company will change in the near future (for example, needing to translate into two different dialects of Spanish), you may discover that the benefits of an SLV are short-lived.

Typically, it is mostly small companies that rely on a single language vendor, but sometimes a very large corporation that has reached the Transparent Level of the Localization Maturity Model switches back from a larger vendor to a single language vendor to receive more individualized attention and direct access to the vendor’s team.

Multiple Languages and Robust Services: Multi-language Vendors

When content localization needs involve a number of markets and languages, companies turn to the larger and more robust multi-language vendors. Multi-language vendors (MLVs) provide a full range of services and language combinations, and can offer automated workflows, often using proprietary technology. An MLV usually cooperates with global corporations and provides a level of streamlined localization into multiple languages that would be a project management and logistical nightmare for smaller vendors.

Vendor Services and Selecting the Right Fit

Your content localization partner should provide the appropriate range of services to ensure your localization effort is successful. Vendors have expertise in many of the following areas, and you will need to determine which are most important to your own company and projects.

Consulting and Strategy

A localization vendor helps you map out your content development, delivery and evaluation criteria before you initiate a project, so that you can minimize potential rework. During this process, you create an implementation plan with milestones, deadlines, and checkpoints to map out the entire localization project. With the help of your localization partner, you prepare your team members to manage the changes and organize the actual content to be adapted.

Language Expertise

When you select a language service provider, make sure the translators are native speakers of the language you need to translate and that they actually live in the region or country of your target language. A translator who has been away from their native country for too long loses contact with the language and its evolution. Likewise, if your chosen content localization vendor does not have a presence in the region for which they offer language services, you may want to reconsider your choice.

Understanding regional dialects, cultural expectations and local regulations is paramount to quality service.

Localization Engineering

Localization engineers have advanced expertise that allows them to pull information from a system, modify it, and put it back into the system as new localized content. Their work goes beyond basic text translation, and in general, multi-language vendors are the ones who will be able to provide this level of service to companies that need it.

Instead of just translating text and handing you the translated files, localization engineers can adapt various types of media and deliver them back into the corresponding systems. This process allows you to publish in all desired formats without having to manually export the source and import each piece of localized content.

Quality Control and Testing

Beyond validating the accuracy of translated text, technical requirements, and regional adequacy, quality assurance in content localization can be applied to multimedia products such as videos and online learning content. Quality can be validated in captions, dialogue, date and time stamp preferences, even pronunciation of terms and acronyms. Testing processes validate that the products (content and media) function as intended. The localization vendor can verify that the products will work the same way each time to create a consistent experience, whether for software products, web pages or interactive media.

Turnaround Time and Time-to-Market

Before you select a content localization vendor, define your scope and needs under a defined timeframe. A structured language service provider and larger vendors should be able handle the full range of localization tasks and move the project along at a quicker rate. However, the speed may reduce the quality, so understand the tradeoffs—the more people involved in a given project, the more difficult it is to maintain consistency. Yet this is where a language service provider’s project management skills come in handy. Make sure the agreement with your global content partner precisely defines the deliverables, the level of quality you expect and that everything is within budget.

Project Management and Customer Service

Effective project management establishes the timeline for deliverables, outlines the communication channels and expectations for response times, and adheres to your budget. Each type of language service provider offers varying levels of project management; select a vendor based on how much help you need and what you expect the customer service terms to be. An individual translator likely has fewer clients and more time to devote to your company’s needs. A multi-language vendor can manage all areas of the localization efforts.

Certification

If your company is in a highly regulated industry, such as automotive or life sciences, you should select a localization vendor that is certified in that industry to make sure your content adheres to legal requirements. Like any industry standard, however, certification does not guarantee quality. While it ensures that the processes are followed rigorously, if the resources are flawed, the results can only be consistently bad.

Cost

The price for localization services varies according to which type of language service provider you select, where they are located and the scale of your project needs. Before you select a vendor, determine the acceptable levels of quality, reliability and service you want for your project. Keep in mind that not all products need the high quality required for customer-facing marketing materials. So consider the value you receive for the time and money while determining the level of quality for the products you need to localize.

The price for content localization services varies according to which type of language service provider you select, where they are located and the scale of your project needs. Before you select a vendor, determine the acceptable levels of quality, reliability and service you want for your project. Keep in mind that not all products need the high quality required for customer-facing marketing materials. So consider the value you receive for the time you need and the money you spend when determining the level of quality for the products you need to localize.

In Summary

Each LSP has strengths and weaknesses, but only you can determine how they fit into your company needs. For smaller-scale projects, you may prefer to work with an individual translator or a single-language vendor because of the personalized attention and expertise in just two languages they would offer. On the other hand, for large-scale projects requiring content adaptation into multiple languages and automated processes your best bet is for sure a multi-language vendor.

Trade associations offer excellent resources when you need independent advice. As the largest association in the language industry, GALA is by far the best choice for your globalization and localization resource needs, with its repository of expert articles, webinars and multimedia content, its annual conference and regional events, and a number of other resources.

Ultimately, you need to have a good comfort level with your content localization partner. Before making a decision, research the company’s history and reliability. Talk to the actual vendors to determine the level of project management, customer service, quality and engineering expertise you can expect. Get recommendations and feedback from other clients whenever possible. Above all, understand your localization project goals, and the tradeoffs you can make to ensure the right balance of cost, quality and time. And above all, be honest about your needs and possibilities. The relationship with your global content partner must always be based on transparency and trust.

Need an independent assessment of who is your ideal content localization partner? Talk to us.


This article was originally published on December 2021, and updated in November 2023.

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