If your company is expanding into new markets, overcoming the challenge of language barriers becomes vital. After all, it’s difficult (if not downright impossible) to collaborate with partners and reach out to customers if they can’t understand you.
That’s why a language service provider (commonly called an LSP) makes a valuable ally when you venture into multicultural business.
Language Service Providers defined
Although there are as many different service sets in the LSP industry as there are providers, it’s possible to draw a fairly consistent line between the true LSP and a service (or individual) who concentrates solely on translation. For a start, working with an LSP puts you in command of an entire team of dedicated professionals who will work to make you and your company better understood.
Most LSPs maintain teams of experts covering a wide range of professions. Working together, they can do far more than just translate one language into another. Highly experienced translators might be joined by copy editors, writers, designers, graphic artists and others to ensure that your business is as well-represented as possible.
Translation vs. Localisation
The range of talent available to you from a good LSP allows you to start thinking about true localisation rather than simple translation. Inside the industry, the distinction between the two is sharp. Translation is a limited process that’s concerned exclusively with converting a piece of text from one language to another. Localisation goes far deeper.
Localisation takes cultural subtleties into account and addresses more than just the meaning of your words. It’s the best way to preserve not just the ideas you want to convey but also the tone and style. This is why translators are joined by many others on a localisation team: you need a wide range of talents to ensure you get the best results.
To give you an example of where the line between translation and localisation lies: the translator is the expert responsible for taking an English user manual and recreating it in Portuguese; a localisation team is what you need if you want to produce two different manuals for use in Portugal and Brazil.
Using one-off translators
Of course, your company might not need extensive localisation services right now. If your only multicultural issue is preparing a single document for use in a foreign language, it’s tempting to meet your requirements by hiring a piecework translator. This could be a large translation company or an individual freelancer. (You’d be surprised at the number of major corporations that have relied on solitary translators to handle their work!)
This translation method comes with significant risks. Although you can do your best to guarantee the quality of the individual translation by vetting your translator carefully, there’s nothing you can do to establish consistency over time. What happens when your next translation job is carried out by a completely different translator? (This can happen with large service companies as well as with individuals.) It will be impossible for your company to develop a consistent tone in your new market.
Stepping up to an LSP
The beauty of working with an LSP is that most of the quality firms in this industry are highly flexible in the way they respond to your needs. Even if your current needs are minimal, establishing a long-term relationship with an LSP ensures a consistently high level of service. Your LSP can always expand the team working for you as your requirements grow more complex.
If you are making a major push to establish your organization in a new country, sticking with one LSP is also a good idea because your provider can customize a team to address the specifics of your industry. It’s quite common for LSPs working major contracts to bring in native-speaking specialists in your own field to provide even better translation and localisation services.
Choosing the right LSP
Hopefully, picking out an LSP is starting to sound like a good idea to you. How do you go about it? For a start, you should look for all of the typical signs you want to see from an important business partner. Research your LSP’s history to see how they’ve treated clients in the past. How long have they been in business? The longer they’ve been working, the better the odds are that they satisfy their clients.
Some LSP-specific matters you will want to check include security, reliability, and certification. Make sure you work with a company that will respect your intellectual property and keep it secure. In terms of reliability, look for well-documented consistency in procedures (ISO certification, for example). Finally, check with governmental agencies in both your home country and your target market. Translation firms are often certified or endorsed for operations in a specific nation.
Taking your business into a new country is a huge step, and it carries certain inevitable risks with it. You do not have to face all of those risks without help though! The services of a trustworthy LSP can help minimize the difficulties presented by language barriers and help your company land on its feet anywhere in the world.
*Photo credits: doomu / Shutterstock.com