In this blog series, we discuss terms and phrases often used by LSPs (language service providers) that form common industry parlance on both the buy and supply sides. Note that these are not specific to any LSP, nor is it our purpose to put down our peers and claim high ground (indeed, I am guilty of these myself more often than not).
Sometimes, some of these terms and phrases are so second nature or clichéd, that someone might use one without actually meaning it completely. This post hopes that you, the buyer, will stop when you hear one of these terms or phrases, ponder what is actually meant, and ask the right questions that will help you avoid any painful misunderstandings. Read our previous posts in this series on the use of “localization” and “SEO localization”.
What LSPs say
“We have offices in 23 countries worldwide.”
What LSPs mean
“… Two of these offices are production hubs in China and Poland, where we do 90% of the work. The other 21 offices are actually remote employees working from home, mostly sales people.”
Why it matters
One of the all-time favorite PowerPoint slides to include in any localization proposal is the classic “Global Presence” slide, with colorful little dots depicting numerous offices strategically placed around the globe. This seems particularly relevant for us MLVs (multi-language vendors), as it shows that we do indeed have the global presence, and therefore the global resources, necessary to manage any job you throw at us.
It may seem impressive, but in reality, when talking to a client it is largely irrelevant to their specific needs. Basically, the information that matters most boils down to where the translators are, where the project management and engineering are performed, and where the main point of contact is located.
At a minimum, it is important to clarify where the translators are based. In nine out of 10 cases, translators are contracted by LSPs or work on a freelance basis. In the case of a large MLV, they may additionally partner with specialized SLVs (single-language vendors).
Location, location, location
The structure is not as relevant as the location of the linguists, as you will want the linguists to be located in the target markets for which you are translating (and yes, I realize there are exceptions to this, but I’m keeping that outside the scope of this discussion).
Linguists who are in their respective countries will not only be familiar with the appropriate regional dialects, but will also be up-to-date on the latest linguistic trends for that language, as opposed to, say, a Ukrainian translator who has been living in the United States for the last 20 years. Similarly, if you want to translate into Mexican Spanish, the translator should ideally not be a speaker of Argentinian Spanish.
Next, the location of the LSP’s project management team also comes into play, because these are the people that are going to be working directly with the linguists to make sure that everything stays on track. Hence, project managers should preferably live in the same or proximate region as the linguists.
This becomes especially important when speed and flexibility are needed, as is usually the case. With the ever-increasing emphasis on agility, it is becoming more and more essential to make sure that linguists are supported by a truly global network of project managers and engineers who are able to cooperate across time zones to make sure your projects “follow the sun”.
Time zone considerations
Lastly, I cannot emphasize enough how extremely beneficial it is to have a project lead or some point of contact who is available during your business hours. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be located down the street from you (though that has its advantages, too), but they could be in an overlapping time zone.
For example, Moravia does indeed have project leads located in the United States (sometimes literally down the street from our clients), but also has success locating project leads in South America, where they can easily collaborate with clients during US business hours. If there is no need to meet onsite, then this is a good option to consider since it avoids the heavy costs associated with placing a project manager in San Francisco or New York.
None of these points are meant to suggest a one-size-fits-all solution, though. (Side note: if an LSP ever tells you that they have a one-size-fits-all solution, you should be seeing red flags). If your project requirements do not necessitate full coverage during your time zone, there are also advantages to having project leads located offshore closer to their production teams. You will have to decide what’s right for you.
Get clarity on an LSP’s global presence through the following questions:
- How do time zones affect my project lifecycle?
- Are the linguists assigned to my project located in-country?
- Where are the project managers and engineers who will be working on my project, and what is the plan for ensuring seamless communication across time zones?
- What is the plan to provide full “follow the sun” coverage (if needed)?
- Who will be my primary point of contact and what are his/her working hours?