Which Localization Model Is the Best Choice for Translation Quality?
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Which Localization Model Is the Best Choice for Translation Quality?

Which Localization Model Is the Best Choice for Translation Quality?

Quality Levels in Translation

In any discussion on which localization model to adopt — specifically the various factors that will lead organizations to choose between in-house localization, single sourcing, and outsourcing to multiple suppliers — there is no avoiding the language quality question. While quality is not an entirely objective value, there are nevertheless ways by which you can determine what quality indicators are important to your project goals and which supplier model will best deliver that value.

So which localization model is your best bet for approaching premium quality?

The Many Ways to QA

How do you know that the translations are good? Many global companies rely on some combination of three approaches.


One approach to measuring quality is listening to your customers. Whether from direct buyers or your channel partners, you will receive generally unstructured, qualitative feedback on the performance of your products and services in their markets. While valuable for uncovering problems or unpopular features, this kind of quality measurement does not get to the root of the language quality problem. Was it a problem with a translator? Was something wrong with the source code? Did language localization contribute to design problems? Customer feedback is normally not specific enough to reveal that.


That is why a second, more systematic approach is often needed: namely, third-party review. Unlike working with customers and channel partners, these reviewers have the tools — the style guides, templates, glossaries, and translator instructions — that allow them to give fairly objective feedback on whether a localization project met your company’s quality goals. There are some catches, however: outsourced review can be expensive; and with hiring someone you have to trust that the provided QA feedback will be nevertheless untainted by the customer/client relationship (i.e., honest).


The third approach is self-certification. My colleague Renato Beninatto wrote about this recently in covering the distinction between quality control and quality assurance, so do check out what he has to say as well. In brief, I’ll add that self-certification means that language translation and review are services provided by the same supplier. You get one package — the final localized product as well as supplier data that proves that the delivered localization effectively meets quality targets. The value of this approach is in the relationship with your language services partner.

Here at Moravia, for example, we have a discretely different team that oversees translation review, separate from the translators. This is not unusual in the industry and, furthermore, reduces the somewhat predictable outcome of having one language services provider evaluate the work of its competitor.

The Role of the Bottom Line and the Deadline

When it comes to quality review, in-house localization is good at hiding the actual costs of the work. Because internal review comes from diverse sources, they are not being specifically paid for their review work, so both capturing the effort and documenting the real costs are hard to do.

This is not the case with single-sourcing or outsourcing to multiple suppliers. Usually, it is really easy to see what the cost is of using a third-party reviewer because it is billed hourly and tracked. Self-certification’s costs can be loaded into word rates, but keep in mind that the cost is indicative of the level of service. A statistical sub-sampling of 10 percent, for example, may be all you need to understand the quality of the localization work. If you want a full review (100 percent) than you have to be prepared to pay far higher costs.

Delivery is another factor. When you are localizing consumer products in a competitive marketplace, missing deadlines equals lost revenue. So one of your quality KPIs should be reliable, on-time delivery. How well can you trust your supplier to meet your deadlines — i.e., what percentage of your projects are delivered on schedule? Also for consideration: How is your supplier helping you set realistic deadlines? How many words or labor hours are deliverable each day of the project? What is the ratio of problem escalations to the number of on-time deliveries?

And the Winner Is?

As I noted above, quality is a highly subjective value — both locale- and project-specific as well as being determined by the brand. There are some constants, however. Do you want premium quality? That’s going to cost a lot more. Does quality change for high priority tier projects over low priority ones? Probably. Are the kinds of errors produced by machine translation, for example, tolerable enough that it brings real monetary value over human translation’s costs? You need to decide that. Even knowing where you fall on a quality scale will help you know what you are asking your supplier to do.

Regardless of whether you ultimately choose a single vendor or several, you will need to decide what those quality targets are so that you can fairly measure project outcomes. In this respect, between single sourcing and a multi-vendor solution, it’s a tie.


I’ve written a couple of pieces about the other factors that influence client choice regarding single sourcing, so I hope you will check those out too. Do you have questions or comments? Post them in the section below.