How to Compare Several Language Service Providers


If you have to sign a long-term translation contract with a company that takes care of delivering language services, there are several factors that must be taken into account. Is it ‘a big company? What is their turnover? What is their past / their story? Who are their main clients? What assisted translation technologies do they use? Which translation servers do they use? What translation management systems do they use to manage their projects? Which quality management systems they have achieved? What are their prices?


Of course, you can also choose a freelance Chinese translator or two for your translation projects. What if something happens? It’s a sad story that really happened but it is true: we have lost contact with one of our translators while we were working on a big project of translation. He had had a heart attack and died on the way back from his jogging session. We could not believe it. We had to go to his house to download the translation from his computer to pass it to another translator. The customer of course knew nothing as agencies always have spare translators. We delivered everything on time, and we managed to keep the customer.


Imagine that the total amount of your potential order is 18,000 USD and that the Chinese translation agency you have chosen last year totaled a turnover of 15,000. I do not know about you but I would think twice before making an order. How can you manage your project if you do not have the skills?

Past / History

It’s very easy to start an agency. It requires a minimum initial investment. And it’s true, every year thousands of agencies are created and then closed. Check the agency’s specific experience of translation that you are going to choose. Be warned, if you have some agencies offering low prices but do not have a proven track record in your industry: they might not be the right choice for the task you want to assign them.


Customers and testimonials are very important because the translation is not a measurable well. What is the size of their past projects and how long do they work with their clients? Who exactly are they? Do they have customers in your specific sector? If so, it is good but if they do not have experience in your industry you have to keep looking.

Assisted translation technologies (CAT tools)

Today, computer-assisted translation techniques have a very important role in the translation process and it is vital that your provider uses them. The computer-assisted translation techniques are not automatic translations as Google translator. They are of fundamental help for translators and act as an extension of human memory. For example, if a translator uses only Word and does not use  assisted translation techniques, words and expressions already translated previously will not be used again. The translation is there, in the Word document. But a CAT tool saves every single sentence in a database. If the translator has already translated an expression previously, he/she should not go back and find it manually because the CAT tool would show the translations automatically. In this way we will have more quality and more consistent translation, not to mention the speed. Today, a CAT tool is essential.

Translation Server

If several translators are working on the same file, it is important that there is consistency of translation. What has been previously translated by a translator should be translated in the same way by a subsequent translator. The translation servers play a crucial role in this respect: they are responsible to show the translated parts of each translator who takes part in the project.

Translation Management System (TMS)

Of course, you can also use a pen and paper to manage even the most complex translation projects. But in terms of speed and efficiency it is another matter. That’s why the whole industry is dedicated to business management software. It ‘important that your translation projects are managed by the system that is able to control the process from start to finish. What happens if your project translated into 38 different languages and is handled on a piece of paper or in Word? Total chaos! that’s why translation service providers of a certain level today use professional TMS systems.

Quality Assurance Certificate

One of the main internationally accepted certifications is ISO 9001: 2009 certification. If you have to sign a multi-year contract with a language service provider you should check if they have a certificate of quality. Of course this is not a full guarantee but a certification is a commitment index and dedication to the profession.


A professional translation of high quality is a type of service rendered by the people who translate and tariffs are applied on this basis. If you receive an offer of 50% discount compared to the market price that should make you suspect. Ask for prices to at least five different translation agencies, and if the range is still too large go ahead and ask for new quotes. It is worth to see the real market prices in order to make the final decision.