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  • Unless you are going to select individual translators, manage them, pay them individually, schedule them etc, yourself, you will need the services of a localization vendor.

    You may already be working with a localization vendor and have a good relationship with them, consisting of well-oiled procedures and good communication. If you are happy with your vendor, then stick with them. The ramp-up pains of bringing on board a new vendor can sometimes not be worth the gain in the slightly cheaper per-word price they are offering.

    However, if you are new to localization, or are unhappy with your current vendor's price and/or project management, you will need a new vendor. There are some decisions you need to make as a matter of policy, and once those decisions are made, you will need to shop around to get the best vendors with a suitable price.


    Those strategic decisions are:

    • Do I prefer an MLV or SLV?
    • Do I want all my work to go to one vendor, or would I like to spread it around two or more vendors?


    If you are localizing into one language, and do not see that at any point you will need more than that, then a SLV can be a good way to go. Often (but not always) you will get a good price, and you can get good service and project management because SLVs tend to be smaller outfits that put more effort into each customer. If you are going to localize into more than one language, then you will need to think about the second question.


    The advantage of having all your work done by one MLV is that there is a single supplier contact point for localization, and thus reduced management headache at yours, the customer's, end. You negotiate one contract. You bundle all your source files and send them to one address. You have a single point of contact for all your languages. It makes things very easy.

    On the other hand, you concentrate the risk. What happens when your MLV's project manager has a bad period in his or her personal life? Or what if that MLV has a big release coming for its biggest customer? Your projects begin to suffer. With one vendor, ALL your projects suffer. If you have several vendors, then only a few projects will suffer while the others can continue on schedule. So there is an argument to spreading the risk, and that means that even when localizing into more than one language, you should consider SLVs, particularly if they are good.


    Once you have decided on which approach - one or many - you should contact the potential vendors and ask them for the following:

    • A comprehensive price list. Sadly, some vendors like to discuss price last, once they have finished telling you how wonderful their translators, project managers, engineers and account managers are, and how happy their customers are. These ones are usually more expensive. They may have advantages of scale, but that may not necessarily help your bottom line. If price is important to you, it should be important to them.


    • An evaluation sample. You send them a small piece of work (1-2 pages) in the source language, and the send you back the desired translation. This is to make sure their translators are linguistically competent. There is no guarantee that the translator who translated the evaluation sample will be the one who translates or edits your project, but if a vendor's sample is drastically different to the quality of the supplied work, that vendor will have trouble keeping customers.


    • References. Ask the vendor to let you contact another company with whom they have worked. This contact should be able to give you answers to all your questions as to the vendor's quality, beyond the translation sample: Are their processes smooth? Are they good communicators? Are they responsive? Do they handle changes well? Is their material adequately proof-read? Do they bill fairly? Do they have capacity problems? References are the best way of finding out about the quality of your potential vendor.

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