What is a Language Service Provider? / LSP 101

What is a language service provider (LSP)? What solutions are available and how can you choose the right one?


Like it or not, the events of 2020 led to the incredible acceleration of the world’s digital transformation. That has included increased consumer demand for online purchasing and services. Naturally, more and more companies are expanding their businesses into the global market in response. If yours is among them—and particularly if you’re overseeing enterprise-scale efforts—you’ll need the help of a language or localization service provider (LSP).

To serve an audience in an entirely different language, you’ll be tasked with a lot of content translation. Website content, marketing copy, product information, applications, reports, case studies, and offline content are just some of the many content types you may need to localize. Of course, the more languages you need to localize this content into, the more work and resources it will take.

If you don’t have an in-house department of translators, working with a localization service provider will carry some key advantages. Namely, cost and time savings without compromising translation quality.

An overview of 3 popular localization service providers

With dozens of LSPs vying for your business, a shortlist can be incredibly valuable, saving you time and helping you identify the best choice faster. Here’s what you should know about three of the more popular providers.


Smartling offers a full range of translation and localization services, including transcreation, specialized translation, localization testing, linguistic quality assurance, and more. Brands like Allstate, Samsung, Walgreens, and many more have used these services, resulting in 52% faster publishing, a 70% increase in conversions, and a 20% reduction in translation costs.


  • We have an extensive network of carefully vetted, 100% native-speaking translators who leverage local expertise to deliver high-quality translations.
  • Managed services are available. We can handle end-to-end management of your localization projects across account administration, content, and resources.
  • All work is done within Smartling’s platform, which has been rated by G2 users as the #1 enterprise translation management system for 17 consecutive quarters.
  • Our translations are backed by a 100% quality guarantee.


  • Smartling is geared toward larger businesses like enterprises and, therefore, may not be suited for some smaller businesses.
  • It can take some customers time to get familiar with the capabilities of our robust localization software, but our customer success team is always there to support.


RWS—which is one of the top LSPs in terms of revenue and one of the longest-standing with over 60 years of experience—offers end-to-end localization services. These include translation, globalization testing, linguistic quality evaluation, and more.


  • RWS offers localization resourcing to fill in-house talent gaps and help customers meet increased demand.
  • Besides consulting on processes and technology, the company also offers linguistic and cultural consultation.
  • RWS specializes in just over a dozen industries, including legal, life sciences, financial services, and technology.


  • RWS’s website doesn’t provide info about plans or pricing, making it harder to evaluate.
  • Trados Studio—a tool in RWS’s suite of translation solutions—is complicated according to several users. (Source: G2)


Formerly known as One Hour Translation, BLEND offers localization services in over 120 languages. In addition, the company also has a localization technology platform that enables project management and automation.


  • BLEND has writers available and can assist with content creation in various languages.
  • Many of BLEND’s translators have academic certifications and industry expertise in ecommerce and retail, tech, finance, and other industries.
  • BLEND integrates with many CMSs, design tools, and other platforms (and will soon integrate with Smartling’s translation management system and CAT tool).


  • BLEND’s services aren’t as robust as some other providers like Smartling, which offers localization testing and other services. Therefore, this company is better suited for small to mid-market companies.
  • Customers have reported some frustrating user experience issues like difficulty uploading files and understanding billing statements. (Source: G2)

How to choose a language service provider: 6 factors to consider

What can help you weigh your options and choose the best LSP for your needs? Here are several factors worth considering.

1. Standards for qualifying translators

Translators’ qualifications directly impact the quality of the language services you receive. Don’t hesitate to ask what kind of system the LSP has for qualifying their translators, or to discuss what training or experience the translators have under their belt. Are they native speakers? Do they specialize in any specific industries or types of content?

2. Industry experience

Your industry no doubt has unique terminology, key topics, and nuances that localization service providers familiar with other industries may not fully understand. Therefore, it’s best to choose an LSP that has translators with relevant experience. This will ensure that your message is accurate and clear, giving it a better chance of resonating with your target market.

3. Ease of communication with translators

There are benefits to communicating directly with your assigned translators, such as reducing the risk of miscommunication and speeding up turnaround times. However, not all companies make this easy to do. Make sure to ask whether you’ll be able to speak with the translators to share feedback promptly and talk through your brand’s preferences.

In the Smartling platform, you can communicate directly with linguists about source content or translations via the Issues feature. This keeps communication centralized (no more bouncing back and forth between multiple email threads). Additionally, translators will become an extension of your team and brand, resulting in higher-quality translations.

4. Flexible pricing

Just as every business—yours included—has different translation needs, every language service provider has different pricing options to meet those needs. For instance, translation companies charge a minimum word fee, especially if they don’t use software. Some agencies also charge additional fees for services like project management or translator management. Search for an LSP that offers pricing options that align with your budget. Ask questions about pricing and fee structures to avoid surprises with contracts outside of your budget plans.

5. Free translation test

Some localization service providers will perform small language service jobs free of cost so you can assess the quality of their translations and get a feel for what it’s like working with them. Vetting and hiring an LSP can require a significant investment of time and other resources. You’d hate to choose a provider only for the partnership to fall apart and for you to have to start the search and onboarding process again.

6. Software capabilities

The days of solely manual translation are long over. Many different tools and technologies now exist to optimize the quality and speed of your localization projects and help you compete in foreign markets. Smartling’s translation management system—inclusive of our translation proxy, Neural Machine Translation Hub, transcreation tool, and others—is among them.

Look for an LSP with software capabilities that can help you strike a better balance between cost, quality, and speed. This doesn’t just include software products. Also investigate what integrations an LSP offers so you can take every opportunity to streamline your workflows.

Tips for building a strong partnership with your LSP

Once you find a localization service provider, the next stage of work begins—building a healthy, sustainable, and scalable working relationship. How can you do it?

  • Set clear goals and expectations upfront. Have an open discussion about what you hope to achieve through the partnership in terms of business outcomes. Also, discuss your expectations as far as quality, turnaround times, and communication practices and come to an agreement with your LSP on how you will cooperate.
  • Define processes and workflows. Another part of setting expectations is getting clear on your LSP's processes for document translation and review, what tools they use and how, what file formats they support, and how translated content will be delivered to you. As much as your provider needs to know what you expect of them, you also need to know what to expect from them.
  • Provide reference materials. Do you have glossaries, style guides, or other resources that would help translators familiarize themselves with your business, industry, and brand? Share it early on in the partnership! And, as key details change, keep your LSP updated.
  • Start small and expand as trust grows. Even if your LSP doesn’t offer a free translation test, begin with a small pilot project to test compatibility before committing to a large-scale partnership. Gradually increase scope as the working relationship strengthens.
  • Maintain open and frequent communication. Having regular check-ins to discuss progress, issues, and feedback will build your rapport, enable quick resolution of problems, and help move localization projects forward.

If you do the above, your partnership with a reputable language service provider will be invaluable in fulfilling your brand’s vision for localization and meeting business goals as a whole. The Smartling team stands ready to do just that. No matter how big or complex your localization projects are, we invite you to check out Smartling Language Services and contact us to discuss your translation and localization needs.