Most of the documents that a given company produces will be highly targeted. As we have emphasised here many times, effective documentation should have a clearly defined audience.
In the same way, the translation of that document will fall into a correspondingly well-defined category. More and more, translators specialise in certain fields or types of translation, and it is important to work with a provider who is specialised in translating for a particular industry or sector.
At the same time, many language service providers (LSPs) believe that it is essential to diversify the services they offer. Gone are the days when a one-size-fits-all approach was sufficient. Nowadays, most LSPs offer a range of specific translation services, and work with teams or individual translators who focus on that particular service.
To take an example: some LSPs offer website localisation, which is essentially the translation and adaptation of a website to a specific locale.
Working with websites and content management systems (CMS) requires different technical skills than does working with DTP programs, as the text needs to be handled and extracted in a different way (even if they both then go through the Translation Memory).
This requires a skillbase which not all translators possess; like any skillbase, it is only aquired through experience and a lengthy training process. Clearly, if you need to have your entire website translated, it makes most sense to go to an LSP which emphasises its capacity in this area.
This example also illustrates a key point. If an LSP doesn’t advertise its expertise in a given field, it generally means that they don’t have any: like any other business, LSPs are most vocal about what they’re good at. And, like many other businesses, if you go to an unscrupulous LSP with a project that they don’t have the relevant expertise to handle well, they will nonetheless tell you that they do. Check which services an LSP offers, or advertises most prominently.
Only the biggest LSPs have the resources to cover all of the possible fields. But if a company only offers a selection, this does not necessarily mean that they’ll do a less good job than a company which tries to cover all of them – it fact, it is often quite the opposite.