From “mom and pop” to the "giants"
The industry that is now dubbed localization got its start in the late 1970s. At that time translators who had often been working independently or in academia began to form companies that could offer more professional language services. These developing language service providers (LSPs) quickly expanded to offer much more than just translation. They became experts in project management, receiving original content from the publisher, translating it through professionally trained translators with subject matter expertise. They also managed the entire process, working with translators, editors, and proofreaders.They soon expanded to offering design and publishing services for the translated content as well.
As the industry grew, LSPs embraced technology to improve services. The localization industry is by nature international with professionals working in different locales—an original "offshoring" business. So naturally LSPs were early adopters of computers and dial-up modems. Translation Memory (TM) and workflow management technologies were also created and added early on and have evolved into standard toolsthe localization industry.
From partnerships to acquisitions and mergers
Almost since the beginning, the localization industry was marked by waves of consolidation. Certainly many small providers continue to thrive around the world. But as companies have grown, they have merged or acquired others to offer a broader range of services for larger customers. So for example, Alpnet, Sykes and Trados were acquired by SDL; and Mendez, Berlitz, Planet Leap and Bowne were acquired by Lionbridge.
So who are the players now? There are estimated to be more than 5,000 language service providers worldwide. Many are still ‘mom and pop’ shops with only a few employees specializing in one language pair (say, Arabic-to-English-to-Arabic); these are called SLVs (single-language vendors). There are also multi-national players in the industry who use a variety of technologies and processes to provide services for any type of content and for any language. These multi-language vendors (or MLVs) include major companies with offices around the world, such as Lionbridge and SDL, and companies based in one location, such as ENLASO and McElroy Translation. There is also an evolving group of companies, sometimes called Regional MLVs, who provide services and a geographical reach covering a single region (e.g. Eastern Europe), such as Skrivanek and Argos Translations.
On the menu of a Polish hotel: Salad a firm’s own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.