SLVs vs. MLVs: A False Dichotomy
By: Julia Figueroa (JF Localization Services) - Sound in Words
30 April 2008
Although the services offered by single language vendors and multi-language vendors might be essentially the same on a larger or smaller scale, our solutions are different because our targets are different.
Even though both single language vendors and multi-language vendors can offer a wide range of services including translation and localization, interpreting, desktop publishing, engineering, etc., we do it on different scales. Usually, SLVs work for smaller or local direct clients and act as subcontractors to multi-language vendors, while MLVs work directly with large international corporations. Our solutions are different, because they address different needs.
Although MLVs and SLVs are sometimes presented as opposing models, we can hardly think of these two types of companies in terms of direct competition. A project involving twenty languages cannot be accomplished well simply by outsourcing to twenty single language vendors. I think there is no point in even discussing potential risk management problems of such an endeavor. Some clients might choose to manage the project in-house, but they would require a large team to manage vendors, coordinate the project, and handle quality assurance.
MLVs have all the necessary resources to take care of a project like this successfully. For companies with projects involving more than three languages, MLVs can ensure consistent translation methodology in all languages, consistent quality standards, consistent schedules, consistent delivery, and less coordination efforts. Having to deal with and coordinate several SLVs for this kind of multilingual projects would be too time consuming.
The role of an SLV
However, when companies need to localize their products into a few languages, working with SLVs can help them reduce costs, ensure a more personalized relationship and, in some cases, receive better quality. As an SLV, we specialize in one language pair (English > Spanish), so our project management is simplified and our costs are lower. We have fewer resources to coordinate and our processes are simpler.
Our project managers, our in-house employees and our freelancers share the same cultural background, they speak the same language and they live in the same time zone. This ensures a strong, long-term relationship with our resources. We have managed to build a solid team, we know the people who work for us very well and we know what they do best. We can always choose the right resources for each project and for each client, because they are acquainted with our processes and they know our customers and their preferences very well.
Our clients are mainly MLVs and local firms. Being a smaller company, it has not been easy for us to reach direct clients other than locally. However, we have excellent long-standing relationships with our customers.
The partnership model
Unless SLVs partner together to work on projects involving a small number of languages, there is almost no ground for competition against MLVs, but rather opportunities for collaboration. We have had great experiences in partnering with other SLVs, with results showing excellent project coordination, consistent localization processes, lower costs for the client and an outstanding final product.
This kind of collaboration demands a common view, a true partnership attitude, and joint decisions. It is more than building a simple group of vendors. It allows us to offer added value through cross-functional cooperation, with all the advantages of a small company and a common business model for project management and quality assurance. It has proved to meet our clients’ needs for lower costs, while leveraging each partner’s unique skills and knowledge.
This model offers the client a single point of accountability. Each company specializes in its own locale, brings comprehensive experience to the group and operates based on a unified quality assurance methodology. With good coordination, we can guarantee consistent product quality and lower costs.
Eradicating the SLV vs. MLV dilemma
I think there is no such thing as the SLV vs. MLV dilemma. We offer different solutions, so there is no right or wrong choice, but rather different clients with different needs to address.
Julia Figueroa is the owner of Julia Figueroa ST&LS, a supplier specializing in translation and localization for the Latin American market.