The language services market is experiencing constant growth. Experts estimate a global turnover of approximately 50 billion dollars, a figure which has increased in recent years at a rate of around 7% (Source: CSA Research – https://csa-research.com/Insights/ArticleID/150/Global-Content-Drives-a-US-46-52-Billion-Market ).
While in absolute terms this figure represents only a small part of the global economy, the sector has been attracting more and more companies for some time – both for its solid growth prospects and for the absence of barriers to entry. The result is a very fragmented market, made up of many different entities – from the multinationals that set up offices around the world and often offer language services along with other consultancy services, to small, family-run translation firms.
Competition is intense at all levels: clients searching for professional language services may find themselves disoriented by such a huge and varied supply.
In order to choose a reliable and competent translation service provider, it is necessary to find out more about how this sector works and the type of services offered.
What exactly does a translation agency offer? Why are there so many agencies around?
Let’s begin by defining the term “translation agency”: in this article we use this expression to refer to companies that offer language services (we will look at these more closely in a moment). Many agencies in the industry prefer to be called “LSP” – Language Service Provider. At times they are also referred to as SLV (Single Language Vendor) or MLV (Multi-Language Vendor), emphasising whether they offer translations in just one language or more than one language.
There is also a difference between “translation firm”, “translation agency” and “translation company”, which may be interpreted as a hierarchical difference although these expressions are used indifferently by providers.
Where can Arkadia be positioned in this general overview? Arkadia has worked in the language services market since 1999, providing its services from two different offices – the headquarters in Milan, and a second branch in Brussels (Belgium). It employs a total of 25 staff, with an extended network of over 400 collaborators who are carefully selected and coordinated by a team of professional project managers, one of the company’s most important assets.
Despite the fact that globalisation has forced many companies to initiate internationalisation projects (which always involve the translation of content), there is still much confusion about the exact process of translation.
Many believe that the whole process is machine-generated, whilst others think that a translation is entirely ‘hand-crafted’. As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
A translation agency mainly offers language services, i.e. services related to language, or rather multiple languages. We refer to L1 (the source language) when talking about the language of the text which is to be translated, and to L2 (the target language) for the language into which the text needs to be translated.
The first difference is that between translating and interpreting. The term “translating” is used with reference to written texts while “interpreting” refers to spoken translation of oral communication, which may be performed in various forms according to the context – simultaneous, consecutive, chuchotage (whispered to end user), business negotiation, bidule (simultaneous without an interpreter booth).
Translation (of written texts) is a huge field. For this reason, many translation agencies choose to specialise in one specific area. For example, Arkadia specialises in the legal, financial and insurance fields. This means that it has a number of in-house staff and external collaborators who have trained in these sectors.
The most common services required are translation, correction/revision, editing, linguistic consultancy, etc. All these services are provided by native speaker translators and revisers, coordinated by a project manager who may also be supported by a language engineer (a hybrid position between linguist and IT professional) who provides technical assistance on texts when, for example, they are inserted within programming code.
Although translation is substantially a manual task, in almost all cases sophisticated IT tools are also adopted. These tools (which comprise databases, glossaries, dictionaries and spelling/grammar checks) serve to improve the consistency of translations, saving time and enabling accurate quality control.
As well as offering ‘classic’ translation services, a professional agency must also be able to help companies in a variety of ways.
Arkadia offers sworn translations (asseverations) and legalised translations, certified by courthouses and notaries – this is an important step which documents must undergo to achieve legal value.
Another field which is increasingly important is that of multimedia: content created by companies is richer and more ‘transversal’ than ever. Not only traditional written texts are produced – there are also videos, podcasts, recordings and interactive programmes. This means that a translation agency needs to offer subtitling, voice-over and dubbing services, as well as audio/video transcription, both from Italian and from other languages.
As many written texts will later be published in digital or hard copy, page layout services are also offered (also known as DTP, Desktop Publishing).
Finally, there is the issue of localisation – translation and adaptation of content for a specific foreign market. This activity is necessary when launching a bilingual or multilingual website, and ensures that it can be consulted by users in just the same way as a website written in their native language from the outset. Arkadia has a whole department dedicated to this activity, which we will discuss again in the future.
In conclusion, a translation agency does not merely translate – it offers clients a portfolio of services linked to languages, fulfilling all the company’s needs in terms of internationalisation and multilingual communication.
In a world which is increasingly smaller, finding a competent partner who can “talk” on a global scale with its public is not a simple aspiration but a necessary and informed choice.