SLV or MLV? That is the question!

Translation and localisation projects vary dramatically in size, scope and character. Happily, language service providers (LSPs) are equally diverse, ensuring that for every undertaking, it is possible to find the perfect translation partner.
If you are searching for the right partner, should you turn to a multi-language vendor (MLV) or a single language vendor (SLV)? Would it be possible to cut out the middle man altogether and work directly with freelancers?

Should you build a team of freelancers?

Whoever you choose to handle your translation and localisation, it will be freelance translators who tackle the majority of the actual translation work.

As such, it is tempting to think that economies can
be made by approaching a freelancer directly or by establishing your own network of freelancers.

However, time is money and your time is probably particularly valuable – at least to you.

Whoever you choose to handle your translation and localisation, it will be freelance translators who tackle the majority of the actual translation work.

Even a single freelancer will need managing. With a team of freelancers to coordinate, things could quickly become very complicated, placing significant demands on your time.

It will be difficult to ensure that the work of several individuals remains consistent, even with the assistance of the latest technology.

Indeed, when you don’t speak the language, how do you know that what you have purchased is fit for purpose at all?

To make matter’s worse, it may prove impossible to source freelancers who are always available when you need them. They can’t just sit around waiting for your email and so will be taking work from other clients.

Where do you find freelancers who possess specific knowledge of your industry sector? Then there’s the challenge of testing their capabilities. Engaging freelancers is far from a hassle-free enterprise. Indeed, it will necessitate ongoing project management.
While retaining direct control over your venture may be an attractive proposition, the reality of the endeavour can be somewhat less appealing.

Is bigger always best?

MLVs and SLVs are ostensibly in competition with each other and are vying for your business. But they offer very different propositions which means that they are not really in competition at all. Size could matter and for larger or global projects requiring translation into multiple languages, an MLV will often prove to be the discerning choice.

If you don’t need multiple language capability, why pay for it?

With an MLV handling your work in its entirety and coordinating all aspects of the project, you should enjoy a stress-free experience. Not to mention some degree of consistency in the material produced.
On the other hand, if you require single language translation and localisation, an SLV may well deliver superior work and better value.

There are few economies of scale with translation and localisation services. MLVs will incur much greater fixed costs than SLVs with the inevitable consequence that they their services are more costly. If you don’t need multiple language capability, why pay for it?

SLVSmall but perfectly formed

Smaller, specialist organisations will possess the knowledge and expertise that could make all the difference. Better still, you won’t have to pay for all the bells and whistles that you don’t need. Many SLVs offer a more flexible approach than their larger counterparts. You will enjoy the benefit of a personalised service just like an extension of your own your team. SLVs have fewer resources to manage and so can provide superior quality and exceptional consistency but at a lower cost.

SLVs possess the cultural and linguistic understanding which enables them to deliver superior results and to better assess the quality of work produced.

SLVs ensure that they form a close-knit team. Project managers know their translators well and can easily identify the best person to tackle each aspect of an undertaking.

SLVs are usually located in the target language area and are in a better position to recruit their resources. They possess the cultural and linguistic understanding which enables them to deliver superior results and to better assess the quality of work produced.

As a purchaser of translation services, you are uniquely underqualified to gauge the quality of your acquisitions. An SLV would certainly give you greater peace of mind, even if you happen to be a project manager at an MLV!

Working in partnership with MLVS

There are exciting opportunities for collaboration in the provision of language services. In the absence of partnerships, MLVs are forced to assemble and then coordinate an enormous network of freelancers. As this network grows, monitoring quality becomes ever more challenging as does the coordination of the projects handled. Inevitably, additional management and quality assurance procedures must be introduced to the supply chain. This raises costs and dilutes resources. That complex supply chain could be replaced by forming partnerships with SLVs.

MLV Partnership

MLVs can reduce rather than enhance their costs while improving the quality of their service.

It might be counterintuitive for MLVs to add another layer to the supply chain, but this approach can be hugely beneficial for both the MLVs and their clients.

The customer will still benefit from a single point of contact and one they can hold accountable. However, with each SLV offering specialist knowledge of their region, they can deliver superior work. Consistency across multiple languages can be guaranteed by effective coordination and MLVs are in a great position to provide this.

Being both specialists and smaller in scale, SLVs are able to accurately assess and gear-up for the demand for their services from both MLVs and buying partners. In consequence, they can offer effective asset management, ensuring that freelancers are well-trained and possess the range of competencies required.
SLVs will evolve teams which guarantee that resources are available and yet without individuals finding themselves sitting around, twiddling their fingers.

It is almost impossible for end users to avoid a feast or famine situation when working directly with freelancers. Even MLVs can experience challenges in this regard. The best people are always oversubscribed!

Powerful partnerships benefit the industry


Partnerships between MLVs and SLVs can produce fruitful and powerful relationships including joint investments in technology.

MLVs can reduce rather than enhance their costs while improving the quality of their service. SLVs will benefit from a consistent flow of work to complement that of the businesses they serve directly. In offering premium results through capitalising on their unique capabilities, language service providers who work together will further the reputation of the industry as a whole.



Scroll to Top