How to choose the right partner to translate your learning and training content

Your translation partners are an extension of your L&D team. Just like when you’re hiring internally, there are some key considerations and questions to ask when outsourcing translations to a translation agency.

Whether you want to switch providers, or are hiring a translation company for the first time, it can feel like a big job. Most likely your goal for the service is to improve quality and engage learners, whilst keeping cost and time down. But how can you make sure you’ll get those outcomes?

For the last decade, I’ve worked with L&D teams in many organisations, big and small, helping them get the best results from translation services. In this blog I’ve pulled together the three considerations I think are the most important when it comes to outsourcing quality translations. I’ve also included important questions to ask potential providers. I hope you find them useful and please drop us a note if you have any questions.

We also have a helpful guide that provides a snapshot of where improvements can be made. Download your copy here today.

How long will it take to translate your L&D content?

Many L&D programmes contain a large amount of content in different formats from videos and slide presentations to games and workbooks, that takes time to translate. Having the right systems in place, both internally and on your translation team’s side will help to avoid a slow process.

Key things to look out for and ask potential providers:

Professional translators – it goes without saying that your translation provider should have a network of professional linguists, but do check. Translators should have a professional qualification such as a language degree, Diploma in Translation (DipTrans.), or equivalent local qualification.

Centralised translation team – if you’re translating learning programmes into multiple languages, you can quickly end up with a large team of people working in different locations and time zones, and that can slow translations down. Make sure your translation partner has a central project management team who can manage all the different translations and keep to your deadlines.

Local market reviewers – the process may also involve recruiting colleagues in the local market to approve and sign off translations. It’s important to give them support so the review stage doesn’t become unnecessarily slow or even stall your translation project. Your translation partner should be happy to work with them and provide advice and support to ensure there are no unnecessary hold-ups.

Technology – ask the translation agencies you shortlist about the technology they use. Tools like translation memory software can make a significant difference to timescales and help drive costs down.

If your L&D translations have been taking too long, follow this link for further advice on speeding up the translation process without compromising on quality.

Keeping your local market colleagues happy

Are you getting negative feedback from your local market colleagues on your translated material? If you don’t speak the language the content has been translated into, it can be tough to know how to handle their feedback. If your translator says one thing and your local market reviewers another, who’s to say who’s right and who’s wrong?

When choosing a translation partner, ask them about their processes for working with review teams. Here are a few questions to get you started:

Can you provide guidance on establishing a translation review team? They should have some guidelines on who would make a good reviewer and, for larger projects, how to build a team.

Will you help brief the review team and confirm roles, responsibilities and processes? An experienced translation service provider will be able to guide your local market colleagues and ensure everyone gets off to a great start.

Can you help with localisation briefs, glossaries and style guides? Each market will need to provide their input before the translation project begins. Expect the translation provider to help them complete these documents to make sure they’ve got all the information they need to deliver the translations.

Who will create the review guidelines? Review guidelines are important for consistency and reduce negative feedback caused by personal preferences and bias. The translation provider should be able to align their recommendations with your organisation’s requirements, processes, and collaborate with you and your local market colleagues.

What processes do you have in place to ensure that feedback is used in future translations? At Comtec we use our Translation Review Platform for reviewing, editing and approving the translations. Edits and comments are saved, and our translation team review these and will update the Translation Memory (TM) and Termbase (TB) if appropriate. This increases consistency and ensures feedback is used throughout the translation project.

Will you have contact with our review team? You should expect a kick off phone meeting (call) between all parties involved with your translation project to go through the review process and answer questions. Generally, your translation provider will communicate with the review team, but will also be available for phone calls or to answer emails too.

For more advice on how to collaborate with local market reviewers more effectively, please read this blog post that shares further tips.

Getting more value from your translation service provider

If you think your translation service provider could be delivering more value, you might be right. There’s often scope to improve the service you receive, from turnaround times and costs to the quality and effectiveness of the translated content.

This value is hard to unlock if your translation provider takes a transactional approach to deliver their services. However, if you work with a translation agency that takes a strategic partnership approach, you could find your learning and training translations are completed on-time, within budget, along with increasing engagement and positive learning outcomes.

How do you know if a translation service provider delivers more value? Look for the following three things:

  1. Technology

Do translation agencies use technology to speed up translations, reduce costs and improve consistency? There are many other applications available that will help you get translations quickly, cost-effectively and without compromising on quality. Look for translation service providers that are investing in technology, especially those that are developing their applications to support their clients.

  1. Translation specialisation

To increase learner engagement and learner outcomes, your translation team need to have sector-specific and L&D expertise. Specialist linguists will focus on more than translating the words, but localising the content, advising on how to change assets like imagery to suit cultures.

  1. Language capacity

For multinational organisations, it makes sense to partner with a translation provider who can offer all the languages you require, instead of multiple providers. This will streamline your project management and help ensure that multilingual learning content is launched at the same time. It also increases the consistency of your learning and training materials across different markets, ensuring all staff have equal opportunities with high-quality content aligned with the employer brand.

I hope you’ve found the above information useful for benchmarking different translation service providers. While there are lots of things to think about when you outsource your translation projects, with the right support you can expect better control over budgets and deadlines, and highly effective learning and training content.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about outsourcing your learning and training translations or switching providers.

Call me on +44 (0)1926 335 681 or email


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