What is an LSP?
Language Service Provider, or LSP for short, is an industry term for a company that sells translation and localization services. There are many different types of LSPs and each company sells a different set of services.
Here are some of the LSP variants:
SLP (Single Language Providers)
Some companies specialize in translating around a single language or around a regional family of languages. For example, there are companies that specialize in Chinese translation services or in Czech translation services. Or companies that specialize in a regional group of languages like Nordic languages, Mideastern languages or Baltic languages. These are typically small sized translation companies. Many SLPs will also sell translation services to larger LSPs.
MLP (Multiple Language Providers)
Many language service provider companies translate into a wide range of languages, with as many as 100 languages being typical. These LSPs have a global reach whether it being through regional offices, agreements with local translators or SLPs, or in-house translators.
Industry Vertical LSPs
Many LSPs tend to specialize in a specific industry. For example, some companies specialize in translation services for the automotive industry. Some only provide translation services for the pharmaceutical industry. In the last decade, the translation and localization industry has seen a rise in Mergers and Acquisition (M&A) activity. Which means that large LSPs are buying industry vertical LSPs and creating a specific division that caters to that industry. The prime example of this is Transperfect Translation, which is largest LSP in the industry with over US$800 Million in revenue in 2019. Transperfect is active in every type of LSP activity imaginable.
Website Localization Companies
Some companies only provide translation services to companies that want to translate their website into different languages. Website localization tends to be very IT-intensive. So these types of LSPs have, in additional to translation teams, IT and development groups that handle the technical aspects of website localization. Example of companies that specialize in website localization include Smartling and Motionpoint.
Machine Translation (MT) Companies
This is an emerging segment in the translation and localization industry: companies that develop and provide automated translation solutions. Most of the largest and best known MT providers are not LSPs. Everyone knows Google Translate and most people have used it at one point in time. Google however, cannot be counted as an LSP. Many companies have become MT resellers through APIs (like Google Translate in the Cloud). Many LSPs sell post-edited MT as a service. And there are MT companies that sell customized MT software to either LSPs or large enterprises. Many of the giant tech companies like Facebook and Amazon have bought MT software from MT companies.
Interpretation companies provide human translators to act as interpreters in business meetings, conferences, hospital settings, courtrooms, political delegations and in any setting that requires oral translation of speech. There are various types of interpretation services:
- Consecutive interpretation, where one person speaks in her/his language and the interpreter translates to another person in her/his own language.
- Simultaneous interpretation. This is used in conference settings like the UN. A translator sits in a sound booth and translates a speech in real time to delegates who listen to the translated speech on headphone.
- On the phone interpretation. This is used in settings where people that speak different languages are in remote locations.
Some LSPs specialize in translation of media like video dubbing and subtitling, translation of print media and advertising. One of the most established and largest media localization companies is SDI Media which has been a global language services provider for over 40 years.
Language Service Provider Industry Market Research Firms
The leading LSP industry market research firms are CSA Research (Common Sense Advisory), Slator and Nimzdi Insights. These firms regularly publish rankings of the top language service providers. They also cover the main M&A news in the industry.