You’re doing it wrong – machine translation strategy and checklist for LSPs

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Maintained by Kirti Vashee

Kirti Vashee’s blog is an excellent resource for anybody wanting to really understand machine translation. Free of marketing BS, this blog is an excellent resource for those who seek a deeper understanding of the (real) implications of technology in the language services industry.

(Controversial statement alert!)

Despite what the marketing materials say, large LSPs are not driving innovation when it comes to machine translation and other technologies. 

The role of machine translation in production

Sadly, the primary objective for an LSP’s machine translation department is usually mostly reactionary: to support and retain clients whenever they decide to replace humans with MT. This is to say that, historically, the decision to use machine translation comes from the client. We’ve written about this before, and so have others, so we don’t need to go into too much detail here. 

LSPs usually prefer to own all of the client’s language services needs, or at least as many as the client will trust them with. If some of these needs can be fulfilled with a machine rather than human translation, it is better to keep this part in-house, and leave no space for the competition. This means that most LSPs will gladly adopt machine translation as part of their process, but usually only as a reaction to pressure from losing their clients. 

The role of machine translation for sales

The secondary objective for MT departments is business development: to translate more with current clients and to find new clients for MT solutions. Salespeople (or solutions architects involved in the sales process) who are familiar with machine translation can better advise clients what machine translation is and how it can be used to improve the translation process. It’s quite the sales pitch.

In today’s technology-driven world, clients don’t want to hear about how to translate. Clients stopped buying translation years ago. They buy solutions that are driven by technology that seamlessly includes considerations for their international markets into their existing workflows without additional overhead.

If you are an LSP that is going to remain relevant, there are certain things to keep in mind for both production as well as sales.

Production readiness checklist:

The first step to diving into machine translation is making sure that you are set up to handle the job. LSPs don’t need to develop their own custom engine to start working with machine translation. In fact, we advise against it. Developing such engines is an ongoing investment that takes way more money than any LSP will ever see on a return. There is just no way for an LSP with its limited resources, to compete against the giants like Microsoft, Google, Baidu, and now Amazon and Apple. 

What LSPs can do though, is make sure that they have some basic things in place:

  1. Established pool of post-editors
  2. Post-editing workflows and project templates prepped in their TMS
  3. QA guide to MT mistakes and pass scores
  4. Vendor management ready to scale for PEMT projects (resources, rates, evaluation)
  5. Metric to calculate output quality
  6. Tool to measure edit distance
  7. MT integrated in their CAT-tools
  8. PEMT margins measurement
  9. Access to multiple engines, can choose the best one for the job
  10. Partner or staff to integrate MT into client systems

Sales readiness checklist

When a client adopts machine translation, salespeople are faced with a choice:

Do they get intimidated and simply move on to the next lead, feeling that they couldn’t possibly deliver any innovative technology solution? Or do they jump in head first, selling not only machine translation management, but also up-selling engine training services and post editing, bringing in contracts worth millions?

The answer to this question is unfortunately out of the hands of the salesperson. Each salesperson needs to recognize the limitations of their own technology department. Unless they are confident (or at least optimistic) that their teams can deliver, they may tend to pass on potentially lucrative deals. 

For those optimistic salespeople out there (and really, how many salespeople do you know that aren’t optimistic?), you will need to have some basic tools in your toolbox before selling in the age of machine translation:

  1. Pricelist for MT services and PEMT
  2. Sales playbook and training for MT solutions
  3. Website and presentation for MT solutions
  4. MT use cases for buyer personas (marketing, translation, product management)
  5. MT pre-sale specialist on the team
  6. ISO 18587:2017 awareness
  7. Economic effect calculator for PEMT

Further reading

For those that still have an unquenchable thirst for information about technology and machine translation, there are many good resources available. Of course, Nimdzi is always happy to share our insights so feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss further. But you don’t have to take our word for it. 

There are many different opinions about machine translation floating around the interwebs. Some of these opinions are well informed. Some of them are nonsense. Some of them are presented well, and some of them read like an AP Calculus textbook. But if you have time, check out the information available from these two resources below.


Maintained by Luigi Muzii

sQuid is the name of Luigi Muzii’s consulting firm and he maintains a very insightful blog. It has taken Luigi 35 years of hard-earned experience to gain his knowledge and insight. The good news, though is that it can take you a day of reading his newly released book, “Upstream”, to download this experience into your own brain.*


Translation Automation User Society

TAUS has established itself as an authority on in all things language technology. They are a membership organization, but also offer a lot of publicly available information. This is a very useful resource to anybody wanting to learn more about language technology.


Language Industry Intelligence

Slator provides language industry news and current events and is an absolute must in anybody’s bookmarks tab. The language services industry is changing every day and Slator will make sure that you stay on top of all the hot topics!

*More information on “Upstream”, a book by Luigi Muzii with a forward from Kirti Vashee, can be found here


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