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LSPs are not just agencies! November 9, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

I don’t know when translation companies and translation agencies started referring to themselves as LSPs. I started noticing this in the last couple of years. For those of you who don’t know what LSP stands for, it stands for Language Service Provider. Technically, agencies are language service providers because they provide language services, but so are the “lowly freelancers”. We are all language service providers! I really wish they would realize this and that everyone would stop exclusively referring to agencies as “LSPs”. OK, enough ranting from me. Time to get back to work…



1. Corinne McKay - November 9, 2011

Amen! Chris Durban made this same comment in a presentation at the ATA conference. Right, we all provide language services; and even in the agency model (which I have nothing against), the actual language work is done by the translators, interpreters, editors, etc. I’m not sure where the “are you an LSP or a freelancer?” dichotomy came from, but I’m for calling agencies agencies (companies, etc.) and freelancers freelancers.

2. Nicolás Vercesi - November 9, 2011


It looks like the proliferation of acronyms in our industry has the mere purpose of confusing the distracted ones as to who does what.

3. Madalena Sanchez Zampaulo - November 9, 2011

Thanks for posting this. I also have found that the term LSP gets thrown around a lot and many think it only refers to agencies. I admit that I use the term often about my own agency, too, but I also call the contractors that work for me LSPs because, like you said, the abbreviation is for “Language Service Provider.” I saw the back-and-forth discussion on this right around the time of ATA, and I was hoping someone would follow up on it. I don’t think it’s offensive to agencies to call them agencies or LSPs, so why would it not be ok to call freelancers LSPs, too??

4. Marco - November 10, 2011

We’re all LSPs.
Actually there’s a difference between MLVs (Multi-language vendors, such as SDL, Lionbridge, etc.) and SLVs (Single-language vendors), i.e. those freelancers who offer only one language combination. I’m a SLV.

5. Madalena Sanchez Zampaulo - November 10, 2011

Ironic that this is even happening in an industry that prides itself on choosing “just the right term” for in our day-to-day work, no? 🙂

6. Madalena Sanchez Zampaulo - November 10, 2011

Followed by my own typo!!

7. Chris Durban - November 10, 2011

Thanks for raising this point, Jill. As Corinne mentions, I take every opportunity to remind translators, translation commentators (and even translation gurus :-)) that “LSP” definitely covers both agencies and freelance providers of language services.
The background that I am aware of is as follows: when EUATC, the European Union of Associations of Translation Companies, first floated the idea of a pan-European quality standard for the translation industry (in 2002?), their draft referred explicitly to “translation agencies/companies” as the (sole) parties on the supply side.
So when professional associations of *translators* got involved (including SFT in France, very ably represented by Jackie Reuss), our reps made the point that if the European standard excluded freelancers from the git-go there was a very real possibility that buyers complying with it would not be able to buy from freelancers. Literally not be able to use them, because the standard referred to “agencies”.
As a result, “agency/company” was changed to LSP, which explicitly covers both freelance suppliers of translation services and companies/agencies supplying same.
All sections of the draft were then reworked entirely, over a three-year period, to take into account the situation of freelance translators. And LSP is the term that appears in the version adopted as EN-15038.
It would be a pity for freelancers to sit back and let the term be usurped by companies at this point.
Since I’m not of the paranoid persuasion, I’m sure many mis-uses of LSP are simply slips of the tongue. But it’s a bit like non-linguist clients confusing “translator” and “interpreter,” isn’t it? Except we should definitely know better!

8. EP - November 10, 2011

That was a good rant! More, please. <;-)

But you should have written:

LSPs are language service providers because they provide language services… done by the “lowly freelancers” they hire for pitiful sweatshop wages, the punks.

Now my ranting is done!

9. Professional Translator Michael - November 11, 2011

LSP just sounds daft and takes away from what a language agency actually does.

Don’t understand why people are so eager to either abbreviate everything or use acronyms!

As EP above me said… Rant over!

10. Daniel Vidal - January 5, 2012

To me, the distinction is more about branding and target audience. “Translation Agency” seems to be a company aimed at translators and providing benefits to them. “Language Service Provider” on the other hand seems to target other companies that would require such services. Translators would be just the back-end.

Just my opinion 🙂

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