Working for a Language Service Provider

Learn about the different careers available with Language Service Providers and the skills and qualifications you will need for each.

Although a lot of linguists work as freelance translators or interpreters, there are also many career opportunities with Language Service Providers (LSP). Job titles can vary by organisation, but some of the main roles that are often found are explained below.

In-house translators

Many Language Service Providers (LSPs), including many of ITI’s Corporate members, employ in-house translators. Working as an in-house translator provides you with the opportunity to develop your translation skills as part of a team, and to gain valuable knowledge of the overall translation process, as well as the technology involved at all of the different stages.

In particular, working as part of a wider team alongside more experienced translators can be really valuable in the early stages of your career, as it gives you the opportunity to bounce ideas off others, and to solve tricky linguistic problems collaboratively.

Project Managers/Coordinators

A project manager (or coordinator) within an LSP is usually responsible for managing the end-to-end process for a translation or interpreting project, as well as managing the people, time, technology and resources that are key to its success. They act as the main point of contact with the freelance translator(s) or interpreter(s) and will often also manage the day-to-day relationship with the client, depending on how the LSP is structured.

What is involved?

Translation project coordination
A translation project manager’s responsibilities vary by organisation, but adaptability, calmness under pressure, and an ability to build and maintain relationships with clients and translators are all essential skills. Translation project managers are usually expert multi-taskers and need to be comfortable using a variety of different technologies, as they may be required to use resource management databases, translation management systems and a number of different CAT tools.

When a new project comes in, the project manager will need to quickly put together a quote, confirm timescales with the client and create a brief for the translator. They will then find a translator or translators with the appropriate skills and experience for the project, and who is available to take on and complete the job in the given time.

The project manager will then need to deal with any queries that arise, find a proofreader for the translation and make sure that the project is on track at all times, before delivering the finished translation to the client. Alongside this, they will need to make sure that translation memories are updated and any file formatting is completed. 

Interpreting project coordination
Interpreting projects can range from small projects where only one interpreter is required, to major international events where a team of specialised interpreters will be required for multiple language combinations. Depending on the size and specialism of the LSP, interpreting project coordination may be undertaken by a dedicated interpreting manager or by a project manager who looks after both translation and interpreting projects.

Whatever the project, it is critical for the project manager to have a clear understanding of the client’s requirements at an early stage, so that they can make sure they find an interpreter with the right skills and experience for the type and format of interpreting that is needed. Coordination of interpreter requirements for larger events requires a huge amount of advance planning as well as the ability to react to last-minute changes.

What qualifications are required?

Many LSPs require their project managers to have a degree in languages or linguistics and an MA in Translation, although this varies by Language Service Provider. Project managers can be recruited as graduate entrants, and then receive ‘on-the-job’ training, although some LSPs prefer to recruit more experienced project managers with knowledge of a particular sector (e.g. life sciences).

Some project managers go on to become freelance translators or interpreters, having gained a valuable understanding of the overall translation and interpreting process, whilst others prefer to remain in project manager roles throughout their careers.

Resource Manager 

Many Language Service Providers will employ a resource manager. The job of the resource manager is to find, recruit and build relationships with freelance translators and interpreters to work with the Language Service Provider on the various client projects.

What skills and qualifications do resource managers need to have?

This will vary significantly by the size and type of the Language Service Provider that they work for. Some may have a background in languages or translation qualifications, whilst others will have a background in HR and recruitment, or have experience of working in relationship management in other industries.

What are their key responsibilities?

Resource managers are responsible for recruiting and testing freelancers through a variety of channels, so they need to possess strong people skills and an ability to deal with large volumes of enquiries effectively. They need to persuade freelance translators and interpreters to come and work with them, and help to keep them engaged in-between projects, perhaps by arranging freelancer days or through ongoing communications.

Good negotiating skills are also important for successful resource managers. Before freelancers can be recruited to work for an LSP, the resource manager will need to agree rates with them which may require negotiation. They will also need to negotiate with the LSP's project managers to persuade them to use any new freelancers that they have recruited so that the freelancers feel engaged, and want to develop a long-term working relationship with the LSP.

Resource managers will often have to strike a balance between short- and long-term planning. They may be constantly looking for a particular language combination which is in high demand, or having to respond to the needs of a very specific project with a less common language combination or specialism. Adaptability is key!

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