Creating an effective course in multiple languages involves much more than simply translating the text—it requires localizing or adapting the content so that it resonates with learners in other countries. However, translating the text is part of the process. And the people you choose to help you do that will impact not only the overall quality of the localized course, but also the budget and time required to complete the project.

When hiring translators, you can either:

  • Work with an agency that will manage the translation of your course in all languages. 
  • Find a freelancer for every target language and work with them directly.

In this article we’ll outline the pros and cons of each option to help you make the right decision for your project.

Translation Agencies

The nice thing about working with agencies is that they make the whole process super-easy. In addition to translating your course text into multiple languages and managing that whole process with the individual translators, they often offer additional services such as:

  • Working with voice-over pros to re-record any voice-over narration included in your course.
  • Re-importing the translated text and audio into your e-learning authoring app and making any necessary adjustments.

If you take them up on these additional services, all that’s left for you to do is review the localized courses. Sounds pretty nice, right?

The downside is that the price is often significantly higher and the translation quality tends to be a bit lower. There are a few reasons that the quality often suffers when you work with agencies, namely:

  • Many agencies use machine translation to cut costs. Human translators often (but not always!) review these translations, but because they’re not paid very much to do these reviews, they don’t always do a very thorough job.
  • Agencies often subcontract the translation work out to freelancers, so there’s no guarantee the same person will take your project from start to finish. When multiple translators work on the same project, it’s hard to ensure the writing style remains consistent. 
  • Since you’re not in direct contact with the translators, they often lack the context—and opportunity to ask questions—they need to provide truly great translations. 
  • Because the fee you pay the agency covers both translation and project management, the translators only see a fraction of it. And often they earn far less when they work with agencies than when they work with clients directly. For this reason, they’re more likely to speed through agency translations, often resulting in lower-quality work.

Freelance Translators

One major advantage of working with freelance translators is that the quality tends to be higher. There are a few reasons for that:

  • Because you’re in direct contact with them, they can ask for additional context information when necessary, which improves the overall translation quality.
  • They often earn more money when working with clients directly, so they’re more likely to spend time trying to get the translations just right. 
  • They need to provide a good service in order to maintain a good reputation and ensure repeat business. 

In addition, even though freelancers make more money when working with clients directly, you often pay LESS. That’s because they don’t have as many overhead costs to cover as an agency does.

However, there are also some disadvantages to working with freelancers. For one, it takes more time to find, hire, and manage freelancers than it does to work with an agency. And because they usually don’t offer project management, voice-over, or in-app translation, it can mean a lot more work for you and your team. The more language versions you’re creating, the more time and effort these things will require. For this reason, if you’re working with a large number of languages it might make more sense to go through an agency. 

The Bottom Line

When choosing a translation partner there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The right choice for you depends on a variety of factors, including the number of languages, the budget, your workload, and the quality bar you’ve set.

Here’s a pros and cons table that recaps the information covered in this article for easy referencing:





Translation Agencies

  • Usually less time consuming to manage.
  • Might include additional services like voice-over and work in e-learning apps.
  • Quality is often lower.
  • Cost is often higher.

Freelance Translators

  • Quality is often higher.
  • Cost is often lower.
  • Can be time consuming to manage.


Looking for more information on localizing e-learning courses? Check out these resources:

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