Industry Profiles - Spotlight on ALTA Language Services

As we continue our journey through the online translation industry, our next industry profile focuses on Atlanta-based translation services company ALTA Language Services.


ALTA Language Services, as they are known today, has 35 years behind them in the translation and language training industry. This is a unique company with an interesting history. The were founded in 1980 as Southeast Language Associates, initially a language training and later language testing company. The Atlanta, USA based company continued to grow and in the 1990s things started to take off, to the point that they were named the official language translation provider for the Atlanta Olympic and Paralympic games in 1996. The group changed their name to ALTA Language Services in 1997, and most interestingly of all in 2011 they became 100% employee-owned. This is a rarity in any industry and it's really something that they pride themselves on and have based their business around, with particular focus on the 'above and beyond' customer service slant.

Services and Products

ALTA have a clear offering, it's simply enterprise level services offered across the areas of translation, language testing, language training and accent reduction. They're clearly set up to cater to big business and they offer their services in over 100 languages, while they're also ISO certified. ALTA are different from many online translation services in that translation is just one of their specialties, a stand out difference being accent reduction (I'll come back to this).

Outside of the standard translation offerings like document translation ALTA offer a File Layout & Formatting service for a variety of programs (Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Illustrator), claiming it to be a simple turnkey solution for any organization. Video Captioning and Subtitling is another interesting specialty area along with Software and Website Localization.

Now accent reduction, although not translation related, is still an interesting space and the commercial applications are enormous. Pronunciation is always the final barrier that separates non-native speakers from native ones and reducing this pronunciation gap is essential if you think about call center staff wanting to sound more 'American'.

Translation Methods

ALTA employ over 2500 linguists, how many are translators is less clear. Their product offerings are spread across four unique areas so the skill sets of the staff need to be specialized within each. Their translation services are varied, and this requires specialized translators to work in each area. ALTA uses human translation methods for all of their work, no machines here. Although they don't have as many translators employed as some of the other companies I've profiled, it's apparent that they rely more heavily on a smaller base of staff.


ALTA's mix of core services is very unique, especially within the online translation industry. At the heart of their offering is language training and testing, this is what they were founded on 35 years ago. The company's track record cannot be argued with and the business model is particularly interesting, especially the fact that they're 100% employee-owned. This translates to a strong focus on customer service but also employing fewer staff (since everyone owns a share), and I'm still undecided on whether this is a positive or a negative - perhaps we'll revisit this in another 35 years.


  1. We need more translators. There is a lot of people coming into the US and some don't speak English or don't speak it well. The ALTA Language Services should be very helpful.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Apps like Duolingo make me wonder if, pretty soon, there will be a way for apps to do automatic translating and do it well!

    Google Translate is in the lead already.

  4. Translators are a must in our world, but not only that we need the translators to teach those who wish to learn the language. Applications and programs that are leading us in the right direction, are coming out more often. Maybe we should train more translators!

  5. We need greater translators. There is lots of people getting into america and some don't talk English or do not speak it well. The ALTA Language offerings need to be very helpful.

  6. Way to go on surviving for 35 years! Not too many companies can say that they've been around for 35 years! That is a total success!

  7. I've always loved linguistics and I know this author knows their stuff!!

  8. This is an innovative online translation company that has made a big impact in the online translation scene