A translation buyer must be aware that correcting a poor translation is difficult and the results are never fully satisfactory. If the translation contains errors that are not discovered until shortly before publication, a project may miss its deadline. Worse still, if the errors are significant and go undetected, the company or brand’s image may suffer.In this post I am going to suggest a few ideas that I think may be of use when selecting a reliable translation provider.
The translation sector is very large and comprises many independent translators, small, local, more or less specialised agencies and large agencies with hundreds of employees in several countries. Opening a translation agency is a simple matter while judging quality is not, especially when the client does not know the target language. In this diverse group are excellent independent translators, and others who are not quite so good; the same applies to agencies, whatever their size.
Translation requirements can vary a great deal: an individual may need a short document translating into just one language while a great multinational with offices around the world may need documentation on products and services that are sold internationally translating into dozens of languages. For these, and other reasons there is no single valid criteria for selecting a translation agency and each translation buyer must find the best supplier to meet his needs for communicating in other languages.
If I put on my buyer’s hat, while retaining my experience as a translation service provider, I would apply the following criteria for selecting a reliable translation agency. They are listed in from lesser to greater importance. I believe that the human factor and trust are the most important factors in making the decision:
- Size: the size of translation agency is no guarantee of quality and, after a certain billing level, size does not provide any competitive advantages. On the other hand, as a client do you prefer to be a mouse’s head or a lion’s tail?
- Centralisation: generally, centralising translations in a single translation agency is advantageous. For example, there’s one point of contact, preparing files is simpler, queries are concentrated, a single translation tool is used, there is a single quality control process.
- Flexibility: each client must find the translation strategy the best meets his needs. For example, some clients prefer to outsource their translations but revise them in-house. Is the supplier flexible and capable of adapting to your needs?
- Services provided: can the translation supplier provide all the services you need? For example, can he handle special formats, localise software, overdub videos, translate on-line courses…
- Technological capacity: computer assisted translation improves terminological consistency, shortens delivery times and reduces costs. Do you know which tools the translation company uses and what advantages they might offer?
- Specialisation in the sector: does the company have experience in your sector and can they give references of other clients from that sector?
- Processes included: what quality control processes are in place to guarantee the results? Which ones are included in the cost of the translation?
- Staff continuity: a good translator needs time to become familiar with a client’s terminology and assimilate it naturally. What kind of translators does the agency use and what kind of relationship do they have?
- Transparency: Do you know who actually does your translations? Are the cost savings from translation technologies passed on to you?
- Trust: This, in my opinion, is the most important factor of all and it means that the translation buyer feels he is in good hands and knows he will punctually receive excellent translations at the right price.
I have deliberately not spoken about price. Although it is obviously important and, everything else being equal, a decisive factor, a buyer must know which processes are included in the translation rate (the lowest price is not always the most cost-effective) and know which key staff will be involved in the job.