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How can I be sure of getting a good quality translation?

By Josian Phillips, 

Six critical things need to happen to make sure you get a good quality translation. Whether you need a straightforward, standard translation or a higher level, specialised translation, getting the quality you require relies on both you and the translation services agency playing your parts.

1. Provide a clear brief

Don’t fall at the first. As with a marketing or creative brief, your translation services brief should be watertight. The better your brief, the better the outcome.

As a baseline, it should include five key elements:

  • Your project scope
  • Languages required
  • Deadlines and priorities
  • Source files
  • Reference materials

Different people prefer different ways of working. You might want to write the brief in an agreed template or in an email, or you may prefer the translation services agency to write it up following a phone briefing.

Whatever your preference, make sure you give the agency the opportunity to question the brief, and that you sign it off before translation work starts. This avoids misunderstandings, and wasting time and money, which could negatively impact an otherwise beautiful working relationship.

However, at Brightlines, we like to make it easy for people! So, if you’d like a copy of our free briefing template, email [email protected].

2. Choose the right translation services agency

Be wary of comparing apples with pears. Every agency is different. We all have different processes, approaches and specialisms.

For example, some agencies will price translations as one-size-fits-all, whether it’s a translation for a legal document, a marriage certificate or a technical marketing document. Their pricing may disregard the complexity of text or target market/demographic. Other translation agencies will do as we do, and provide costs according to the calibre of writer required for each asset.

To make sure you choose a translation agency that fits your needs, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Scope: is the agency up to the scope of my campaign? Have they done similar work?
  • Audiences: does the agency have experience translating for our regions and sectors?
  • Time-scales: do I need a flexible partner who can adapt to my needs?
  • Desktop publishing: do I need an agency that can adapt artwork for foreign markets (where character count can increase or decrease by up to 30%)
  • Technology: do I need tech support for, say, website translation?
  • Price: the best translations are not the cheapest; have I balanced my budget with the outcome we want for the business?

3. Identify the level of translation you require

Standard translation

If your translation needs are basic – such as a simple user manual or product catalogue – a standard translation service may suffice.

Specialised translation

However, if your source material is highly specialised, such as technical marketing or advertising documents, you’ll need a higher level of translation service. In this case, your translation agency may ask you for any existing reference materials such as style guides, glossaries and terminology databases.

At Brightlines, we have the most advanced translation memory system (TMS) as a key feature of our computer-assisted translation (CAT) systems to help speed up the translation process and keep costs down as much as possible. A translation memory system records the human translation in a database and will automatically present previously translated material to the translator, who can approve or reject it, saving time and money and improving consistency.

4. Cultural awareness and intelligence

This is where a highly skilled human is essential! There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to appreciating cultural nuances and sensitivities. For example, colours, numbers and symbols have very different meanings across the globe.

For a good quality regional or local translation, choose a translation service that has people who are under the skin of regional cultures and can intelligently and sensitively adapt your creative or other brand message accordingly.

5. Communication, communication, communication

As with any project, communication is key. It’s up to you and your agency to maintain a level and style of communication that suits the project and suits you. Ultimately, you should be able to share issues, raise questions, give and listen to advice. At the end of a campaign, it’s not a bad idea to take five minutes to discuss what did or didn’t work and why, so you continue to strengthen your working relationship.

6. Project and time management

We touched on this earlier. If you need a flexible partner who can work with your deadlines, choose an agency who will commit to this. Make sure your agency has as much warning as possible about deadlines, and that the project is planned and mapped out from the start, with clear ownership of actions and timelines agreed in advance.

If you’d like some free advice or to discuss how we can help you get the best translation for your specific business requirements, call 01225 580770 or email [email protected] – we’d love to hear from you.

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