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Looking for a translation company? Here’s a must have list of questions.

By Josian Phillips, 

When you’re looking for professional quality translation services, there’s a lot of different services available out there. Not only do you really need to make sure you’re getting the best service possible for your business, but you also need to be alert, as a translation quote and what it includes varies from agency to agency.

As there are several key questions you need to pose to the translation company, we have compiled a list which should make finding a good quality translation service a piece of cake.

What kind of quality control do you use?

Depending on the end use of your translation, you always need to ensure the translation company does more than simply pass your documents through software (which can happen). You need to get a guarantee on quality that you can trust – generally through multiple levels of editing and proofreading – by different linguists. Translation agencies commonly include proofreading in the cost of the translation. A cheaper quote is likely to include a proofreading stage which is carried out by the original translator. This minimum level of quality assurance is recommended for translations designed for information purposes only. Certainly, if your translation is only to be used for information purposes you do not necessarily need a second proofreader as a read through by the original translator may be appropriate. While this may be suitable for your purposes, be warned, this is not an appropriate level of checking if your translation is to be published.

A higher priced quote will normally include a proofreading stage carried out by a second proofreader/translator. This is a very high level of quality assurance; ideal if your translation is representative of your brand and is for digital or printed publication. Some clients like to have a third level of quality assurance and will have editing and in-country checkers as the ultimate quality level for brand representative copy.

Do check the the small print on your quote as a surprisingly high number of translation agencies supply quotes for translation which appear to be very good value/cheap. However, the small print may state that the translation is “not suitable for publication.” As explained above, this is fine if your translation is for in-house use or general information purposes, but not for publication though!

How experienced are your translators?

Translator and linguistic quality, years of experience and specialism can greatly vary. Finding out how many varied and specialised personnel they have working across different disciplines and languages can give you peace of mind. However, be aware that some agencies will say they have several thousand translators on their books, while others will have a more modest amount. An agency with many thousand translators may not offer the same stringent level of recruitment and testing of its translation professionals as an agency with a more modest number of translators.

Many agencies do not require their translators to have years of translation or specialist subject experience prior to recruitment. The level of translation qualification and specialist subject qualification required will also vary. Agencies which do insist on a certain level of qualified experience and try and test their translators will be able to guarantee their translation quality. You may find this level of quality is reflected in a translation quote.

Ideally translators are resident in their native country, hence the ease of using a translation agency. The level of experience of the translators varies tremendously, and this is often reflected in the cost. As a general rule, cheaper quotes will be for a less qualified translation professionals with fewer years of experience. A more expensive quote will be for a more experienced translator with several years of translating experience as well as specialisms.

What is your confidentiality guarantee?

This is absolutely essential when it comes to feeling comfortable with a translation company. You need to know you can trust them with your information, so they must have a solid confidentiality policy and system. How do they make sure your documents and data are completely secure, safe and protected? Key questions to ask are: what are your online security protocols and providers? Where are documents stored? Do your staff and workers sign confidentiality clauses or agreements? You will need all this information to be able to make the correct decision.

Who should handle a translation into a foreign language?

The answer should be, where possible, a native speaker. In order to provide a first class, fluent translation, with correct use of local idioms and nuances, you need a native speaker. This is the only way to create a publishable translation that doesn’t appear contrived or unnatural. Machine translation is improving. However, these computerised systems are still not sufficient for translating your documents to a high quality without human intervention. Your translated document will be full of mistranslated idioms and strange turns of phrase which will at best be hilarious, and at worst, offensive to native speakers. Many translation agencies have solved this issue by embracing all the benefits of machine translation (not ‘Google Translate’ by the way; far more sophisticated systems than that), and adding human proofreaders or editors. The resulting service is “machine translation with human post editing,” which is a cheaper translation option you may be offered. This is a very cost effective solution to high volume, budget tight translation projects.

How do you deal with client feedback and revisions?

You need to know that your translation service is willing to correct and improve anything you’re not happy with. Essentially check you select a translation agency that has a high level of customer service and a system in place for dealing with client requests. Ideally you need a company which will accurately take on board comments and specifications at the get-go, but additionally a service which is both communicative and responsive enough to cover your improvements and revisions. Some translation agencies will be very accommodating and do multiple changes if required, whereas others may be less inclined to offer this level of service without charging extra for it.

Can the translation agency deal with frequent changes to materials?

Often you will send copy for translation and realise you need to change something. It may be one term that needs changing throughout a document, one sentence, or even just a word. You may need to do this many times. How will your translation agency deal with this? If you think this is will apply to you, it is worth checking how you will be charged for this, or indeed if at all. This kind of service detail is essential, especially for ongoing projects and therefore it is imperative you are able to communicate your requests as and when you need to and that they are well received. This is the mark of a translation agency with a high level of customer service.

What about DTP? Will you also need DTP (desktop publishing)?

Can your agency also do this? Otherwise known as ‘multilingual artwork,’ this is where multilingual versions of your design are created exactly to the original. Some agencies are capable of dealing with high-end designs such as those produced by graphic design agencies and others quite frankly are not. Depending on your needs it is worth having a chat about the capabilities of the translation agency in this area. If you do require multilingual artwork you may be surprised at just how good some translation agencies are at this. In some cases the agency will work very closely with your design department, resulting in a very cost-effective method of producing multilingual versions of your artwork.

How efficient are they? How quickly can they translate a document?

Remember, this document needs to be representative of the average piece you’re going to be having regularly translated. If they promise a turnover which seems too good to be true, the quality will suffer. Understand what a reasonable length of time for your translation needs are by getting multiple quotes and answers from different translation companies. As a general rule of thumb, a translator can translate 1000 words in x hours and a proofreader can proof approximately 1000 words per hour.

Will you get discounts on repetitions and translation memory?

If you have a high volume, long term or ongoing translation project it is worth finding out if you will get a discount on repetitions and translation memory matches. Translation memory systems are databases used to store previously translated text which can then be reused for future projects. As translations are carried out the database expands presenting matched segments as a translator works on a document. As a result you should be able to obtain a significant discount on projects utilising these systems.

Top Tips:

1) Tell your translation agency where the translation is to be used. For example, is it for publication or information purposes?

2) Buying translation services is like buying anything; you get what you pay for. The cheapest is definitely not the best, but it may do the job depending on how important the words are to you.

3) Speak to a number of translation agencies before deciding which one to work with. Don’t make a decision based entirely on email communications – have a chat! And remember, often the quote is not set in stone and you’d be surprised at the differences in service offerings.

Let Brightlines be one of the translation agencies you speak to, call 01225 580770 for a chat or click here for a quote. We are happy to help, and advice is always free.

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