A good translation partner can be worth their weight in gold. If you’re a business taking your first steps into the world of international commerce, having someone competent and reliable at your side will help to put your mind at ease as you prepare to open up those brand new markets. If all goes to plan, new customers get introduced to your products and services, and you get to focus on your core business. If the localisation project goes smoothly, the experience can be downright pleasant. Everybody wins.
So if a good translation partner is that good, is it too obvious to say that once you’ve found one, it’s worth sticking with them for as long as possible? Maybe – but the rewards go deeper than you might be thinking. If you work well with a language services provider on the first project, you’ll be amazed at how much better it gets after ten, twenty or a hundred of them. This time, we’ll be taking a look at the benefits of long-term partnerships, and how your relationship with a language services provider can benefit from cooperation over the course of many different projects.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be referring to “a translator” as if they were an individual, but all of these benefits apply to working with agencies, as well. In fact, working with agencies can be even better – they’ll make the effort to retain individual translators while relieving you of even more of the administrative burden. But that’s a story for another article!
So – long-term partnerships, then. What can they do for you? First, and most obviously, there are the immediate measurable benefits to your business. In principle, any given translator only needs to be trained once. They only need one copy of your reference materials, such as corporate messaging guides, glossaries, pre-existing documents and so on. And why go through the process of sourcing a partner over and over again for each individual project, if you only need to do it once? After all, nobody wants the hassle of researching suppliers and putting out calls to tender if they can avoid it. Less directly measurable (but no less valuable) is the continued peace of mind from knowing you’re working with someone you trust, and the experience of what presumably will continue to be a pleasant, efficient collaboration as your business grows.
But as we’ve already suggested, that’s not the half of it. You see, a translator who works regularly for the same business will get even better at what they do over time. In parallel with whatever reference material you’ve provided them with, they’ll be developing their own resources: translation memories, notes about your preferences, a growing collection of research material and past experience to draw upon. This translates – if you’ll pardon the pun – into ever-faster, more effective work, producing texts that capture the meaning of the original language with laser precision.
In other words, what you’ll see is a translator who is gaining a greater affinity for the way your specific business operates and communicates. Every company has its own unique personality, its own quirks and subtleties, and the longer a good translator works with you, the better they’ll be able to capture that intangible ‘you-ness’. That may sound a little vague, so let’s break it down into much more concrete terms.
The first element of your identity that we’ll pick out is your company’s linguistic style. It’s very common for marketing departments to produce a corporate style guide – it’s often essential, in fact – but how do you go about adapting one of these for another language? It’s not as simple as just translating the guide itself: elements of style don’t always correspond precisely to other languages with different grammatical rules, and different cultures may also have different standards and expectations for your type of business. (For a little more detail on these kinds of ideas, you might want to read one of our previous articles, “Global English: Promises and Pitfalls”.) In other words, it’s something of a messy, subjective affair – and the more experience an individual translator has of wrangling these kinds of questions, the more closely they’ll be able to approach the ideal of perfection. This idea of getting closer and closer to the ideal is important, so hold onto it: we’ll be coming back to it shortly.
Other questions of identity include your business’ specific niche. Naturally, you’ll want to work with a translator who’s an expert in your particular subject matter from day one – but you can benefit from the fact that there’s no limit on how much of an expert someone can become, and how tightly they can specialise. In other words, yes, let’s say you’re a company producing power tools for building sites – so you might start working with a translator who’s an expert in construction, manufacturing or some similar field. But if you haven’t worked with a translation partner before, odds are there probably isn’t a translator who’s an expert in your business in particular. Not yet, anyway. You get to work with that person as they become one of the world’s leading authorities on you – while assisting you every step of the way.
Finally, there are the benefits that grow and grow as a translator gets to know not just your business, but your whole corner of the market. Every translation job requires research – not just into terminology, but into things like your competitors, your customers, and your industry’s specialist press: anything that might tell your translator how people communicate in your field, and that helps them learn more about the industry as a whole. A good translator walks a tightrope line between matching industry expectations and helping you stand out from the crowd – and the best, most experienced ones can do it with real flair.
That’s what it comes down to, really: experience. Of course you want a translator who’s already experienced when you start working with them. But experience isn’t something that you pick up as a one-time deal. It’s a process, and it never stops. It’s something that develops over time. A good translator never stops learning, and you can reap huge rewards from that fact – as long as you maintain relationships for the long term.