The choice for businesses: agency translation or in-house?
Plenty of companies looking to cut costs target ‘softer’ areas of their business – those departments or jobs that the company believes can survive cutbacks without damaging the overall fate of the company to any great extent. It makes sense: the bottom line requires that we all prioritise from time to time. However, businesses need to consider whether translation should fall into this category. Some companies decide to keep this task in-house, either by asking an existing member of staff to undertake translation duties, or by hiring a dedicated translator. But before you take this route, consider whether you’re doing your business a disservice, and whether finding an external vendor might help you to save money and improve quality.
But Jane in accounts can translate, can’t she?
Let’s begin by considering the first of these two strategies: asking an existing member of staff to translate for you. While it is certainly useful to have bilingual staff members on hand if your business is looking to move into a foreign market, Jane in accounts may not necessarily be the best choice for handling all your translation. For a start, there is much more to translation than just knowing and speaking two languages. Translators are highly trained professionals, and in order to succeed in the field they need to have a range of specialised skills. They must be talented writers and gifted communicators, exceptional researchers who know all the tricks when it comes to getting to the root of things, and meticulous sticklers for accuracy. They are usually adept computer users, with a keen interest in the benefits that complex and heavyweight translation software can bring, and often invest large amounts of money in the latest programs, dictionaries, concordances and other resources to optimise their work.
On top of this, professional translators usually specialise in a particular field, for example mechanical engineering or telecommunications, in which they are also highly informed. Experienced translators have a highly nuanced understanding of the requirements of different kinds of writing, including appropriate tone of voice, register and style, which takes a lifetime to master. They keep up-to-date on their chosen specialism, to the elements in the field of translation and style conventions through reading widely, attending conferences and networking with other professionals. Many translators also hold postgraduate qualifications, have undertaken professional training, or worked to gain membership in one of the prestigious translation associations to further develop these skills. It’s clear from all this that translation is both an art and science, and moreover, a skill that requires many years of dedication and practice to master.
So let’s return to our potential in-house translator, Jane. She speaks both languages, but might not be a native speaker of both, that is, truly bilingual. Even if she is, she might not have spent adequate time in the culture of the target language to be able to sensitively assess and address the nuances of cultural difference that are vital to the success of any text. And in any case, she works in accounts, not in translation. She is unlikely to have acquired the wide range of skills nor invested in the plethora of resources that set truly great translators apart, because it has not been the focus of her career. And whereas a professional translator might have tackled a particular kind of text thousands of times in their career, this will be the first time Jane has translated a website, contract or catalogue, and with the best will in the world she is bound to make mistakes that a more experienced professional would not.
Finally, of course, translation is a very time-consuming process, particularly for Jane, who does not have access to the incredible industry-standard software that professional translators used to speed up the process and make translations more consistent. While Jane is struggling with translating your terms and conditions, who will take over her responsibilities? And will they be as good at Jane’s job as she is? This problem will only be compounded as your business grows and your translation needs increase, and Jane herself is quite likely to become resentful of her fractured working days and the increasing amount of time she spends doing something that is neither her forte nor her choice of career. Perhaps Jane is best left to do what she does best in the accounts department after all!
Drawbacks of hiring an in-house translator
Of course many companies either cannot retrain existing staff members to undertake the translation, or they are aware that it will result in substandard work, but still believe that the best choice is to hire an in-house translator. These companies take great care to choose a professional translator, ideally specialised in the field that the company works in, with native language skills and impressive credentials. But like any hiring, this carries plenty of risks as well. Taking on an untested freelancer, particularly if no one in the company is a translation expert, is a calculated risk, and companies can pay dearly for a poor decision. Many freelance translators operating online are excellent at their work, however there are still plenty of charlatans out there, promising exceptional work and delivering mediocre results at best.
Even if your company manages to secure the services of a brilliant translator, contracting another staff member is a big commitment, particularly if your company is only starting to branch out abroad. Can you guarantee a regular enough flow of work to this new employee? While plenty of part-time or flexible employees are very happy with their jobs, if you cannot provide full-time wages there may come a time when they will have to look elsewhere to pay their bills. Is your company willing to pay not only their wages, but their pension scheme, health insurance or other associated costs? How will your company manage the working processes of an in-house translator? Who will edit, proofread and check the standard of the work that they produce? Is there anyone in-house who can pass on skills and training or manage their professional development? How will you motivate your translator to continue to learn and grow when they are the only staff member with this expertise in the company?
Benefits of a translation agency
Choosing a vendor to take care of your translation needs avoids all these problems, and is a smart solution that can weather any changes in your company’s fortunes. For a start, choosing an expert translation agency means that you’ll have access to a bank of skilled translators, and the agency will be able to outsource your work to whichever individual has the most relevant skills and abilities. The management team also have the necessary expertise to select the most talented translators, train and motivate them, and monitor the quality of their work, so you’re guaranteed top quality work. Translation agencies provide a quicker turnaround than an in-house translator. If you have a rush job that you need back by tomorrow, translation agencies can easily coordinate large teams of translators. And they can work smartly together to tailor specific areas of expertise to your needs. Rather than expecting one person to handle both highly technical legal documentation and colourful marketing texts, choosing a translation services agency allows you to access a range of quite disparate skills that are not usually found in one translator alone. Whether you have a single document or many thousands of words, the translation agency will also be able to scale the service they provide to your needs, both now and in the future, so you do not have to make a commitment of hiring a member of staff only to discover that there is not enough work for them, or that there is far too much work and you now need to find a translation agency but with the added pressure of a mounting backlog.
With the project manager on hand to take care of the entire process, as well as auxiliary staff to handle various other complications along the way, from proofreading and editing to DTP requirements, you will hand over the stress of the translation process to an organisation much better equipped to cope with it, with experience and expertise that your company cannot provide. The use of CAT tools, a kind of software that aids professional translators in their work, means that many translation services vendors can pass on great savings to clients, as well as offer excellent accuracy and consistency. For large and complex projects, many translation agencies have also developed online work management systems, further reducing the stress and hassle of the translation process while increasing accuracy and customer satisfaction.
Benefits of collaboration with Translators Family
Here at Translators Family we have years of experience handling the translation needs of companies large and small, in a variety of sectors. We work only with a team of tried and tested freelance translators, all of whom are subjected to rigorous initial assessment and ongoing performance monitoring. In this way we can be extremely flexible as regards workloads, while still offering the security of knowing that all team members meet our exceptionally high standards. Our HR manager identifies potential linguists, putting them through their paces with a tough set of test translations and then working together with proofreaders to assess whether they make the grade. We are also keen to develop the skills of our translators, running a programme to incentivise and promote excellence, where translations are assessed according to an evaluation checklist, and high performers are awarded bonuses.
At short notice we can pull together large teams to take care of rush jobs, and we always look for ways to combine the various skills of our fantastic team to get the best results for you. We have also developed our own online management application, which we’re rather proud of. This system smoothly facilitates the entire process, from uploading new jobs all the way through to invoicing, and allows clients, linguists and project managers to communicate quickly and efficiently online. Moreover, our rates are extremely competitive.
So whether you’ve got 2 million words to translate or just 250, we can help you make your translation process cost-effective and hassle-free, with great results for your business. Why not get in touch with our language services company to find out more?