The language services market is booming. It’s a vibrant, competitive field, with a huge number of providers jostling for your custom. This is great news for everyone involved since it means that every translation project has the perfect linguistic partner out there somewhere, just waiting to be found.
With that said, there is a downside of sorts. For a business trying to sift through these huge numbers of agencies and individuals, finding the right provider for the job can seem like a daunting prospect. It’s not so much like finding a needle in a haystack as finding one specific needle in the middle of a big pile of almost identical needles – and, if you’ll allow the metaphor to get a little bit weird, all of the needles are shouting at you that they’re the best.
Don’t be put off – there are a few simple tricks to finding the right partner that will make your life much easier. It all comes down to knowing what to look for.
Freelancer or agency?
It depends on your goals. Freelancer is good for short projects in one or two languages, while agencies have a larger pool of specialists and are able to offer a broader range of services for multilingual projects. This may be very important if you’re looking for a long-term partnership, since your exact needs may change over time.
What agency is needed?
Among the agencies that look promising, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the language combinations they offer. Some may offer translation to or from any language in the world (they are called MLVs, i.e., multi-language vendors), some may provide translations into several languages of their region (RLVs, regional language vendors) and some can translate from one or two languages into their mother tongue (SLV, single language vendors).
Which translators are the best?
A professional agency will rigorously vet their translators before taking them on board. A translator applying to work with an agency will be asked to prove themselves in some way, possibly by showing their qualifications or discussing their past experience. They may be asked to provide references (as long as past clients are willing to provide them – confidentiality remains essential, after all). Very often, they’ll be asked to complete a translation test. By tailoring the test to the applicant’s field of expertise, it can be used to assess their skills and specialist knowledge.
What questions to ask the vendor?
Once you think you’ve found the right team, it’s time to ask some revealing questions. Think about your needs right now and how these may change in the future. If you’re looking at a number of markets with different languages, check if your agency has translators working in the other languages you’re interested in. Find out what the company’s maximum work capacity is. You might just have a small website to translate now, but if your business takes off you’ll want to be sure that your company can cope with larger volumes. And consider bolt-on services, as well. If you anticipate needing your website to be translated into or promoted in other languages in the future, many translation companies offer localisation, transcreation and SEO services alongside the translation. It’s worth planning ahead to avoid having to find new service providers as your needs evolve.
What questions to answer?
As well as grilling your potential partner on all these points, see if they have any questions to ask you. Good vendors will not only have answers to your queries, but they will also want certain information from clients. When you send a text over, do they ask about the purpose of the text? Are they interested in knowing who the target audience is? Great translators will want to know if this is a printed brochure or a piece of a web copy and whether it’s an internal memo or destined for publication. These pieces of information are vital in judging the tone, register, and style of a translation. Another hint that you’ve found a great partner is if they want to talk about resources.
How to ensure translation quality?
Make sure your translation provider offers an extensive QA service as standard.
To guarantee the consistency and quality of translations, editing and proofreading are vital. No matter how professional the translator is, we all slip up sometimes, which is why there should always be a reviewer or, better still, two reviewers: one technical and one linguistic. The technical editor might be another translator or even an engineer or IT specialist. They check that the translation is correct and complete, that the terminology is spot on, and that the project’s glossary and style guide have been followed to the letter. The linguistic editor or proofreader then double-checks the spelling, grammar, and style. Two-step editing is vital for IT or marketing documents, for example, containing both technical terminology and a marketing or legal function. Rarely is one person an expert at both marketing and engineering, or legal and IT, so two-step editing is a great way to make sure experts on both sides of the fence have had a good look at your text.
Settle deadlines and prices upfront
Finally, make sure you hash out the details upfront. An experienced vendor will be able to give an accurate deadline and price for your job because they will know their translators’ availability and working speed. Expect to pay different rates for different tasks, though. Simple repetitive texts can be translated at low prices thanks to CAT tools, while highly specialised topics or texts destined for your clients might cost more as they require a more experienced translator. By arranging prices and deadlines upfront, you take the guesswork out of your new partnership.
If you follow these simple tips, you’ll find it much easier to identify your perfect translation partner. To use another haystack metaphor, you should now feel equipped to sort the wheat from the chaff. Above all else, trust your instincts: pick a partner you feel comfortable with, someone you trust to deliver the results. And if you’re still at the beginning of your search, don’t be intimidated by it all.