Buying translation services can be a daunting process if you haven’t done it before. It doesn’t have to be complicated though:
The following is a brief overview of some points that are worth considering when ordering a translation project.

1) Find a good account manager

If you’ve selected a good translation agency, your account manager should be on hand to guide you throughout the process.
They’ll let you know what is needed from you and ultimately minimise the effort required on your part.
A good account manager is worth their weight in saved time, hassle and usually money too.

2) Prepare your text properly first

If you have produced the source text personally, you will know better than anyone what message you are trying to send and how you would like your text to be received. It can sometimes be a good idea to make a few changes on the basis of this.
On a practical level, ensure that your text is final before you submit it for translation. Extra edits once your translators have started work are likely to delay your translation and can often end up costing you more as well.
If it becomes unavoidable that you have to finalise some sections of a document after translation work has begun, ensure that you date all edits and make changes clear.

3) Put a check on the cultural references

Remember that certain concepts will not necessarily be understood by your reader in the same that you understand them. You should always try to play down or cut out:

  1. Any cultural references or jokes which might fall flat in another part of the world
  2. Colloquial phrases
  3. Historical references which may either not be well known elsewhere or have been experienced very differently

Even a casual reference to “typical Winter weather”, for example, will evoke a very different image to people in different regions.
This may sound obvious. But many people forget to check their writing for such geographical and cultural ties.

4) Consider the length of your text

You probably don’t want your translation to take too long or to cost you the earth. As most translations will be charged by document length, you can avoid paying too much by cutting out unnecessary text.
This has the added advantage of helping you cut down on your printing and shipping costs if you are undertaking fulfilment in your target market too.
Try to:

  • Only say what you really need to say to your audience
  • Cut out any non-essential content
  • Use pictures, diagrams and maps to illustrate your points

This final point is particularly useful as you can often cut down on words without depriving your readers of information – such actions are likely to be appreciated by both translator and reader.

5) Think about the use you have in mind for your content

Consider before you commission a translation whether you need it for publication or for information only. An internal document, for example, is unlikely to need the same lavish attention and careful couching of your message as your latest marketing communications.
Large quantities of the former could be a good candidate for Machine Translation services. The latter is likely to need some smart transcreation.
In any case, you should always let your translation agency know what use you have in mind. It will help them decide how many quality checks to put in place and what kind of style to use.

6) Bear in mind your target language, variation, region and audience

Some languages, such as Japanese and Korean, employ different words and phrases depending on who a text is being written for. Don’t be surprised if your translator presses you for extra information. Give them as much as you can to work with. It will pay off.
You might also need to take advice on regional variations of a language. It can be a relatively easy decision to choose whether to target the Spanish spoken in Spain or Mexico. But with languages like Chinese where there are many different spoken versions, several different written versions and the usage of each does not always neatly overlap, you might need some expert guidance.
Again, if your agency asks a lot of questions, they will all be for your benefit. Give them as much information as possible.

7) Organise everything logically

Organising your files logically from the beginning will make life much easier for you and for your translators.
Similarly, if you are asking your agency to localise artwork files, make sure that they have everything they need – from fonts through to image files – as this will allow them to produce a localised outcome which lives up to your original.

Buying translation services – useful tips

A good translation agency will be able to advise and guide you on all of these issues. But only you can tell them what you want the translation for and what your preferences are.

If you think about these issues in advance, you maximise the chances that the process will flow smoothly, quickly and that the final result will meet your requirements.

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