This is a step-by-step guide on how to work with translation agencies. If you want to:

  1. Get the best value for money on translation and localisation
  2. Ensure you get translation that’s completely accurate and fit for purpose
  3. Guarantee your language services deliver on time

Then this is the article for you.

Most of the tips you’ll find below are pretty logical if you think about them, but you might be surprised how easy it is to overlook the simple and sensible way to do things in the hurry to get your project moving quickly.

Find out what they do

Not every translation company provides the exact same service. One company might offer Translation and Proofreading. Another, the full Translation Editing and Proofreading (TEP), as well as proper Quality Assurance. If you’re struggling to figure out why you’re getting such widely different quotes from translation agencies, one of these is probably the reason why:

Translation, Editing, and Proofreading

These are really the minimum steps that you want to be part of your translation project. While it might be tempting to hope that your translator’s first effort will be 100% perfect, it’s always advisable to make sure the company you’re hiring provides proper editing and proofreading as standard.

Complexity or specialism of the subject matter

Are you expecting your translator to automatically understand all of the terminology you’ve used in your document? If you’re in a specialist legal or medical field for example, that might not necessarily be the case.

At Asian Absolute we’ll always pair your project with a translator who has experience or qualifications in your area, but you might not get that same service everywhere. To make sure there are no errors stemming from misunderstandings like this, it’s always a good idea to agree a glossary with your translator – especially if you know there are synonyms for some of the vital terminology you need to use in the language you’re having your document translated into.

Reproduction of the layout: formatting or Desktop Publishing

This isn’t a step which all translation companies will provide, or if they do, go into in much detail with. It is however, critical in most translations – particularly in languages such as Chinese, Arabic, or Thai, which naturally have very different scripts and formats.

These may need to be edited into artwork files or complex formats by a specialist.

Quality Management

Quality management is a vital part of any translation project. Your Language Service Provider (LSP) should provide:

  • Project scoping – giving you a timeframe and quote for project completion.
  • File Preparation – transfer of file into a translation-ready format if necessary.
  • Glossary Development – especially important for specialist or short-timeframe projects.
  • Translation – matching the most suitable translator with a project is a quality management step in its own right.
  • Editing and Proofing – this includes proper review by a different, highly experienced translator. It’s a huge topic in and of itself – in fact, we’ve got a whole article on the importance of editing, proofreading and reviewing.
  • Translator Review – after the editor’s review, the original translator is given another chance to edit and review the document.
  • Formatting – correct formatting and any DTP that might be necessary, taking into account all cultural preferences and conventions.
  • Proofreading – including both functional proof (checking for technical correctness such as layout, font, formatting, and so on) and a linguistic proof (checking for translation accuracy and logic, spelling etc).
Included Rounds of Amends

If you receive the translated version of your document and find yourself in need of amendments, will that be included in your original quote?

It’s best to check! For more complicated or vital projects, having rounds of amends built in is often the smart move in terms of your budget spend, but expect to pay more for this additional requirement.

Use of Translation Memories and related discounts

Using computer-aided translation and Translation Memory technology can not only improve the speed and consistency of your translator’s work on your project, it can also lead to there being money off your final bill – or future projects.

Quality standards

You should only entrust your project to professionals who are qualified to a certain standard. The International Organisation for Standardization’s ISO 9001 is the accepted best practice standard for the translation industry. Make sure the LSP you choose is certified to this level, and that you understand how to assess quality as they provide it.

Information security

If your project contains confidential information it is prudent check your translation service provider’s policies and procedures regarding information security. If they’re on the ball regarding security, they should be happy to talk about it with you.

Standard Turnaround Times and rush fee

Always get your turnaround time (sometimes abbreviated to “TAT”) spelled out clearly in any quote you receive. If your schedule changes, will your provider expect you to pay a rush fee to meet it? If so, how much is the fee?

Tell them what you need

You need to be as precise as you possibly can be when it comes to telling your translation agency what it is that you want from them. Any vagueness and you risk either slowing down completion of your project, or getting something that isn’t what you want in the end.

It’s best to provide the following basic information in your brief to your LSP: Who Why What Where When

  • Who you are, and what your organisation is and does
  • Why and for what project you need a language solution
  • How you currently have this need met, and how you’d like it to be done in future
  • When you need your project to be completed by

When you’re planning how to buy translation, it’s all the better if you can also provide:

  • Specifics about what you need – source and target languages, including regions they’re to be used in, and specifically what the objective of your project is.
  • Size and scope of the project – the number of words you need translated, types of file you want to be sent, your required turnaround times, and any reports on progress you want to receive.
  • Performance and quality expectations – any details you can provide.

Don’t leave it to the last minute

Translation takes time. If you’re not familiar with using language services, it can be difficult to judge how long though!

If in doubt, ask. Your LSP will be happy to tell you how long a particular project should take (it should be part of their Project Scoping work – see Tip 1(d) above). In general, a very approximate rule of thumb for speed would be around 2000 words of text per translator per day.

For an overall timescale of a larger or more involved project – including sending out RFIs to a long-list of potential providers, RFPs (Requests For Proposal) to a short-list, and so on, to select the right provider in the first place – expect upwards from two to three months.

There are some things that can speed up or slow down the actual translation process:

  • Lots of repetition means faster work – this is where you’ll often see discounts if your translation company uses Translation Memory technology.
  • Complicated text means slower work – technical language will almost always slow a project down, but by pairing your work with a specialist in the field your LSP can reduce this. Similarly, a list of terms takes longer to translate than full sentences.
  • Sharing the project can mean faster work – many hands make light work, so by sharing your project amongst a team, and making sure that their style remains consistent through using technology and proper QA procedures, your provider can often find a way to meet shorter deadlines.

We’ve also talked in depth before about other ways to save on translation costs.

Only share the final approved version of your documents

Is your document ready to be translated? Are you sure? Are you expecting some final information or edits to be made to it a later date?

You can reduce risk and cost by spending the time to guarantee that the documents you need translating are finalised, and that they’ve been proofread too.

If there’s no way that you can avoid needing to make edits, it’s always best to be upfront about this first – let your agency know where and when you’ll be expecting changes, and flag them when they arrive.

Share as much information as you can

Anything you can provide to speed up translation is only going to save you money and result in a more accurate final document. You might think about whether you can provide:

  • Translation Memories from other projects
  • Terminology translations which you’ve already approved
  • Documents or website links for reference
  • Passages of similar text which has already been translated

In general, the more information you can provide the better. Especially if it’s organised in a logical, consistent way which makes it easier to access. It will all help to improve the quality, accuracy, and speed of delivery of your project.

Provide feedback

Believe it or not, this will be welcomed by all of the best translation agencies. This is the sort of useful information which will make your future projects faster and more accurate, and in some cases allow your provider to change the way they deliver their services to be more in line with what you need, if possible, next time.

From a quality perspective, it assists both agency and client. An identified fault could be with a specific translator the agency uses. In this case getting feedback could let them know they need to monitor that individual’s work more closely, or assign someone different to your next project.

Or it could be a fault with any internal checkers your team might be using. Pinpointing this will be useful to know, so that individuals who aren’t native speakers of the target language variant – or in some cases those who might not know anything about languages at all – can be avoided in future.

Generally, by choosing an LSP which communicates frequently and well you’ll be off to a good start. This will naturally become clearer as you speak to them to find out what they do, and tell them what you need.

Asian Absolute – How to Work with a Translation Agency

Asian Absolute has been working with all scales of businesses – from Fortune 500 clients to local firms – in all industries across the world, and we’ve been doing so for over sixteen years.

We know how important it is to build a flexible and responsive relationship with our clients, which is why so many companies use us whether they need language services in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas too.

Do you have more questions about the way translation agencies work? Post them below and we will try to give you the best answer.