Are you about to pick a translation agency for an upcoming project?

If you’re not used to ordering this kind of service it can be tricky to figure out the most important things to consider. Having now provided international language services for over eighteen years though, we’ve found that there are certain mistakes that managers make when choosing a translation company which seem to be the same in all parts of the world.

1) “All native speakers are good translators.”

This is a seemingly obvious error which always leads to poor results. There’s a reason that many countries require anyone who identifies themselves as a professional translator or interpreter be certified by an industry body:

Australia has NAATI (the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters), the US has the ATA (the American Translators Association), the UK has the ATC (the Association of Translation Companies), and there are many others.

Simply trusting that because a person is a native speaker of a language that they’re also going to be a skilled translator is asking for trouble.

2) “We can skip the editing process. All it does is cost more money.”

Skipping ordering editing as part of your service because your budget is tight is almost certainly going to end up costing you much more in the long run. Many managers seem to view editing as an “extra” rather than as a vital part of how to translate a document properly.

A viewing by at least one, and preferably more, pairs of eyes than those of your original translator is key to an effective translation. Other steps such as proofreading and Quality Assurance, also provided by highly skilled and experienced language specialists, should almost certainly be included for all but the most basic projects.

3) “Translation doesn’t take long. I need my project by *this* deadline.”

It might be that machine translation tools like Google Translate, which provide almost instant results, have twisted perceptions of how long proper translation takes. But there’s a definite expectation by many managers that translation is something that can happen in whatever timeframe they have available – even if the deadline is tomorrow or yesterday.

Many managers also don’t take into consideration the fact that some translators will be in a completely different time zone, still demanding an immediate response or setting unachievable deadlines. The end result is that they become dissatisfied very quickly, expecting results which no professional translator would be able to deliver on time.

The jury on whether machine translation works for anything other than providing a quick understanding of very basic phrases is largely still out, but for any true translation project, they’re still profoundly unsuitable. For a skilled human translator, a finished project takes time – but information about the projected duration of your project is something that your Language Service Provider (LSP) should be glad to talk to you about.

4) “I know enough about the process to know what’s happening… What? Why have you done it like this?”

There’s nothing wrong with asking your LSP some questions about how they’re going to complete your project. You’re paying for their expertise in translation, after all. If you have a query, they should be happy to answer it!
As well as sometimes resulting in the setting of impossible deadlines as above, not understanding the translation process is one of the main reasons that a final document can end up containing inaccuracies. Often the translated text will satisfy all technical accuracy standards but still fail to achieve its actual goal. It could well be because the manager ordering the service didn’t think it was important to inform the translation team of the project’s objectives, or that they didn’t understand what the service they were ordering would actually give them.
More on that next.

5) “This agency’s offer is cheapest. Let’s go with them.” 

As we’ve talked about many times before, the often large variations in the cost of translation between LSPs is almost always down to what you’re actually getting in your service.

Some of the most common variations include:

TP – Translation and Proofreading
This is the absolute minimum you should be looking for from your translation company and is only really suitable for the simplest and most basic of projects. These will be times when conveying the rough essence of what you’re trying to say to your audience is enough. Perhaps internal company memos of low importance.

TEP – Translation, Editing and Proofreading
This should be your standard service package. It’s always nice to hope that your translator will provide a 100% accurate translation on their first try, but it’s only through proper editing and proofreading (these two are not the same thing) by several different language specialists that you’ll get the best results.

Services Which Include Transcreation
This is above and beyond what you need for many translation projects, but in most marketing or advertising contexts – and when translating into languages such as Vietnamese where direct translation from your source language will be very difficult or unlikely to convey the same meaning to your audience – opting to include transcreation is an excellent idea.

To the uninitiated, transcreation gives your translator much greater freedom to play around with the exact words and phrasing they’ll use in a translation. This enables them to better convey the style, feel and content of a text without being hamstrung by the need to keep close to the original source.

It’s definitely worth considering with creative projects but you’ll find that not many agencies have the advanced skills to offer it.

Mistakes Managers Make When Choosing a Translation Company

As with many mistakes, the main cause of choosing the wrong translation company is usually the fault of a lack of information. If you’re a manager and you need to hire a translation company, why not simply ask for more details so you can make an informed decision?
The best agencies will be happy to chat with you about the best way to get your project done:

To recommend the type of translator you should use, to suggest editing and proofreading, to talk to you about deadlines, about the process, and how to get the best value for your money. So your project gets done right. It gets done on time. And it gets done on budget.

Do you work for a translation agency and constantly see the same mistake made by managers ordering services from you?

Or are you a manager yourself, but always struggle to get the exact kind of service you want from your Language Service Provider?

Add your thoughts and comments below.