As we continue in this series of articles covering the basics on Ensuring Effective Translations, the next set of tips are to help ensure that the translation provider you propose to use is fit for purpose.
For most organisations who want to ensure the quality of their translations, the use of a language translation agency is the best option. However, there are many agencies out there, so how do you know you are choosing the right one? It is important to understand that translation is a skill and not a commodity. Hence, it is not as simple as just going to the marketplace and choosing the cheapest provider. You need to know the type of work you want the translation agency to do and the criteria you will judge their performance against.
Some of the criteria to consider include:
- The type(s) of document(s) being translated.
- Is your text a contract, a user manual, instructions for taking medicine, a sales brochure, a set of Web pages or a financial report?
- The technical expertise needed by the person doing the translation.
- Someone who knows all about medical technology may not be up on accounting, sustainable development or plasma fusion. Make sure that the translator you use is an industry expert.
- The intended readers for your document.
- Are you targeting teenage gamers, genetic researchers, patent agents or simply anyone who might stumble upon your website?
- The purpose of the translation.
- Is the text for internal use or publication?
- The regional variation of the target language.
- Do your readers speak French in Montreal or Paris – it is not the same French.
A selection checklist should include:
- Translator has knowledge of formal aspects of the target language at a native level, including grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and syntax.
- Translator has native-language knowledge of the source language, the language from which he or she is translating. Generally, the translation should be into the language the translator knows at an educated level.
- Translator has knowledge of the cultural aspects of both language groups.
- Translator is a native speaker or has native speaker knowledge of the language.
- Translator knows the audience.
- Translator conveys meaning rather than word-for-word translations.
- Translator is trained or experienced in the colloquial lexicon.
- Translator is skilled in proofreading or secures a proofreader for all work.
- Translator is certified if the material to be translated is a legal document.
A basic rule of translation is that translators work in their native language. That is to say that a translator will translate from another language into their native tongue. So a native English-speaking translator would translate from another foreign language into English and not the other way around.
You therefore need to make sure you choose translators that translate into their mother tongue and still have close connections with their birth country, so that they understand and can use current and colloquial language.
If you end up in a situation where you need special subject-matter expertise for your translation and have to use a translator who is not translating into their mother tongue, you need to ensure such translations are carefully reviewed by a native speaker before use.
There are many different types of documents and many different translation providers. It is important that you match your choice of provider with the types of materials you want translated. If you want highly accurate medical information translated, what experience does the translation agency have with this material?
Ensure you do thorough due diligence by asking for samples of work done and references from those for who they have already completed this kind of work for. Do not shy away from placing calls to these referenced customers. Share the samples with people in your network who speak these languages and that you trust to validate the effectiveness of the translation.
Translation memory software lets you build inventories of standard phrases and their translations. It captures source language phrases and pairs them with the approved translations. Therefore, when you want to update content or re-use that content elsewhere, these tools make it easier to manage the updates and recycling. This helps ensure all impacted translations are addressed and drives greater consistency.
Look for translation service providers who use appropriate translation memory tools. They save time and money.
Accuracy and repeatability are crucial in translations. You’ll likely put great effort into assuring that your source text is accurate and correct and you need to ensure that your translations are as well.
You therefore need to assess the quality assurance processes in the translation service. Translation providers should follow existing quality standards (e.g. EN 15038:2006) but also adapt them to each area of specialization (e.g. medical translation) in order to manage projects, resources, communication and data in the most efficient way. Do not hesitate to ask about their QA process and their compliance with existing standards.
Also, look for membership of professional organisations. Although this is voluntary, membership of the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) or the Institute of Translating and Interpreting (ITI) brings a set of membership criteria and a professional code of conduct that must be adhered to.
Make sure that translations are proofread by native, target language editors (ideally a second person) before they are submitted back to you. Mistakes tend to be more common in translated documents.
As well, note that some translation agencies will insist on signing off on the final proofs to protect themselves from any further edits in your operation.
Like any service industry, the provision of translation services is very competitive with many suppliers vying for business. Capabilities, standards, skills and specialisms vary across providers. Therefore you need to think of a balanced assessment across all of your requirements rather than just focusing on getting the cheapest cost.
As with any service offering, there will be a minimum price threshold where suppliers below that level cannot meet your other requirements, whatever they may be. You need to consider the impact of not meeting these other requirements (be they service, quality etc.) on the reputation and image of your business. You need to be realistic with your expectations and really understand which matter versus which are nice to have. Also, appreciate that choosing the cheapest provider may actually end up costing you more in the long-term.
When comparing providers ensure you have comparable measurement of costs, ideally through standard and consistent rate cards that allow you to model the total expected cost against your expected workload. Don’t forget to factor the level of revision you expect to see from your organisation.
Also, don’t forget that there are numerous ways of reducing your costs. Getting your translation right the first time eliminates costly rework and review and approval. Long term relationships can lead to volume discounts and increased effectiveness through use of translation memory. Translation providers can also offer additional services like file presentations, desktop publishing and layouts, which may save costs for other parts of your organisation.
Therefore when you are choosing your provider, there are a few questions to consider:
- How will I be charged? Will it be by the line, per page or per 1,000 words?
- Will it be on the word count of the source language or the target language?
- Are there any additional costs such as ‘urgency’ charges or ‘same day delivery’ charges?
- Is project management included in the price?
- Will there be a single point of contact for me in the company?
- Who is involved in the checking process and will there be any extra fees charged?
- Are other services such as typesetting, interpreting, voice-overs and copyrighting available?
- Does the translation company carry professional indemnity insurance?
- What kind of turnaround promise and guarantees do the company offer?
- Is the company a member of the ATC or ITI?
In the next article we will look at the fifth step – Translation Specifications; how to establish a set of standards for working with your translation provider.
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