When shopping for translation services online, it can be tempting to choose a translation provider solely based on the cost. However, low cost can often equal lower quality. As you’re choosing a professional translation team for your next document translation project, ask these 9 questions to give you confidence in their work and make sure you get your money’s worth.
- How do you evaluate your translators?
Most translation services providers work with a large network of freelance translators from all over the world. In order to make sure that they hire qualified, trustworthy translators, they should have an evaluation system in place. When hiring new translators, a translation company will generally have the new linguist provide a sample translation, which is then evaluated by a second experienced translator to ensure it meets the required standards.
In general, translators only translate into their native language. This is important to make sure the translation sounds natural in your target market. You may also want to ask where the translators are located — if your French translation will be used in France, you shouldn’t have it translated by a linguist in Quebec.
- What are the steps in your process?
A good translation process should involve multiple qualified linguists to ensure that the translation is accurate. However, the exact process will vary by agency, so make sure you know what you’re getting. The three main process are:
- Translation only: A single linguist translates the text and checks their own work. This option should only be used if the translation is for reference and won’t be published (for example, when translating market research survey comments or customer service emails)
- Translation and review: One linguist translates the text and a second one checks the translation against the source to make sure nothing is missing or incorrect. This is the standard.
- Translation, review, and proofreading: The same as above, but a third linguist checks that the translation reads well in the target language. This is useful for translations where you need extra-high quality.
- What is the client review process?
If you’re having documents translated into a language that you or one of your colleagues speak, you may want to review the translation after it’s complete. This gives you a chance to make preferential changes or suggestions about terminology. If your translation provider knows that you want to review the translation, they’ll build this into the timeline and suggest a process to streamline the review.
- What technology do you use?
There are many kinds of technology that help make the translation process more efficient. Translation software allows translators (and translation companies) to use a translation memory. This database stores completed translations for future use in case they come up again, allowing for better consistency and even cost savings. Some translation companies also use machine translation to speed up the translation phase by using standard translations for common text.
- What’s the turnaround time?
When you hire a translation agency, you should always ask for the turnaround time in addition to the price quote. The amount of time needed for a translation will depend on the number of steps required and the number of languages you need. If you need to have a translation ready by a particular deadline, be sure that your translation provider is aware of this.
Keep in mind that translation takes time. Rushing a translation can result in errors or lower quality, or a rush fee may apply.
- Can you deliver formatted files?
In some cases, translation isn’t as simple as just swapping out the text — you’ll also need to reformat the document. This is because text can get longer or shorter when you translate it into a new language. Some character-based languages (like Chinese or Japanese) or Cyrillic languages (like Russian or Ukrainian) also require special fonts. Right-to-left languages (like Arabic or Urdu) require the formatting to be mirrored.
If you’re translating a text with a graphic design element, such as a brochure or poster, the translation provider may also be able to provide formatting or desktop publishing. Even if you have an in-house design team, you may want to have the translation provider take care of formatting since they have experience working with other languages.
- Do you have experience in this subject matter?
Specialized translations, such as medical, legal, or technical texts, require the translator to have specific knowledge about the subject. It’s important that they be familiar with all of the terminology and conventions of a particular field in order to provide an accurate translation.
You may also want to make sure that they’re familiar with the format or kind of document. The tone you would use in a legal document is very different from the tone you’d use in a friendly marketing email, which should be reflected in the translation.
- Do you need reference materials?
Another way you can ensure you get a good translation is to provide the translator or translation services provider with reference materials. That could be a previous translation that you were happy with, a glossary or terminology list, or a link to your website where they can learn more about your product.
- Can you provide references?
A great way to get an idea of what it’s like to work with a new translation provider is to hear from their other clients. Ask the provider if they’re willing to provide references who can vouch for the quality of their translations. You can also look up reviews and testimonials on their translation services website to see if there is any public feedback about their work.