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03/20/07

Permalink 08:05:59 am, Categories: For translation buyers, 685 words  

How to determine the quality of your potential translation provider

Most translation providers offer a polished and attractive presentation of their language services on their websites and other marketing materials. They all look convincing and credible. When you consider this, the next natural step for you is to think “any of these four providers will do, we’ll just ask all of them for a quote and go with the lowest offer.”

The truth of the matter is, some translation companies do not live up to the expectations they create. They are sometimes better at marketing than translation! And by choosing the lowest bid, you are jeopardizing the outcome even more. I wouldn’t suggest choosing the most expensive option, either. Nothing guarantees you that it will be the best one. The point is, pricing is not a determining factor when it comes to assessing quality. As it happens in many other situations, the proof of the pudding is only in the eating.

So how do you go about assessing a translation provider’s quality? There are several possibilities for this. Many people do not know about them and thus miss an opportunity to make an informed choice and greatly increase their chances of success. Hopefully, this will not be your case after reading this post!

When considering translation providers, you can ask them for a free translation test. You can submit to them a 250-300 word-long text, which would be a part of the texts that you would like to have translated, and ask them to translate it for free as a means to assess their quality. The advantage of this option is that you would be testing their performance with the very materials that you need to have translated. The fact that they can skillfully translate product patents does not necessarily mean that they can translate your marketing copy equally well. So if you send them a sample of your text, you will get an idea of what kind of performance you can expect from them when working with your own materials. The problem with this option is that very often, 300 words of translated material are hardly enough to determine a translation provider’s quality.

Considering this, a probably better option would be asking them for samples of translated materials in the target language and in your specific field: this option will provide you with a greater sample of translated material from your potential translation provider(s). You should make it a point to specifically ask for translated texts related to the materials that you need to have translated. For example, if you need to have an employee handbook translated into Spanish, it would make sense to ask for samples of employee handbooks already translated into Spanish by this translation provider. They will probably mask any brand names and avoid disclosing any sensitive information, and this is a very good sign. It means that they will treat your materials with the same degree of confidentiality.

Okay, so now that I have a translation test or translation samples from 3 or 4 different translation providers, how can I tell which one is the best if I don’t speak the target language? Well, if you have subsidiaries or business partners in the country for which these translations are intended, you can ask them to have a look at them. Or maybe you have employees who are native speakers of your target language. The point is having a language-aware person who is a native speaker of your target language go over those samples and tell you which one would be the most adequate.

This comparison process, rather than the comparison process based only on price considerations, will be your key to success.

Even though this process requires time and effort, it can really pay off. A successful translation will save you headaches, lost opportunities, and financial leakages that you can’t even imagine. And more than anything else, it will portray the same image in your target market that you strived so much to create in your local market. It has served you well up to now, so why compromise it by going with a less-than-brilliant translation provider?

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