Translation Services – Most Important Questions

Asking questions is important

If you are new to the world of translation services or are simply looking for another vendor, you will likely have some questions about how the process works.

One important thing to understand, you can ask 1,000 questions, but if you don’t ask the right ones, you will not get the information you actually need to make quality decisions.

Before you contact the vendor, be sure to have some information ready. Translation services are not like McDonald’s. They can’t just give you the price of a quarter pounder.

The services are more like auto mechanics. You can go to the man on the corner who has a box of wrenches and offers a cheap price, you can go to the dealer and pay for the name, or you can find someone in between. You will pay for what you get, but they can’t really tell you what you’ll need without seeing the car.

What you’ll need to know:

  • How large is your project? Is it one page or a thousand? Is this a one-time project or will it be recurring? It’s good to know your volume in terms of words and pages.
  • How many graphics with text are included? Do you have the original source files for the graphics?
  • What languages will you be translating to and from? Will the number of languages be expanding later for these documents?
  • What is your timeline? There are often additional charges for tight deadlines.
  • What is your budget? How flexible is it?

Once you have gathered your information, you are ready to contact your potential vendors.

Hint: Don’t start the questions with cost. You may have an idea in your mind about how much translation should cost. If you get a quote that is out of your range, you may move on and talk to 100 other vendors that are also out of your range or simply don’t offer the services you require. Start by asking the questions that pertain to service and quality and then follow up with questions about price.

Top 12 Questions for Your Potential Translation Service:

  1. What languages do you translate from and to? If the service does not work with the languages you need, why go any further?
  2. Do you translate exclusively through direct language pairs? Some translators do not translate directly from one language to another, but use a pivot language. For example, instead of translating from Japanese to French, they would translate from Japanese to English and then from English to French. The extra step can greatly affect the accuracy of your translation.
  3. What is your capacity? The main deal breaker should be whether or not the service can handle your project. If they can only do 1,000 words and you need 100,000, then there is no reason to continue with more questions.
  4. Do you use machine translation? If so, when and how? There are different levels of machine translation service. A service that offers strictly machine translation is not your best bet unless you are simply trying to get the gist of a message across. Computer-assisted translation (CAT) programs allow translators to use lexical databases and translation memory databases to speed the translation process of a human translator. This is much more accurate than a machine translation but still requires post-editing to ensure accuracy. Along those same lines: Do you use term bases and translation memory? Do you have your own systems or do you subscribe to one on the Internet?
  5. What post-editing services do you provide? All translations should be edited, especially if there was a computer involved in the translation process. Typical services range from light post-editing to native-level fluency translation.
  6. What level of fluency do your translators have in the source and target languages? Is this true for every last one of the translators who will work on the document or just the leads?
  7. What level of cultural fluency and expertise do the translators have in the source and target languages? Is this true for every last one of the translators who will work on the document or just the leads? Somebody who is not familiar with the culture will be referring to books and the Internet to figure out if your information is culturally relevant, accurate, or even offensive.
  8. Do your translators have specific skills and experience in the field in which your document(s) pertain? If so, what is that experience or skill level? You don’t want a paper with advanced physics, chemistry, medical techniques, legal documents, etc. translated by somebody who doesn’t understand the terminology or concepts.
  9. Do you or any of your translators subcontract translations? If so, you may not know who is actually doing your translations.
  10. How do you measure quality? You want a service that measures the quality of their translations against the standard of a native speaker. In short, a quality translation is one that you cannot tell has been translated; it reads as if it were written in the target language, while all information is accurate and understood as intended.
  11. What is your fee structure? You will want to know the base fees as well as any additional fees for graphics, rush orders, etc.
  12. Do you and all of your translators and editors have confidentiality agreements and NDA’s in place? Will you sign one that I provide?

When you ask the right questions and get the right answers, your chances of success go way up. Even better, the chances of finding somebody that you can have a long-term relationship with increase dramatically.

Translating your documents is a very serious undertaking. The product of that translation is going to represent you and your business to the world. Take the time to choose your service wisely.

This post is written by Robert Stitt, a content writer with Ulatus.

1 Comment

  1. ramnathanfitness

    Semantics Evolution provides language translation services . On time delivery.

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