A Quick Guide to Purchasing Translation Services

Following my post on “5 myths about the translation industry”, I thought it would be good to do a follow-up and offer some sound advice to future (or existing) buyers of translation services.

1/ Determine the purpose of your documents that need to be translated

Is it to attract potential clients (commercial, promotional material) or to send updates to your employees and investors (informational content)? This is crucial to determine the register and terminology applied.

2/ Your budget should not be the only factor weighing in when choosing a translator

The most common mistake would be to accept the cheapest quote. Such a choice could potentially cost you a lot more in damage control (see previous post mentioning translation blunders high-profile businesses had to face)! You can have two among the three options: quality/fast/cheap. Choose wisely.

Also, make sure that you are only sending the most important documents for translation. No need to have it all translated in bulk. Stick with one vendor so that overtime, you’ll have the possibility to request a discount on repetitive sections that emerge in the database created by the translator.

3/ Make sure you send all the necessary documents and reference files to your translator.

Communication is key to a successful partnership. If you have glossaries, reference files, or any other support material that could help your translator in applying the proper style and terminology, do send them along with the source file.

It would be completely counter-productive to get back to your translator after the project has been delivered in order to complain about the wrong use of terminology. Do yourself and your vendor a favour and prepare the project in a sensible manner. You would both benefit from it!

4/ The difference between a real mistake and a perceived error

I’ll be straightforward with that one: you may have learned the language in school, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it allows you to make a sound assessment of the translation. I strongly suggest that you have the files proofread by a professional linguist. A third neutral opinion is the best compromise in order to settle any disagreements. Wouldn’t you agree?

If you wish to implement some preferential changes, let the translator know. But please, bear in mind that preferential changes are, by definition, completely subjective edits that should not be used to question the overall quality of the translation. A mistranslation and a stylistic choice are two very different notions.

I hope this will be useful in your quest for translators. If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to help you out!

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