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How to choose the right translation agency

When it’s time for your company to expand and break into new markets in other countries, make sure you communicate with your customers and partners in a language they understand, and ideally their native language. And yes, this advice even applies to companies where English is the corporate language!

The reason is simple; several studies have clearly shown that people are far more likely to buy a product or service from a company that communicates with them in their own language. Additionally, in some cases your company may also be legally required to translate texts such as manuals and instructions into local languages.

A professional translation agency can help you take your business in the right direction.

 

Why you should choose a translation agency over freelancers

There’s no such thing as a ‘standard’ translation assignment, and simply being able to speak two languages doesn’t qualify someone to be a translator any more than having two hands qualifies them to be a pianist. Translating between two languages is a discipline that requires outstanding linguistic skills as well as an intimate understanding of the country, culture and industry the translation is for. In other words, what characterises a high-quality translation is accurate terminology, correct use of industry jargon and a flowing, grammatically correct writing style that’s tailored to the intended audience, taking into account cultural differences and transferring the subtleties of one language over to another. In the translation industry, this painstaking process is known as localisation.

When working with a professional and serious translation agency, you can be confident that your texts are only assigned to experienced and skilled translators who have undergone a rigorous testing and selection process.

Choosing an agency over individual freelancers also eliminates the risk of the translation process becoming a bottleneck for your projects, as translation agencies are used to handling large volumes of texts that need to be translated into many different languages within very short timeframes. In other words, you get a rapid time-to-market for your products when you choose to outsource your translation work to an agency.

 

What translation agency should you choose?

When you’re searching for the right agency for your business, you’ll quickly discover how many there are to choose from. You may also find it difficult to tell how they actually differ from one another.

Which agency to choose depends a lot on your needs as well as your preferences and criteria. If you only need a single text translated for internal use, and where preciseness and quality is not a very high priority, then you may only need to focus on the price.

However, if your texts will be read by your customers or partners, it’s a good idea to choose a provider that can deliver the quality you expect. After all, a poor translation could end up having catastrophic consequences for your company’s reputation and endanger the potential value of your product in the new market. Just imagine the serious consequences a poorly translated set of instructions may lead to, or if your website – your online business card – makes your business look unprofessional.

 

How do you select a translation agency that can provide the quality and service you need?

In this regard, too, it’s almost impossible to see how the agencies differ from one another at first glance. Most of their websites promise the same things: high-quality translations, lower prices than their competitors, fast turnaround and great service.

Here are our nine helpful tips to make it easier for you to sort through the jungle of language service providers and find the professional translation agency that matches your preferences and needs.

Keep these nine helpful tips in mind when choosing your translation agency:

 

1. Ask around in your network and request references

The best way to find a reliable supplier is often as straightforward as asking around. After all, someone in your network may already know a great translation agency that they would recommend. If so, it’s always a good idea to follow up with a few questions about whether they’ve found the agency to be reliable and stable and how satisfied they have been with the quality of the translations.

You could also look for case stories and references on the agency’s website, or if you want to go even further, contact the agency and ask them to provide some client references that you can contact directly.

 

2. Ask about their procedures and processes

Professional translation agencies have implemented efficient processes to handle the translation assignments they receive from their clients, enabling them to keep track of each assignment and all the different languages that their clients’ texts need to be translated from and into. Such processes help the agency expedite their translation assignments, ensuring that they are completed as quickly as possible. Often, they also give clients the opportunity to monitor the status of their assignments and view every ongoing and completed translation they’ve assigned to that agency.

That’s why you should ask whether the agency uses a so-called Translation Management System – like SmartDesk for example – from one of the leading providers on the market, such as Plunet.

 

3. Ask which language combinations the agency offers

Even if you just need texts translated into one or a handful of languages to start with, it may be worthwhile to ask whether the agency is capable of translating texts into any language. If they are, you can be sure your business won’t eventually ‘outgrow’ the agency and that they can contribute to the future expansion of your business and always meet your needs.

 

4. Ask about the standards the agency has in relation to its language experts

Professional translation agencies rely on freelance translators and language experts, and they have developed a network of regular vendors which allows them to translate their clients’ texts into a huge variety of languages while also meeting their clients’ tight deadlines.

There can be major differences in the standards agencies expect their vendors to meet. To ensure you get the quality you expect, the agency should be regularly assessing their vendors’ quality of work and proficiency in their language combinations. They should also establish criteria for the language specialists’ level of education, experience and skills.

Today, there are very few translation agencies that still choose to have an in-house team of translators. However, there are clear advantages to having an in-house team of expert translators who can ensure a consistently high level of quality and who understand the ins and outs of the profession.

 

5. Get an impression of the agency’s level of service

Try contacting the agency to see how they respond to your e-mail or call and whether they spend the time on you that you deserve as a (prospective) client.

How long did it take for them to respond? Did they seem enthusiastic about your enquiry? Did they ask about your needs?  This can help give you a sense of what it would be like working with that agency, as well as how they deal with their clients.

You could also ask a few questions about how they work with their clients. Will you be assigned a specific contact person? Will you always have the option to call or send them an e-mail? Is the agency willing to meet regularly to discuss your partnership?

Of course, all of the above depends on what exactly you want and need from a translation agency.

 

6. Ask about their prices and deadlines

As a client, it’s often helpful to know how much you can expect to pay for a product or service. However, many translation agencies only quote a price for an assignment once they have had the chance to review the text you need translated. This is because the difficulty of a translation project can vary tremendously in terms of how technical a text is, the topic(s) it deals with, the language combination, etc. Reviewing the text beforehand also allows the agency to analyse the files and include discounts for repetitions and previously translated segments in the price.

That’s why we recommend that you choose an agency that refrains from quoting a price before they’ve had the chance to review the text.

Also, keep in mind that an agency’s price per word includes more than just the translation itself, such as project management costs and proofreading. If you’re offered a quote that seems too good to be true, that agency might be cutting corners on one or several parts of the translation process, which ultimately affects the quality of the translations they deliver.

Click here if you’d like a non-binding quote on your assignment.

 

7. Ask if the agency offers other services

The best thing is to find an agency that can provide all the language services you and your colleagues need so you can send all your assignments to the same provider. There’s also a lot of value in finding a partner that you and your colleagues can build a friendly and close professional relationship with. The whole process becomes much easier – and the final product becomes much better – once the translation agency has gotten to know you and your company’s needs, tone of voice, terminology, etc.

You should therefore ask if the agency offers proofreading, text revision, copywriting, DTP, etc., and whether they have any limitations when it comes to file formats and language combinations.

 

8. Ask if the agency uses technology and CAT tools

Professional translation agencies use computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools to translate your texts. CAT tools help improve the quality of the translation – by ensuring terms are translated uniformly for instance – while also ensuring you get the best possible price for your translation assignment, since you either pay less or nothing at all for previously translated segments and repetitions. In this earlier post on our blog you can read more about CAT tools and their benefits.

If the agency utilises and offers the latest technological services such as system integrations and machine translation, that’s a good indication that you’re dealing with an agency that keeps up with the latest industry developments and is able to offer solutions that result in more efficient and intelligent processes.

 

9. The agency’s financial situation

No one wants to come to work one day and learn that a reliable partner is suddenly discontinuing its services or has to shut down, leaving you hanging. That’s why we recommend that you look into how long the translation agency has been around and the state of its finances.

If you follow these nine helpful tips when choosing your language service provider, you’ll definitely be off to a great start. The important thing is to find the right partner from the start so that you avoid having to switch between agencies, wasting lots of time and resources on starting over.

If you want to know more about AdHoc Translations and the services we provide, please feel free to get in touch. We’d be happy to discuss how we can put together a tailored solution for you that matches your specific needs.

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