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Which To Choose

How to choose your translation provider – 4 steps for translation buyers

If your business deals with foreign markets or partners, good quality translation is essential. Whatever your translation needs, the goal is effective communication and it’s important to choose the right translation partner from the start.

Define your purpose and needs

There are many different reasons why you might seek the services of a translation provider. The marketing department of a retailer, for example, might wish to localise website content and social media profiles when targeting foreign markets, as well as press releases and other branded materials. Market researchers, meanwhile, might need translations of online and offline questionnaires as well as the responses, research papers and stimulus materials such as showcards, concept boards and product descriptions.

The appropriate level of translation service can vary widely depending on your requirements. Transcreation, for example, is the process of recreating content for a target language, which can be useful for B2C marketers looking to overcome cultural as well as linguistic barriers.. Legal, financial and technical translations, meanwhile, require a great deal of precision from practitioners with experience in those specific areas.

There are many types of translation organisations available and the right one for your business will depend on a number of factors, including quality, versatility and cost. Niche translators will specialise in specific areas such as technology or legal and financial. The best ones will be experts in their own narrow fields but might not be suitable for a business looking to combine translation projects. Professional generalist translation providers will often have their own experts in particular fields but will also be able to provide a wider range of services.

Crowdsourced translation platforms can often offer a low-cost or even free alternative but the quality and consistency may not be of the highest standards; translators on open sources often tend to be hobbyists rather than professional translators.

Consider machine translation

Professional translators often have access to sophisticated machine translation solutions that can utilise features such translation memories and glossaries. This means previously translated content can be stored and reused, while organisation-specific  terminology can also be learnt. Machine translation engines already have a wealth of industry terms, and can continue to learn with every new translation project.

Organisations looking for on demand machine translation may also be able to plug into an Application Programming Interface (API). This essentially provides a direct link from your content management system (CMS) to the translation provider’s, giving you access to quick and easy translations.

Machine translation has come on in leaps and bounds but it still can’t match human translation and is generally most suited to high-volume, non-business critical material such as in-house circulars and product documentation. For anything except the most basic translations, machine translation should always be used in conjunction with post-editing, which involves a native speaking editor reviewing the materials. ‘Light’ post-editing will help ensure the translation is an understandable reflection of the source content while full post-editing will also address any stylistic issues.

Manage ongoing projects

Sometimes you might just need a single document translating but at other times you might have many different types and streams of content that require translation simultaneously. Completion times, service levels and costs can vary for each piece of work and it’s important to keep track of ongoing translation projects. Account or project managers and dedicated workflow systems can help organisations keep track of large or lengthy projects while initial and ongoing consultations can help you find the most cost-effective and appropriate solutions.

You might also require related advice or services in areas such as localisation, foreign language SEO and interpretation – which deals with verbal rather than written communication. Professional translation service providers can often help with issues such as these.

Think about quality versus price

Price matters of course, but quality counts too. Your translated content reflects your brand, company or organisation and poorly translated product can be counter-productive. As well as the quality of the translation, turnaround speed and the capacity to undertake the required volume of work can also be key concerns.

High quality translation requires access to qualified professionals and that inevitably costs money. Higher prices do not necessarily mean better services, but it often pays to be wary of very low quotes. The old adage, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ holds true in the field of translation as it does in many others.

Make sure the provider is certified, ask about track records and check online reviews. Do your research and take the time to find the best provider for you.

*Picture credits: Gustavo Frazao /

Steve Griffin

Steve Griffin edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Drama at Exeter University and completing a postgraduate diploma in Management at Durham University, he worked in Marketing & Communications in a global recruitment company for five years, before spending some time as a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant. Steve enjoys bringing his creative flair to writing and marketing projects, and has always been a passionate student of language.

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