No matter what type of translation project you have, finding a reputable and reliable translation company is critical. Even a single mistranslated word or phrase could cost your company money, customers or credibility.
As with most types of services, you should evaluate companies based on their responsiveness (the speed at which they return project estimates and price quotes) and the quality of their customer reviews and references, which should be posted on their website or provided on request. But that's just for starters. Here are four other key factors to keep in mind when you seek out a translation agency.
1. Translations services offered
When selecting a translation service, you're limited to companies that offer the type of translation you need. A translation agency should boast a range of services that go beyond basic document translation. The best companies, for example, also provide language translation of web content and multimedia.
Furthermore, any translation service you consider should have experience in your industry. For example, if you're an engineering firm that needs translation of technical documents, such as manuals or product specifications, the service you select should have experience translating those types of documents for other engineering firms like yours. Likewise, a service should have extensive experience in legal translation if you need legal or certified translation.
Most business translation services offer certified translation of official documents, such as birth certificates and adoption papers. This type of translation is accompanied by an official declaration from the translator or translation company certifying that the translation is an accurate and precise translation of the original source document.
The best translation agencies also provide services such as these:
Desktop publishing: This refers to turnkey translation services for printed materials. In addition to actual text translation, the service handles all design elements, such as typesetting and formatting. With desktop publishing, the source files are sent to you complete and print-ready.
Software localization: This refers to adapting a software application into a different language for a different culture.
Language-specific SEO: This means that the service can help optimize your website for your target international markets. Many services also provide localization testing and cultural consulting to ensure that your translation makes sense both linguistically and contextually in your target country.
Because translations are useless if they're not accurate, perhaps the most important decision point for companies procuring translation services is quality.
Although there is no primary governing body that oversees the translation industry, there are specific industry certifications and affiliations that are indicators of quality. Certifications that are indicative of top-notch translation services include the ISO 9001:2008 and EN-15038 certifications. The ISO certification specifies requirements for quality management systems within an organization. The EN-15038 certification is also a quality standard, but it's specific to translation service providers and set forth by the European Committee for Standardization.
It is equally important to evaluate a translation service's internal quality assurance procedures and translator qualifications. The service should employ translators accredited by the American Translators Association or another professional association. The translators should be native speakers of their target language to ensure technical competency and based in the appropriate country of origin to ensure cultural competency. The latter is especially important because, for example, the same Spanish word in Mexico may have an entirely different meaning in Spain. To ensure accurate translations, the service should have multilevel quality assurance procedures and be transparent about what its processes entail.
Many renowned translation services are also compliant with the open standards set by the Localization Industry Standards Association. While LISA has officially ceased operations, the organization has released its portfolio of copyrighted standards for open use. These standards help promote consistency, interoperability and quality management within the translation industry.
While accurate translation is critical, it's just as important to have said translation delivered to you when you need it. If a translation service can't meet your deadlines, its translations are useless to you. Before hiring a translation service, share your timeline with the provider and obtain a commitment from the company that it can deliver the work you need when you need it.
For large projects, ensure that the service will assign a dedicated project manager to your project to shepherd it from conception to completion. Ask to meet with the project manager so you can ask how they will communicate with you, and what processes and procedures they will employ to ensure the translators on their team meet established deadlines.
4. Support resources
A dedicated project manager is a crucial support service that a translation company should offer when you're engaged in a large project, or entering into a long-term relationship with a translation company that will encompass multiple projects. But that's just the beginning.
Another capability you should look for in a translation service is translation memory technology. Translation memory is a linguistic database that captures and saves repetitive phrases for future use. It enables translators to work faster and can lower the cost of your translation projects by eliminating the need to translate repetitive phrases. This technology does not replace human translators; it simply augments translators' skills to provide faster and more accurate translations.
Also look for services that provide an online customer portal where you can track the progress of your translation project and contact your project manager.