Essential Guide to Choosing the Best Translation Services
7 Minute Read
When searching for professional translation services, you may feel overwhelmed with the myriad of companies to choose from.
Many translation companies, also known as language service providers (LSPs) or translation agencies, appear to offer the same services and products.
The challenge of shortlisting dependable LSPs to partner with may have you thinking, “How do I know which one is right for my business?”
Here are 8 key questions to ask when choosing a translation company:
- How Much Translation Experience Do They Have?
- What Language Services Do They Offer?
- What Translation Technology Is Used?
- Is Project Data Reported to the Client?
- How Do They Manage Translation Projects?
- How Do They Manage Translation Vendors?
- How Do They Manage Translation Quality?
- Are they ISO 17100 Certified?
How Much Translation Experience Do They Have?
The experience of a translation company’s directors, translators, and localization specialists influences how they’ll handle your project and the quality of the solutions they can offer.
It’s useful to know how many years of translation experience the team has, what domains they specialize in, and if they have a successful track record of projects for your industry.
Requesting testimonials or feedback from past clients, colleagues, or translators they have worked with will help determine how reputable they are.
Speaking with the directors and upper management will provide insight into the translation company’s values and how they do business.
Ask about their career backgrounds and how active they are in their industry. How well do they understand your industry and its localization challenges and pain points?
What Language Services Do They Offer?
Businesses needs will vary depending on how much, how often, and into which languages they need their content translated and through which formats and channels it will be communicated.
Where your company is along the path to localization maturity will determine how much guidance they need from a language partner.
Language service providers that can confidently manage the full scope of a localization program can help implement a strategy that is appropriate for your business.
For a business that is starting small but hopes to grow internationally, it’s beneficial to partner with a company that can provide a roadmap and scale with them.
Also, the breadth of services that an LSP provides will determine the amount of resources your company needs to invest.
Depending on the extent of your translation needs, a full-service LSP could serve as a business process outsourcing (BPO) partner, working in synchronization with your business while allowing your team to focus on its core competencies.
For example, if you are a software developer, it would be beneficial to partner with a company that also offers internationalization, testing, and localization engineering. And to market the product overseas, experience in transcreation, cultural consulting, multilingual SEO, and multimedia localization skills would be necessary.
A healthcare or life sciences company would benefit from partnering with a language service provider not only skilled in medical terminology but also knowledgeable in regulatory translation.
And companies that need to translate technical material will need terminology development and management for foreign languages—a service essential to the accuracy and consistency of technical terminology.
What Translation Technology Is Used?
The technology is continuously evolving for translation, localization, and language service management applications.
An adequate budget, continuous training, and implementation of these technologies are necessary for translation companies to stay abreast.
Partnering with an LSP that uses best in class technology means higher workflow efficiency, consistent quality output, enhanced project management metrics, and more streamlined integration.
Today, a full stack localization solution means project management automation, advanced computer-aided translation (CAT) tools, terminology databases, quality metrics reporting, and machine translation where applicable.
Consumers across the world expect to have content available in their languages at every iteration. For global companies, this means needing to partner with a language service provider that can offer agile localization solutions.
Is Project Data Reported to the Client?
For businesses that are either striving to improve their current translation program or are embarking on a new global campaign, KPIs and metrics are essential to gauge project success and ROI.
It’s paramount that the translation company you partner with understands the scope of your project and its objectives.
A smooth collaboration relies on transparency and insight into the localization process, supported by on-demand reporting and clear communication.
Protocols should be in place to identify, address, and resolve issues both before and during the project. Data should be available for post-project reviews, suggestions, and improvements.
LSPs that use a translation management system (TMS) and quality metric reporting framework can offer great value to their clients.
TMS reports can give clients insight into granular cost data, and translation quality evaluation frameworks will measure productivity and benchmark performance.
How Do They Manage Translation Projects?
You want your translation projects to be done on time, to budget, and meet quality standards.
The more structured a translation company’s project management framework is, the higher the probability of your project’s success.
Relaying project specs, planning handoffs, implementing client changes, and effective scheduling depend on established processes and the experience, knowledge, and tact of the company’s project managers.
While the real test of competence will be a real-world project, there are recognized guidelines that, when adhered to, are reflective of an LSPs project management competency.
Adherence to PMI Guidelines
The standards developed by the Project Management Institute are internationally recognized and provide tested guidelines for project management.
The Localization Project Management Certification (CLPM), offered by The Localization Institute, is based on ISO 21500-2012 guidance on project management and the PMI’s PMBOK® Guide with adaptations for the localization industry.
Achieving certification requires demonstrable knowledge in internationalization, localization and globalization concepts, global communication and managing virtual teams, localization maturity, the localization supply chain, and localization in an agile environment.
Use of a Translation Management System (TMS)
A TMS greatly influences a translation project manager’s ability to plan, schedule, control, and close a project. It also provides both the translation company and the client with valuable project tracking data.
When paired with a vendor management database, an LSP can leverage their TMS to scale as client demands increase.
How Do They Manage Translation Vendors?
An LSP’s translation vendor management department ensures that the right translators, reviewers, and localization specialists are selected for your project.
Qualifiers include terminology and industry expertise, as well as knowledge of the target audience. Their ability to work with your specific content format also determines the best fit.
A translation company should have established processes to recruit, test, onboard, collaborate with, and pay their vendors. Access to talent pools and maintaining and building a global vendor network is necessary to find the best professionals available.
NDAs should be in place to keep client information confidential.
Professional vendor management equates to precise translations that are effective for your target audience and a translation program that is lean and scalable.
How Do They Manage Translation Quality?
Your company’s image and reputation in foreign markets rely on precise and culturally relevant translations.
Equally important is the need to produce these translations across all channels consistently and maintain your unique voice, style, and tone.
The caliber of a translation company’s quality management system will directly influence the continued success of your foreign content.
There are attributes specific to translation quality management that a mature LSP will have.
Certified Translators and In-Country Specialists
The level of competence of an LSP’s translators is directly correlated to the quality of its translations.
LSPs that work exclusively with seasoned veterans or certified language professionals will have a quality-first company culture that evangelizes translation best practices.
Additionally, working with translators that live in their target language country or maintain a strong connection to it adds valuable terminology and cultural knowledge.
Partnering with LSPs that have terminologists available for technical or niche subject matters add an extra layer of quality assurance. Foreign language physicians, engineers, and scientists are valuable assets for specific projects.
In addition to a stringent vetting process, LSPs that use a formal translation testing process that simulates real-world collaboration will likely have a higher qualified talent network.
Project managers and language leads can provide categorical feedback on a candidate’s translation quality, team skills, and ability to adhere to deadlines.
Compliance Enforcement Processes and Tools
For multinationals that adopt the continuous publishing model, translation consistency is essential to successful branding and customer retention.
Inconsistent terminology and an unpredictable tone, style, or voice are off-putting to readers, both domestic and foreign.
The use and maintenance of glossaries, style guides, and translation memories are essential to publishing consistency.
LSPs that have protocols for maintaining and updating these databases can more easily ensure content consistency and mitigate translation errors.
Translation Quality Evaluation
Quality evaluation can be challenging for a translation buyer, particularly when they don’t speak the target language.
An LSP working with a modern translation quality evaluation (TQE) framework can provide their client project insight and transparency through real-time quantitative data.
DQF (Dynamic Quality Framework) is today’s modern TQE benchmark.
LSPs that subscribe to the DQF framework can establish the most appropriate quality evaluation model for your company and industry.
You’ll be able to run different evaluations such as adequacy, fluency, error review, and productivity measurement and have transparency through real-time project data and customizable reports.
Are They ISO 17100 Certified?
ISO 17100 certification is a testament to the professionalism of a translation company.
It demonstrates adherence to internationally recognized best practices for vendor, project, and quality management and covers the entirety of the project life cycle with a focus on traceability.
How you, the client, benefit from working with an ISO 17100 certified translation company:
- It gives you confidence that your translation provider follows an internationally recognized standard.
- Assures that its translators and reviewers are appropriately qualified.
- It keeps human error to a minimum by adhering to quality guidelines.
- Ensures that project files and processes are handled systematically.
- Requires post-project reviews for continuous improvement of client-vendor collaborations.
The standard is particularly beneficial to industries that are highly regulated and quality sensitive.
Conclusion – Look Under the Hood Before Choosing a Translation Partner
LSPs often attempt to differentiate themselves on price and quality.
While both are integral to the ROI of any project, more information is needed to determine a translation company’s level of professionalism and maturity, how they manage quality, and ultimately how good of a fit they are for your business.
Finally, be cautious of companies touting cheap translation services. The only way to offer rock bottom prices is to hire underqualified translators or to cut corners. You may save money on your first project, but the results of a bad translation can be more costly than not translating at all.
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