How to choose a translation agency. 14 effective tips
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Choosing the right translation company is an equally important task both for people who do not know a foreign language and for those who know it perfectly well. In the first case, everything is clear: not knowing the language to or from which the translation is being done, we are unable to critically assess the quality of the translation and rush to use the resulting "translated" documents. The consequences of such a situation can be very different: wrongly prescribed treatment by a doctor in case of errors in medical translation, accidents in case of incorrect translation of operating and safety instructions at work, trial in court because of errors in translation of agreements and contracts, reprimand of a manager.
You could be losing potential customers in a foreign market. Will they believe that you are selling quality goods if they see mistakes already in the commercial offer, on the website or in the manual? A striking example is the translation of instructions for Chinese children's toys and inexpensive copies of branded Chinese goods.
Now let's imagine a specialist in his industry (a doctor, an engineer, a marketer or an entrepreneur) who speaks a foreign language, among other things. He is able to translate it himself. But he does not have time to translate and type dozens or even hundreds of pages. He has more important tasks in his field of work. So he selected a translation agency, placed an order, made an advance payment. He waits, perhaps for several weeks. The result is poor quality, low quality, instead of the expected translation. You will end up wasting your time and money, and, unfortunately, it often takes your staff more time to make corrections than to do a new translation from scratch.
Given the number of translation agencies in the world, we can assume that these situations are not uncommon. But with the right approach, they can be avoided. This article will tell you how to choose the right translation company.
Tip #1. Visit the website of the translation company
First of all, pay attention to your company's website. A company that is serious about its business and plans to stay in the market for a long time should have a quality website. Look at whether the site has a Quality Assurance section, logos of the client companies, and testimonials. Is there a section about the company, the values. A translation company that has a quality control system is sure to let your clients know about this on their website. And of course, the prices. A company with a transparent pricing policy will certainly place a calculator or a price list on their site. An important point is the information about the availability of office on the contact page. In general, after reading the site of the company, you should get the impression that it obviously values its reputation and is not going to disappear from the market in a month.
Tip #2. Estimate the speed of response to your translation request
A quality translation starts the moment you first speak to a manager. If a call or a call-back request goes unheeded and no one gets back to you, the translation order will not get much attention. Most likely, the young managers are not interested in quality service, or maybe they are overloaded by one of their clients, and will not find time for quality processing of your order, giving it to the first available translator. Do not wait more than 1 hour for feedback. Keep looking and choose a translation agency that appreciates every client. Even if you send your documents in a non-editable format, you should definitely be informed that the request has been received, but it requires extra time.
Tip #3: Pay attention to the manager's questions
Let's say the company has a website and you get a prompt call back. You are already discussing the standard questions of cost and timing of the work. Pay attention if the manager asks about the purpose of your translation. In order to do a quality job, a translation agency manager needs to know how the translation will be used in the future. After all, if it's a translation of a commercial proposal for the US, you will need a service of editing by a native speaker of the US, for the UK - another English and another specialist. If a translation agency manager does not clarify this question, the company has no narrow specialists, native speakers, and there is a high probability that the resulting translation cannot be used effectively. Even when it comes to standard personal documents, the manager must clarify the form of certification, the requirements of the embassy and, of course, the spelling of the first and last name of the passport.
Tip #4. Specify the deadline for the translation
You need to translate 30 pages for tomorrow? If a translation company is ready to accept this urgent translation order, you should definitely be aware of the risks of quality degradation, and not just a surcharge for urgency. When you have several translators working simultaneously, you need extra time for revision, which will help put all terminology, style and formatting together. Deadlines are stipulated when you place an order for translation. The normal translation speed is about 6 to 7 pages a day. With rush orders, the speed can be increased to 10-15 pages (but in this case a surcharge is charged).
Tip #5. Find out the cost of translation considering the subject matter and the specifics of the request
In our country translators from a foreign language into Ukrainian / Russian do not earn more than most other professions. But in Europe and the U.S., the level of translation salary is very different from the Ukrainian salary. Never trust if you are promised in a translation agency to translate by a native-speaker (professional translator) English cheaper than $18 per page. Linguists and philologists in the U.S. are not willing to work at a rate of 50-100 USD per page. Each of us always wants to save money. However, do not rashly rush on suspiciously low prices when it comes to translation by native speakers.
Depending on the subject matter of the translation, the cost goes up as well. The cost of medical and technical translation is higher than that of standard documents. This is due to the involvement of highly specialized professionals. The price for the translation of texts written by hand is also increasing. The cost of translation is also influenced by the quality of scanned copies, the need for typesetting and deadlines.
Tip #6. Read customer reviews
When choosing a translation agency, it is advisable to study the reviews. This can be done on the company's website or on the Internet. When doing so, you should compare the information on the website with the recommendations on the forums, since often translation agencies may edit or even delete negative comments. But negative reviews should also be treated with skepticism. Do not blindly trust users who register on a forum only to leave a single negative message about the agency. The presence of reviews is a good sign. At a minimum, it indicates that the translation agency is working and values its reputation. Do you know how else you can check whether the services the translation agency provides to its clients are of high quality? Ask the manager if he/she can give you the phone number of a client so you can call and find out how well the translation was done. This is absolutely fine. A translation company should have grateful clients who are willing to recommend them and talk to you.
Tip #7. Ask to do a test assignment for the company's translator
Most self-respecting agencies always offer the translation of a passage as a trial. This will allow you to verify the quality of the work, as well as determine whether the writing style, translation of specific vocabulary, etc. is appropriate. At this stage, you can also stipulate the interpretation of terms, adjusting the cooperation. Always ask for a test assignment page. Many companies provide this service. But that's not all there is to it. Clarify whether the same performers who performed the test assignment will work with your project. Test assignments are sometimes given to completely different translators. Recommendation: Use the test assignment to choose not only the translation company, but also the person who will work on your documents. Do not start working on a big project with a company that refuses to do the test assignment. Even if you don't have time to wait at all for a test translation (they often take longer than a standard translation), order a one-page translation first. It's better to pay for the translation of a page and then evaluate the quality, rather than prepay for the entire project at once.
Tip #8. Find out how you can pay.
Even if you apply as an individual and are willing to pay in cash, ask for a receipt. The company should definitely have a registered legal entity, the ability to accept non-cash payments, issue receipts to clients, and enter into contracts. Most translation agencies carry out the first few orders on a 50 to 100% prepayment basis. Check later on if it is possible to conclude a contract for translation services with the possibility of paying by the fact of services rendered a month in advance. This greatly simplifies the work with regular cooperation and urgent orders: the bank may transfer the payment only for the next day, and translation of documents is sometimes urgently needed.
Tip #9. Ask who is involved in the text translation?
Depending on the pricing policy of the translation company, the translation work may consist of one or three steps. Companies offering the lowest price segment assign translation orders to a single translator, whose task is to translate and proofread the text. Quality risks are quite high. First, there is the human factor: the translator knows that no one will ever check anything for them, they do not pay much, and demand a lot. Orders of such translators dial as much as possible to make a profit in quantity. Often they work at night and in a hurry. As a result, you will get a translation that will make you understand what the document is about, but this type of translation is not of high quality and readability. The second risk is that a translator will not be able to evaluate their work. This is especially true if the translator has been working on the same project for several days. Accordingly, we strongly recommend choosing companies that are familiar with the phrase "quality control system. There are several options.
9.1 Translator, Editor, Proofreader
The ideal QA scheme consists of three steps: translator + editor + proofreader. First, you send the text to the translator, then a niche editor handles the proofreading, and the final stage is proofreading. The proofreader proofreads the text for errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation, and proofreads the layout. As a result, each additional step in the process controls the quality of the previous one, so that the client receives a high-quality, edited translation. Quality control is essential when translating marketing and any other texts that will be available to a wide audience in the future. When translating into a foreign language, you cannot do without proofreading by a native speaker.
9.2 Is there a native speaker in the translation company?
When translating into a foreign language, a native speaker is almost always needed. Especially when it comes to public materials. It is for this reason that a translation agency manager should inquire about the purpose of the translation and recommend the service you need. For the translation of internal company reports, which in the future are planned to put in the archive, proofreading by a carrier is not required. But the translation of a site designed to attract customers should be done as if it was originally written in a foreign language. Ask if the translation agency has a service of proofreading by a native speaker. Reliable translation agencies always work with native speakers and translators abroad.
Tip #10. Find out if you need to leave your original documents at the translation agency
First and foremost, you should never leave original documents at a translation agency (except for situations when you need a notarized translation laced with the original, in all other cases, it should be sufficient to present the documents when a notarized copy is certified). And secondly, a translation agency that cares about its clients should offer you translation delivery options. Ideally, it should be free, but if the delivery option has not been thought out at all, we recommend to calculate how much time you will spend on the way to the office of the translation agency in Kiev, taking into account working hours and traffic jams. Perhaps it makes sense to look for another company?
Tip #11. Ask what quality assurance the company provides
We all want to receive a guarantee when ordering or purchasing goods. Guarantees do exist in the translation industry, and good translation companies are not afraid to give them. Ask about the possibility to sign a confidentiality agreement, guarantees of deadlines, and the possibility to get your money back in case of delays or poor quality. Be sure to order a test assignment and ask the manager to put you in touch with the translator on a conference call if the translation is done by a native speaker. This is the only way to see if the native speaker really works with your documents. If you've chosen a professional translation agency, it shouldn't be difficult for a manager to connect you with a native speaker for a few minutes.
Tip #12. Ask around for a glossary.
A translation glossary is a kind of guarantee that the terminology is identical throughout your document, and if you work regularly with a translation company, for all orders of the same subject matter. There are several ways of making them. The first is when you agree on a terminology translation before you start working with a translation company. Often a translator draws them up and then sends them for approval. For rush orders, which are shared between several translators, a glossary is compulsory. This also includes the translation and transcription of abbreviations. The second option is to make and replenish the glossary at the end of each order. And the third option is a glossary which you make after you have sent the agency your previous translations, which you are satisfied with (glossary of translation samples).
Tip #13. Find out what format you will receive the finished translation in
In addition to translation services, professional translation agencies also provide a number of related services. One of them is make-up of the translation: provision of a document in a one-to-one format with the original, only in a different language. The layout may be of different complexity, depending on the format of the original document. In any case, it is inconvenient to order a translation in one place, and then additionally look for someone to make it up. And it is not always easy to find a translator or to make it up by yourself. How can you insert captions for drawings and charts in Hebrew or Arabic, if you do not know the language, and the translation was given to you in a separate document? Every translation agency should have a specialist in typesetting translations.
Tip #14. Don't be tied to the city
Ordering a translation service in Kiev if you are located in another city is not a problem at all. Moreover, nowadays, all orders are fulfilled by electronic means. Even if you need a notarized translation or translation certified by a translation agency seal, you can send everything quickly enough via "Novaya Mail". The exception is an urgent notarized translation. In this case, of course, you should choose a translation agency in your city.
So, let us summarize. Before ordering a translation company, look at the website of the company, talk to the manager, ask for a test assignment and customer feedback. There are hundreds of translation agencies in Kiev, and not every company will provide translation of the expected quality and format. Choosing a translation company is a difficult and important task, but doable. A mistake can be very expensive so choose the company thoroughly and correctly not forgetting about guarantees and test-questions. Follow our advice and you will get a reliable and professional translation partner for many years to come.