How to pick a translation agency: 5 questions to better assess a language solution

August 10, 2012

With so many translation agencies in the market today, choosing the company that can best manage your specific situation may be difficult. We interviewed our Director of Operations, Adriana Fernandez, from our Houston office to find out what she believes a client needs to know in order to make a positive decision and to assure they are getting a service that meets their needs.

1. How can a client know that a translation service will deliver professional results?

 To assess quality, the more data points, the better: (1) Ask for a sample of their work in the language pairs you need and in the subject matter related to your content—a common practice is to send out a 1-2 page extract from the document you need translated; (2) research several agencies to find out about their different approach, processes; customer service and level of professionalism; (3) ask for references; and (4) speak directly to get a feel for their work style.

2. How does a client know that a document with industry-specific terminology will be translated correctly?

 It is essential that both the language company and the linguists working on the translation project have extensive subject matter expertise. Here in Houston, for instance, there is a small, but qualified pool of translators who specialize in oil and gas translation; however, depending on the level of technicality, you really need to drill down to specific experience; for instance, a linguist may have experience with pre-salt offshore exploration projects while another may specialize in midstream or pipelines. The more technical a translation, the more a client should ask their potential translation provider what kind of translators they work with and how they are selected.

3. What should a client expect in terms of typical interaction with their translation provider?

 Every translation agency works differently, but the client will typically have contact with either a project manager or an account executive that oversees the translation of their documents. Here at Translation Source, our project managers have direct interaction with our clients. This structure cuts the middlemen resulting on better quality and less overhead. In any event, a good point of contact should be able to communicate the specifics of the project and have direct decision-making power with the project. A good project manager or account executive will also be willing to go the extra mile, making sure that the client’s needs are met even if a last-minute problem presents itself.
4. How does a client know they’re getting a good value?

Translation agencies traditionally set their price based on the amount of labor involved and on the qualifications of the people who work on the project. It is important that you understand and agree with the level of work required to produce a project so that you can have a good read on the value.

Most common metrics are charging on a per word basis or on an hourly basis. For clients, it is often better to obtain a price on the per word count rather than on the hourly count because word count is an objective measure that the client controls and can easily verify. Prices may vary depending on the language pair or the subject field. A client needs to be as specific as possible about the particular details of their text in order to get an accurate price quote up front.

5. What can a client do to make sure their translation is delivered on time?

Well established translation agencies will be able to handle translation assignments with challenging deadlines, even if it means dividing the project among various translators. However, providing a reasonable deadline works in the best interest of the client: First, there is usually an additional charge for rushed projects; second, tight deadlines often create stress for both the client and the translation provider; third, a language company may need to assign the project to a professional, but not optimal linguist for last minute projects. Making your deadlines clear from the start is the best way to be sure they are met.  Providing the project manager with as many details as possible will help them avoid time-consuming pitfalls along the way.

If you would like additional information on this topic or have questions on planning and executing your next translation or multilingual initiative, contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation or call us at (800) 413-7838.

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