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What to consider when buying translation


The translation industry is huge: it is expected to reach a revenue of 37 billion dollars by 2018, and it is growing every year. Translation projects are however not straightforward: from knowing your translators, to getting familiar with the industry’s requirements, they require a lot of background research. Additionally, they are not cheap, and certainly not quick.

Not everyone who knows a foreign language is able to work on translation, localisation, or interpretation projects. You need professional translators, as they know their languages inside-out. Moreover, do not make the mistake of thinking that machine translation will replace human translators: there will always be a need for human translators to check machine translations, and ensure they are accurate.

Translators vs. translation companies

Most translators operate on a freelance basis, and they can either receive work directly, or via translation agencies, which mediate between the translators and the clients. Most translators specialise in specific sectors or industries, and you should only really work with qualified translators. A sample of their work/portfolio will give you an idea of their expertise.

On the one side, working directly with a freelance translator gives you the chance of building up a relationship with them, as well as to brief them directly on your requirements. On the other side, when your translator is unable to meet a deadline or your workload suddenly increases, you will be left with no back up. This is where working with a translation agency may be beneficial.

Translation companies have established methodologies and processes in place to face situations of this kind. As with translators, you should only work with certified translation companies. Different agencies charge different rates, and some of them specialise in certain areas. Asking for references and enquiring on any translation softwares used can also help you in making a decision.

When submitting a translation request, you should make sure that you have all the information required by the translation agency, and that you know about things like the type and format of the documents that need translating, the audience and purpose, the deadline, etc.

Useful tools for translation projects

Translation tools are divided into translation memory, CAT tools and translation management systems.

  • Translation memory is a tool used to store text segments and their translations in a database, which can be useful when translating a new text; the use of translation memories ensures consistency and economy.
  • CAT tools. There are various types of CAT tools, and they are very useful when it comes to terminology management and the upkeep of glossaries.
  • Translation management systems use automation to manage translation projects: they are usually accessible online for all parties involved, which makes the sharing of material much easier.


Web translation

When it comes to the translation of websites, it is important to know exactly how your content is structured. Having a good multilingual content management system is invaluable in this case: you need to know about the file formats of your content, including graphic content such as images, as translating these types of assets can often be tricky. Always make sure that you have the original source files, or that you can easily retrieve them.

Pages such as the ‘Contact Us’ page, or ‘About Us’ pages are normally static pages, as they seldom get updated. However, much of the content on websites is dynamic, as it gets regularly updated and altered. This adds an extra layer of complexity to the translation, and it is important to have an efficient method in place to deal with the translation of dynamic pages.

Translating your website is not enough on its own. Implementing SEO localisation is important to ensure that your customers find you, as it implements the keywords needed to increase the visibility of your translated site. This is because keywords should of course never be translated, and they should only be added after the translation process is complete.

Finally, an online QA should be conducted by the translator, to check any linguistic, cosmetic or functional issues with the translated website. A report is then generated, and the issues identified should be solved before the site goes live. It is extremely important to allow time for this final stage of a website’s translation. Remember when we said that quality translation is never quick?

Some translation projects, such as those related to manufacturers’ guidelines, manuals, reports, etc. can be very technical, and they may require additional checks on the appropriate terminology used in the relevant industry, as well as specialist knowledge.

Translation: The cost

When contacting an agency for a translation project, you may receive either a quote or an estimate. You will receive a quote in the case where all of your files are ready to be sent for translation, and this will be very accurate in terms of word count. An estimate will instead be provided in case there is still uncertainty about the material to be translated, or some of it is missing.


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Emily MacKenzie

General Manager at Webcertain
With a strong academic background in English language and linguistics, and extensive experience in sales-driven roles as well as translation, Emily now works at Webcertain Translates as a General Manager. Emily concentrates on building long-term partnerships with new and existing clients through advising and consulting, as well as improving translation workflows and developing strong localisation strategies. Emily thrives on delivering high-quality, specialised content in over 130 languages, on time and within budget.

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