The Best Translator: How to Choose for your Business Needs
The best translator: there are countless reasons why your business may find itself in need of translation services. Maybe you’re lining up a contract with an individual foreign-language client for the first time? Or, at the other end of the scale, perhaps you’re planning some ambitious international expansion?
Either way, you have many options open to you when it comes to translation. Key to choosing correctly is fully understanding your own requirements before you get started – and that’s what this article is all about.
What kind of translation resource you need obviously varies considerably between, for example, translating a leaflet and translating a complex legal document. Often you’ll find you need to consider localisation as well, especially when it comes to translating websites and marketing materials. While anyone with fluency in two languages can in theory translate between them, that’s often not really the case in practice. So, do keep that in mind when you choose a translator.
Before going any further, it’s worth ensuring you’re aware of the limitations of computerised translations, such as those offered by Google Translate and similar services.
Services like Google Translate have led some people to have a false level of security as to their ability to translate between languages without help. While these online services have their place, and can be very useful for certain purposes such as “on-the-fly” translations of websites, using them for business purposes is often a very bad idea.
The simple reason for this is that computers don’t have a human level of comprehension (at least not yet!) As a result, the Internet is alive with articles about “translation fails” that have occurred as a result of people relying on machine translation. So, unless you want to risk saying your product “tastes like grandma” (rather than “like grandma used to make!”) or inadvertently swearing at your new international audience, you’re best off using professional translation for professional purposes.
As mentioned above, it’s essential to know what you need when you choose a translator. If, for example, you’re working on websites or marketing materials, you’ll need someone who can help with localisation and ensure that your message is correctly understood by the intended audience. This can include working around cultural sensitivities as well as language itself.
On the other hand, if you need to translate contract documents and other legalese, you’ll want someone who specialises in legal translation.
There are various types of specialized translation services out there, sometimes referred to as “LSP” translation (language for specific purposes). These can include legal, medical, scientific and financial translation. It’s unlikely you’ll find a single individual who’s fully competent in all of these translation disciplines, however a professional agency should be able to provide translators in all the specialized areas.
So, knowing what you need from your translator is key. If it’s contract-related work, you can immediately look for a legal translator, for example. If you’re planning to expand your entire business into a whole new territory, the likelihood is that you will require individuals or an agency who can cover several specialist disciplines.
Checking the Work of a Translator
The quality of work provided by professional translators can vary considerably. If you don’t speak the translated language(s) yourself (which presumably you don’t, if you’re using translators!), you’ll need a reliable way to check the work that comes back to you.
It’s important to do this at an early stage in the process, so that any quality issues can be “nipped in the bud” before it’s too late. Ideally it’s best to start with a small isolated project, which can then be checked over by a native speaker or a trusted agency. In a way, this can be the translator’s “test task” before going further.
Even if the initial piece of work comes back with a glowing report, it’s essential to ensure there’s continual work checking going on. Standards can slip, especially when work isn’t being reviewed, so frequent quality verification is well worthwhile. This is particularly important when branching out into new languages. An agency’s Italian translator(s), for example, may not perform as competently as their French translator(s).
Translation Agencies vs. Freelancers
Whether you go for a translation agency or a freelance translator will depend a lot on your personal taste. Your decision may also be based on whether you have a small, one-off piece of text that needs translating, or a whole body of translation work such as a pile of contracts or a multi-language website.
Before deciding, it’s worth thinking, once again, about exactly what it is you need. If, for example, you like the idea of working with a freelancer (e.g. freelance French translator), it’s worth considering whether you’ll find someone with the right specialist knowledge for your requirements. Using an individual person also comes with the concern of backup if they are ever indisposed.
On the other hand, you have the other option of an agency, where you will have additional backup and access to personnel with specialist skills, but perhaps feel as if you’re missing the personal touch.
Whatever your eventual choice, the key to getting it right is knowing what your business requires in terms of translation – both now, and with an eye to the future.