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How To Choose a Translator?

Deciding on a translation provider may be difficult. You have to trust confidential documents, most of the time respect important deadlines, communicating with your potential clients in the appropriate language and style.

The translation industry is overcrowded by freelance professionals, translation companies and numerous non-professionals who pretend being translators.

What should you do then to select the translation supplier that fits your needs?

Here are some tips based on my experience both as a buyer of translation services and as professional translator.

1.       Selection Criteria

First of all, determine your selection criteria.

  • What is your target market? The target language?
  • Does your company produce highly technical content?
  • Do you often have tight schedules?
  • Is price more important than quality?
  • What is the purpose of translations? Are they for information purpose or for publication?

2. Word of Mouth

From my own experience, the most common (and profitable) way to find a good translator is by word of mouth. Ask colleagues, contacts at other companies in the same industry, if they can recommend a translator. However, resist the temptation to hire a student from the local university or to use machine translation.

There are also other ways to look for translators, the Web for example, or consult professional associations. However, based on my own experience, an ISO certification is not enough proof of efficiency and quality.

I suggest “testing” the translator at first. Do not outsource 100 pages of translation the first time. Ask for a brief translation at first, so you can assess if the translator is reliable and test his/her approach to your company. A translator who fits another company’s needs may not be the right person for you.

3. Background and experience

Find out how long the supplier has been active on the market. Look at his or her website, résumé  or presentation. Check with your potential supplier if he or she has knowledge in your industry and subject matter. Experience matters.

4. Price

Do not base your decision on pricing alone. There are numerous non-professionals in the translation industry with no expertise. Sometimes they use automated translation and produce low quality work. Sometimes they are not expert in the field, therefore produce non-sense documents in the target language. Professional work in any sector has a cost (due to education, project management, up-to-date technology, and so on).

You can also look at how prices are calculated. There are standards in the translation industry, which vary from country to country. The most common are per word, per standard page (cartella  in Italy), or by the number of lines (especially in Germany). Professional translators will explain the calculation method before starting and would not undersell themselves.

5. Quality

Professionals normally apply a standard process including:

  • asking questions about target market, destination, purpose of the translation, your preferences in general
  • use and prepare glossaries
  • Quality assurance: proofreading, grammar, completeness, style, interpretation
  • Follow-up to get feedback and ensure satisfaction

6. Prompt reply

Deadlines are important. Time of response too. If you contact a language service provider within your time zone, you should not have to wait longer than 2 to 3 hours for a reply.

7. Freelance or agency?

Big translation companies with many translators may be able to deliver huge amount of translations in different languages in a very short time. Bad translation companies will split your documents into many small pieces and will select a translator in their database on the basis of availability alone, without checking their qualifications. Freelance translators will do the work themselves and contact you directly with questions and advice. Once again, the choice is up to you and your needs.

Once you have taken a decision, remember that translation is not a commodity. It is a professional service. Try to understand what you can and cannot expect from translators.

Spend time communicating with your translator, build a win-win relationship and your business will benefit from this!

You can also take a look at my Slideshare presentation.

Share with me your own experience at finding the right translator!