Simple And Effective Tips For Purchasing Translation Services

A Global business needs to invest in high-quality translation services, unfortunately, most have no idea about linguistics, translation, or interpretation. Indeed, most business executives don't even know the difference between translation and interpretation. This lack of expertise leads many in the business community to make many foolish and costly purchases. If you are considering investing in a translation service for your business, read on. This article will let you all in on the strategies to successfully purchasing a translation service that's right for both your clients and your budget.

Clearing Up The Terms: Translation Versus Interpretation

Most people use the terms "translation" and "interpretation" interchangeably. In the professional world, however, these two words mean very different things. It's crucial that you understand the difference between these terms before ordering services from any translator or interpreter. So, what's the difference? The main difference is that translators work with written documents, whereas interpreters speak. You can remember this difference my memorizing this easy mnemonic phrase: "translators text; interpreters introduce." Depending on your specific needs, you should now know exactly where to tailor your search in the translation/interpretation world. If you are interested in written translation, then the rest of this article can help you in your search.

Average Cost Of Translation

Now that you have decided you need a translation service, a natural question to ask is, "What's the right price to pay?" Alas, it's extremely difficult to calculate the average cost of translation service. So many factors come into play, including how many people are on staff, what services they offer, what language(s) they are translating into, etc. On average, you can expect to pay around $0.11 per word, or around $36 per hour. Most translation services fall within a 1 to 10 price range, with anything lower than a 5 not worth your time. This doesn't mean you have to go after the most expensive translation house in the business, however. You should take time researching the average rates for your target language and the track record of whatever company you're looking into. Some translation companies nowadays have a great deal more overhead, but that means more services for you. Be sure you ask whether or not it's in your best interest to pay for a translation team that has such services as localizers, project management teams, file conversations, standardized presentation skills, and/or a quality control department. Also, be realistic. Calculate how long it took your team to write up the document you want translated, and be sure to give your translation service team at least that amount of time to translate it fully. Remember, these translation teams need to learn all about your business through their own research. You'll get a higher quality product if you go with a reputable company that operates for at least the average going rate and has enough time to fill out your order.

Less Words, More Pics

One easy way to reduce your cost and make your documents more effective is to cut down on unnecessary verbiage and add more images. It's important to meet with your sales team often to go over what's really necessary for foreign clients to see. Most documents can easily be halved before sending them off to a translator service. Don't believe us? Well, it's been discovered that at least one company in France routinely cuts down their 500-page documents to around 230 before sending them off to translators. Foreigners simply don't need to know as much as you do about the specifics of your company. Also, the longer the document, the more a foreign client is likely to think your company is being arrogant. Bottom line: just give your clients the basics, and add more graphs, charts, and maps to your documents. If you want to take a look at some of the most successful companies that rely heavily on images, look at some of IKEA's catalogues or London Heathrow Airport's pictograms.

Keep It International

Your language should always reflect a universal point of view. If do you use any local figures of speech in your work, you need to be extra cautious. It's very easy to either lose your clients entirely or, in worst-case scenarios, offend them. Some definite no-nos include referencing any part of the body, using high-flown literary references, and using local sport as a metaphor. These choices almost always fall on deaf ears with foreign clients and, especially with references to parts of the body, could greatly displease them. All of these references should be removed before handing over your document to ensure against international embarrassment.

Search For Style

Above all else, your translator must get the style right. Getting the grammar and syntax correct is only half the battle. A truly great translation service will be able to adapt your document into a style that has no ring of inauthenticity. To use a crude metaphor, getting the grammar right is like an actor memorizing his/her lines. Almost any actor can memorize lines, but it's that indefinable emotional skill on stage that distinguishes the strong actors from the amateurs. Style is indefinable, but you know it once you've got it. Style distinguishes an OK translation from a great translation. Now that you know how important style is, how do you go about getting it? First, be wary of translation services that rely too heavily on technology. Technology can be a great tool, but always ensure the translation team works first and foremost with the human ear. One thing to understand while on your quest for the best style is to understand the difference between "for-information" and "for-publication" work. Translators sometimes offer "for-information" work for a cheaper price, but you get what you paid for. "For-information" translations should be grammatically correct, but they often lack the polished quality of a "for-publication" work. Just be aware of what translation you want for your own personal needs, and ask translators upfront what translation services they offer.

Know Your Audience

Where will your document appear? This may sound like a simple question, but you need to be sure both you and your translator know the exact answer. The nature of your document will drastically change the style your translator uses. For example, a sales brochure will sound a great deal different than a formal address. You can tell if a translator is a real pro if s/he asks you about the specifications of your document first. It might also be a good idea to find a translation company you feel comfortable working with for a long period of time. Over the years, you can build a great rapport with one group of translators who know your business's specific needs.

Be Sure The Translator Is A Native Speaker

Sometimes business leaders are not aware that translators should always be a native speaker of whatever language you need translated. For example, someone translating a document into Japanese should be a native Japanese speaker. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but you must vet out these exceptions thoroughly before doing business with them. If a translator says your target language is not their native tongue, ask for proof of their work before proceeding. Also, ask where your translator now resides. A translator's linguistic ability can be weakened if s/he lives in an environment where the first language is not his/her native tongue. That doesn't mean the translator has lost his/her ability to communicate in the target language, it just might mean that the quality of the translation could be weaker than that of a native speaker in a native land. Also, translators who live and work in environments where your target language is spoken on a daily basis will have a better understanding of modern culture, dialects, idioms, slang, and other useful linguistic points.

Localize, Localize, Localize

To piggyback off of the last point, you should ask whether or not your translator has experience with different regional dialects of your target language. As you can understand from the English language, targeting English speakers in Australia is very different from targeting English speakers in Liberia. In addition to regional dialect, also consider tone and register. The register of a language will be very different for medical professionals than for a mass consumer audience. The more specific and concrete you are in your document, oftentimes the better understood your work will be with foreigners. Understand your translation service's weaknesses and strengths in the dialect department before agreeing to hire them.

A Brief Note On Bilingualism

It might sound great to hire a "bilingual" translator, but bilingualism should never take precedence over a translator's native status with the target language. Bilingual people often act as bridges between cultures, but they are far better as speaking than writing. Writing in a foreign language is a different skill requiring greater practice and refinement. Also, self-professed "bilinguals" are often newbies to the translation industry that overestimate their linguistic chops. One example of the bilingual's lack of refinement comes from the French sandwich company Lina's in 2000. One self-professed "bilingual" thought she could translate the company's slogan into English. What the company got was "Tomorrow, we will expect on your dynamism." Let that be a warning to you.

Do Professors Get A Passing Grade?

No. Professors of Modern Languages don't have the skills you need in the business world. Teaching a foreign language is far different from translating your work into a document that is regionally specific, commercially viable, and culturally sensitive. Most Modern Language professors simply don't have the business savvy you need. Although professors may be cheaper, they only rarely produce high-quality documents. Plus, it should go without saying that you should never, never, never trust a student translator.

Any Questions?

A great translator asks a lot of questions. While it may seem pedantic to you, it is far better to have a curious translator than a silent one. Use a translator's questions to your advantage. You'd be surprised how often companies discover unexpected facts about their own business model from a translator's inquires. Because translators are tasked with parsing down sentences to their essentials, they often discover linguistic oddities that the native speaker is totally oblivious too. Some of the most successful companies use the translator's work to their advantage. For instance, one bank in Paris waits for their translations to come in before it publishes the original document in France. These bankers use the keen eye of the translator to identify weaknesses in the original document.

Technical Documents Need Technical Skills

If you opt for a translation service company, it can sometimes be hard to gauge the translator's technical knowledge on any given subject. However, it's crucially important that you get in contact the translator(s) handling your document, especially if it's a highly technical document. While any translator can theoretically translate any subject, someone who has more knowledge about the field in question will give you a more reliable final text. That's why it's important to make the project manager put you in contact with the translator(s) assigned to your technical documents. Ask whether or not each translator has skills or experience with the field in question.

Don't Trust The Machine With Your Valuables

As mentioned before, translation software is a great tool, but it's no more than that: a tool. You can use various free translation and language learning apps to help you out, but never use this technology for important documents. A study published in an October 2000 edition of the Wall Street Journal found that free translation software was "passable" for informal documents and traveling, but the authors warned people never to use these documents for important business documents. Never run your texts through Google Translate and send a copy to your translation team. You'll just look like a fool. The translation team will just throw your Google Translate monstrosity into the trash and ask for the original document. And with good reason. There are so many horror stories of companies exclusively using Google Translate to their own detriment. You can take a look at this previous post on our news page to see just how far auto translation technology is from a professional translator's work.

The Need To Proofread

Ernest Hemingway famously said, "The first draft of anything is sh**." If you think you can get away with your first draft, just ask yourself this: do you really believe you're a better writer than Hemingway? Alright, you may not be writing a A Farewell To Arms, but that doesn't excuse you from holding your documents to the highest level of scrutiny. You need a trusted proofreader on staff who can double-check all the little things that often escape the untrained eye. For instance, a Spanish banner at a U.S. bilingual festival read "100 anos of municipal history." If you don't know Spanish, "anos" means "anus." "Años," on the other hand, means "years." Need we say more?

Just 15 Minutes

Hopefully all these tips have helped you prepare to pick a translation team best suited to your needs. We'd like to conclude this article with the simplest, yet most profound, tip: always schedule at least 15 minutes to chat with the translation team. Instead of just telling the translators to "translate it," it's far better to take a minimum of 15 minutes to go over your goals for the document in question. By taking the time to clarify your objectives, you'll save a great deal of time, aggravation, and money in the translation process.

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