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How to choose a translation company

If you are shopping for translation service quotes, you know that there are many translation companies out there. How do you pick one? I realize this can be a daunting task, so I am going to kick off my sales shoes for a moment and put myself in yours. Although there are whole books devoted to this topic, I have listed five essential things you should inquire about when choosing who to trust for translation services:

Price: First things first, how much will this translation cost?
Translation companies can charge in a variety of ways: per page, per line, flat rate, etc. However, most companies charge by the word. Whether it is “the” or “antidisestablishmentarianism,” each word in a document is charged the same amount.

At first glance, this may not sound fair, but it remains one of the the most accurate ways to quantify how much text needs to be translated. (You can determine word count on MS Word by clicking “tools,” then “word count.”) In fact, being charged by the word can work to your advantage. If you have a document with 10,000 plus words, or if you know that you will have future translation work besides this project, inquire about volume discounts up front.

Per word rates differ depending on the target language as well. The rates for more commonly spoken languages such as Spanish or French are normally less than those for rare languages such as…oh, Sanskrit or your teenager’s text messages.

At this point, most of us would stop and make a decision on price alone. However as you’re comparing the bottom-line amounts for each translation quote, consider the additional factors I’ve outlined below so that you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for when you’re choosing a translation service:

Quality: Since most of us don’t speak another language fluently enough to know, how do we trust the translation we’re getting is any good? Research the following when reading a potential translation company’s materials, or simply ask:
How do you qualify your translators? It’s a good sign if a company requires a minimum number of years experience for their translators. Also, companies should have some way of assessing the quality of a translator’s work for accuracy. It’s good to have a second set of eyes to read the translation, so ask if the per word rate includes an editor or not. Are your translations guaranteed? If there’s a problem with the translation from the original text that I gave you, will you correct it free of charge?

Speed: How fast can my document be translated? An average translator can translate around 2,000 words per day. If you have a large document that needs to be translated quickly, a translation company can put multiple translators on the project if it is a realistic deadline. Does your potential translation company have this capability?

Remember to ask whether you have to pay rush charges, which are usually anywhere from 25% to 100% of the standard rate. At this point you can assess whether or not the project really needs to be rushed.

Technology: Does your potential translation company use technology that will assist in decreasing the translation turnaround time while reducing the cost? This area really applies to larger projects. Large projects such as contracts or manuals can have terms, sentences, and blocks of text that can “repeat” itself throughout the document. Most translation companies have translation memory software (TMS) that will track repeat text. (Note: this does NOT mean translation software; only human translators should be used.)

Using TMS will reduce the time a translator takes to translate your document because they don’t need to translate the repeat text. Most firms will give repeat text discounts for repeat words charging up to half of the standard per word rate. If you have a large project, make sure to ask if repeat text applies to your project. If yes, make sure you get a discounted rate for repeat text!

Experience: Finally, how many years has this translation company been in business? Usually companies that have been around a while are there because they do good work. They’ve “been there, done that” regarding most translation projects. They’re more likely to guarantee their work because they have a reputation to uphold. Finally, they’re less likely to go out of business and lose your original translation files in case you need to go back and make revisions.

You get the point. Although it’s possible that you may pay a little more, an established translation company has more credibility than Captain Billy’s Bait n’ Translation Hut. If you wish to be assured of a company’s reputation, ask them for samples or references regarding past translation projects similar to yours.

Overall, these are the factors that you should look for when you are shopping for a translation company. Can you compare companies, go back, and ask for lower rates? Of course! All they can do is say no, right? Remember that a quality translation represents you, your office, and your company, so researching a translation company beyond its initial price is important. I hope you have found this information useful. Good luck!

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