14 Factors To Consider When Choosing A Translation Agency

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Written by: pTranslate Contributors


We are living in an interconnected world, and the demand for smooth, constant communication across languages and borders is higher than ever. Companies and businesses seeking to tap into the enormous markets in foreign countries need to translate their documents, content, and writings to the languages of those target countries. 

Well-translated content not only boosts the company’s global visibility but also establishes an image of professionalism to its investors and customers. However, it is not easy to find translators, and there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a translation agency.

Anyone with a little bit of linguistic skills can translate, but that is far from what true translation really is. High-quality, professional translators can select the most suitable word to effectively convey the nuances in the content and ensure that nothing is lost in the translation process. This is an extremely hard thing to accomplish. Companies wanting to achieve that level of translation quality usually reach out to translation agencies. Translation agencies have large networks of translators who can offer advanced translation services for documents with highly technical content.

Of course, not all translation agencies were born equal. When choosing a translation agency, it is necessary that you have an idea of how your translation agency looks like. Most translation agencies can get the job done, but it might not be as high-quality as you would expect it to be. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to choosing the most suitable translation agency to handle your translation projects.

14 factors to consider when choosing a translation agency:

  1. Language Pairs
  2. Specialization
  3. Quality Control
  4. The level of precision in translation
  5. Pricing
  6. Human Capital
  7. Confidentiality
  8. Complementary Services
  9. Robust Customer Support
  10. Revision and Aftersales Policy
  11. Translators must be native
  12. Transparency
  13. Robust Workflow Management System
  14. Experience with Translation Memory (MT)

1. Language Pairs

Translation agencies work with language. That’s an integral part of their business. However, some translation agencies offer translation for more language pairs than others.

A single-language vendor (SLV) provides translation and linguistic services in a particular language combination. SLVs are most often freelance translators who work independently, or for a Language Service Provider (LSP), specializing in one specific language pair. They are usually native speakers of one language in the pair. Translation agencies who offer translation for only one language pair are also classified as SLV. SLV agencies are usually small and only provide services to clients in their country.

A multi-language vendor (MLV) provides translation and linguistic services in a wide range of language pairs. MLVs are true translation agencies, employing hundreds to thousands of native translators. This vast network enables fast, constant translation to and from a wide range of languages, serving the needs for companies and businesses worldwide. pTranslate is an example of an Multi-language Vendor.

Single-language vendor is usually targeted, so if you want to translate your documents to only one language, you can seek out SLVs. They have laser-targeted expertise and cultural knowledge, which helps them immensely in creating a relevant and relatable translation. If you want to translate your documents to multiple languages, you definitely should reach out to a Multi-language vendor. They are not as specialized as an SLV, but they are a lot more flexible and can cater to all of your translation needs, while SLVs can only provide a very limited range of services.

2. Specialization

After you have considered the languages you want to translate, you need to look at the “Industry Expertise” you want to find in your translators.

For example, if you want to translate a document about Engineering, you will want to find a translator with expertise in Engineering. Your documents contain a lot of Engineering terminology and concepts, which can be extremely difficult to comprehend if you hadn’t trained or worked in Engineering before. The level of subject matter required to translate these documents can be really high, and only those with enough qualifications are able to translate them. Mistakes and mistranslation can result in disastrous consequences, and will take a lot of time to fix.

Know the expertise you want to find in your translators, and then you can start finding translation agencies with that particular skillset.

3. Quality Control

Quality is King. A poorly translated document can ruin everything.

In Marketing, a poorly translated piece of content won’t be able to convey the messages that you want to bring to your customers, which leads to reduced marketing effectiveness.

In Law, one single word mistranslated is enough to change the outcome of the case.

In Pharmaceuticals, mistranslation can result in misunderstanding, which can potentially cause injury and damage to the well-being of others.

Make sure that your translation agency has a good Quality Control process in place. This process ensures that there are few mistakes in the translation, ranging from typos, grammatical mistakes to wording and word usage mistakes. Usually, translation agencies have a team of editors and reviewers who will double-check the translations before delivery to reduce the error rate and increase accuracy.

4. The level of precision in translation

Precision in translation is difficult to achieve. There still is no general consensus on how we can measure precision in translation. Many translation companies have actually developed a system and a metric to calculate the error rate in translation. They take into account a lot of factors, from typos, wording errors, to mistranslations and other linguistic aspects of the translations. The higher the precision level, the better.

5. Pricing

Pricing is the number one factor when it comes to choosing the translation agency to entrust your critical documents to.

Pricing varies greatly, but, it ranges from $0.01 to $1 per word for document translation services.

Why is there such a huge difference in price?

Like any other industry, it all comes down to the quality of translation. The lower the price, the lower the quality. The higher the price, the higher the quality.

$0.01 to $0.03 per word is exceedingly low. This rate is only accepted by translators in countries with low income or beginner-level translators. The translation quality varies tremendously, but usually, it falls into the lower end of the spectrum. If you’re looking to translate an important document, please don’t bother with this price range. The quality that you receive is likely to be unacceptable.

$0.04 to $0.06 per word is the price range for MTPE services. MTPE service is when the translation agency puts your documents through Machine Translation and then has a human translator edit them.

$0.06 to $0.08 per word is when we approach the range of professional translations.

$0.09 to $0.20 per word is the average range in the industry. Translators that accept this price range are usually professional, qualified translators with relevant skills and experience in the field they choose to translate.

Anything above $0.20 per word falls into the high-expertise range. Such rates usually apply only to legal and medical translation. These translation niches require an extremely high level of education and knowledge. There is a low supply of high-quality Legal and Medical translators, so it makes sense that the price goes that high. In some cases, the $1 per word rate can be applied to ensure that everything is translated as professionally and accurately as possible.

Read more: How much does a 1000-word translation cost?

6. Human Capital

Machine Translation is growing at an incredible rate, and it’s astounding how accurate they are becoming. As our technology advances, our machines are also able to translate and understand the context a lot better. 

However, there is still nothing that can replace the power of a human translator. For formulaic and repitive text, we can leverage the power of Machine Translation, but for contextual text, we still need human input. Fields like Literary Translation definitely need human translators to capture the nuances in the writings. 

7. Confidentiality

Data privacy is a growing concern of people coming to translation agencies. As many of the documents that translation agencies handle are quite sensitive and contain critical information, they are required by the clients to protect their data at all costs.

If you want to establish a business relationship with a Language Service Provider, you must be sure that they are willing to commit to confidentiality restrictions.

A common way to keep your documents confidential is signing an NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement), in which both parties agree to clearly-stated terms that the translation agency will not use the data and information they’re provided with.

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8. Complementary Services

Translation is just a small part of the entire game. There are tons of other complementary services that go along with translation. These services take into account the non-linguistic aspects of translation.

Desktop Publishing Services (DTP) is one of them. DTP services ensure that your text is aesthetically pleasing to eyes of the readers. In the translation process, there will definitely be some adjustments needed to account for the disruptions to the text layout. Take German – English translation for example. German is known for being a lengthy language, while English is a much more compact one. Translation to German from English from English to German will respectively increase and decrease the text length by about 35%. DTP specialists will come in and adjust various technical properties to make sure that this change in text length doesn’t impact the aesthetics of the document.

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9. Robust Customer Support

Customer Support is a big part of any service provider. It ensures that clients are happy and bridges the gap between them and the Service Provider. Customer Support can comes in the form of a Project Manager, Account Manager, Technical Support, Helpdesk, and more.

In recent years, human customer support has slowly been replaced by robots. It is not a bad thing. as long as you are happy with the services then they’re doing a wonderful thing.

10. Revision and Aftersales Policy

Even after the translation is complete, sometimes you may want to come back and ask the translation agency to improve on a few things that you are quite not yet satisfied with. You want to remove all of the inconsistencies between the original text and the translated text that you found.

Aftersales services like this are extremely important. At pTranslate, we offer up to 1-year free revision services for all of our clients’ translations.

11. Translators must be native

Being native is a huge plus when it comes to finding a translator.

If you decide to work with a translation agency, make sure that they provide you with native translators only. Language is not something that can be easily learned. It has to be acquired through constant interaction with people who speak the language. That’s not to mention the deep cultural understanding that native translators have. A foreign translator will definitely have a hard time getting into the “mood” of the translation due to cultural differences.

A non-native French translator may not understand French culture as deeply as a native French translator unless the non-native French translator has lived in France for a long period of time. Even if the non-native translator did live in France for a long period of time, they will still be heavily influenced by the culture of their native country. In other words, only natives understand their cultures the most, and only natives can incorporate these cultural nuances into their translation

12. Transparency

Being transparent is all about disclosing necessary information to the clients. Some unfortunate clients have had negative experiences with translation agencies because they weren’t well-informed about the procedures of the company. These translation agencies deliberately make their clients misunderstand the services they offer. This is an unsustainable business practice, and should not be implemented by any means.

13. Robust Workflow Management System

McDonald’s rose to be the King of the fast-food industry thanks to its ultra-efficient workflow management system. They reduce unnecessary tasks and movements to a minimal level to increase the speed of services while maintaining quality to a superb degree.

Translation agencies with efficient workflow will rise above others. An efficient workflow must allow for constant communication through all stages of the translation process. The project managers, translators, reviewers can exchange ideas without any hindrance. Translators can have access to translation memory tools, writing assistants, and other technologies that enable exceptional translation quality and consistency. While they work, the client can communicate with them at any time. Operations professionals can be present to support the translators and clients around the clock.

14. Experience with Translation Memory (TM) tools

Translation Memory tools increase consistency and reduce error rate. For formulaic and repetitive documents, such as legal texts, Translation Memory is necessary. These documents have a predefined format and terms that get repeated over and over again. TM saves those terms and compiles them into a glossary. When the terms appear again, it suggests the meaning for the translator. The translator can then choose to select the term or retranslate it completely, depending on the context.

TM is not involved in the translation process. It is more of a helpful robot that helps translators increase their speed, accuracy, consistency, and bring satisfaction to the clients. They can even preserve the “tone” and “style” of your document if used correctly.

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pTranslate is a translation and localization agency for businesses and individuals. We offer world-class language services at a competitive price and exceptional quality. Our goal is to eliminate the language barriers and connect the world.

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