How To Choose A Translation Agency

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Written by: pTranslate Contributors


We are living in an interconnected world. More and more companies and businesses are finding ways to enter foreign markets and capitalize on the opportunities these countries offer. In the process, they need to translate a lot of documents, content, and writings to the languages of those target countries. When the translation volume is too large, it can be inefficient to hire in-house translators and coordinate everything on your own. 

Many companies seek out translation agencies to help them handle their complex translation projects.

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. Finding translators with such a high level of skill is not easy. Translation agencies are here to provide international companies with well-vetted translators who can effortlessly take on all of their translation projects.

Of course, not all translation agencies were born equal. You need to know how to find a translation agency. It is advised that companies build a list of criteria that they want to find in translation agencies before finding one. Below is a list of criteria that we found to be the most commonly sought out by global enterprises when they want to choose a translation agency for their projects.

  1. Industry Expertise
  2. Quality Control Process
  3. Availability of Language Pairs
  4. Non-disclosure Agreements
  5. Translator Quality
  6. In-country Expertise
  7. Availability of Complementary Services
  8. Good Customer Support
  9. Pricing
  10. Aftersales Service

1. Industry Expertise

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.

2. Quality Control Process

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.

3. Availability of 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.

Some agencies offer only a limited number of language pairs. These agencies rely on geographical advantages to provide translation services for rare language pairs.

There are a lot of translators specializing in language pairs with English as the source language or the target language. This is understandable, as English is the most widely spoken language in the world.

There are much fewer translators specializing in language pairs without English as the source language or the target language. For example, it can be hard to find a translator specializing in Spanish – French in English-speaking countries, while it is much easier to find them in Spanish-speaking or French-speaking countries.

If you want to translate language pairs with English, you can go to pretty much any major translation agency out there. However, if you want to translate rarer language pairs without English, you should go to translation agencies in the regions that have native translators of those languages. For example, if you want to translate from Thai to Vietnamese, it is easier to go to translation agencies based in Vietnam or Thailand than translation agencies based in Western countries.

Of course, many translation agencies have offices in a lot of cities around the world, allowing them to connect with native translators who specialize in those niche language pairs.

4. Non-disclosure Agreements

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, clients sometimes require the translation agency to protect their information through Non-disclosure Agreements.

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.

In an NDA, both parties agree to clearly-stated terms that the translation agency will not use the data and information they’re provided with, and all information related to the client will not be disclosed or shared in any forms, for any purposes.

5. Translator Quality

Not all translators are born equal. Some are gifted with a talent for language and can effortlessly select from their rich vocabulary the most suitable words to use in the translation. 

A good translation agency knows how to find those gifted translators.

Translators are sourced through credible translators’ organizations, freelancer platforms, and real-life connections in the industry. Freelance translators can apply direct to pTranslate and become a part of our ever-growing team of translators through our Freelancer Application Form

After that, our translators have to go through a rigorous talent selection process. Applicants have to provide their CV, in which their work experience is outlined. They also need to provide samples as proof of experience and expertise. Once they pass the first round, all of the new translators will take the Linguistic Competence test, so that pTranslate’s HR team can gauge their capabilities. Once they pass the test, they will officially become a part of the pTranslate’s family.

However, that doesn’t mean translators can’t grow when working at pTranslate. In order to bring our clients the best services, only the best translators are kept. We have a system that rates translators based on reviewers’ feedback and client’s feedback. Translators who don’t meet our quality standards will be demoted, or worse, dismissed.

6. In-country Expertise

Being native is a huge plus.

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

7. Availability of 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 can impact from the linguistic to the non-linguistic aspects of your translation.

7.1. Desktop Publishing Services (DTP)

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.

7.2. Free Trial Translation

Free Trial Translation is not practical. We advise you to not use free trial translations for your projects. However, when you have a large translation project, or when you are working with a translation agency for the first time, and you want to “test the waters”, we recommend that you go for a free trial. 

Many translation agencies offer free trial translation services for a limited number of word count or pages. This is an excellent opportunity for you to make any changes to your style guides, if necessary. 

You can have a look at pTranslate’s Free Trial Translation service.

7.3. Proofreading and Editing Services

Sometimes you don’t want to go for a translation, but only a proofreading service or editing service. Most of the time the documents being proofread have complex content with specialized terminology, and only professional proofreaders and editors can take on such projects. 

Many translation agencies offer proofreading and editing services on request. If you want to add an extra layer of quality control to your translations, feel free to ask your translation agency for it. Many of them will gladly help you. 

8. Good 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.

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. 

9. 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?

10. Aftersales Services

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.

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About pTranslate

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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