The translation industry, like any other, has its good players and the not so good. Finding quality translation services can be crucial to your company’s success, and making a bad choice can cause a cascade of serious setbacks.
When you first approach it, it may be a daunting experience to sort out the options. You may get the idea that localization vendors offer out-of-reach-complex services with processes that you may only dimly understand. We can tell you, it doesn’t have to be that way. When you’re looking for a long-term partner for global expansion, here are some of the things you should avoid, as well as some of the more promising signs to look for.
6 Things You Won’t See from Quality Translation Services
Buyer beware! When you are ready to engage with a translation partner, you want the best service you can get without any unnecessary risks. While your translation needs are certainly unique, there are some practices that will suit no one. Here are seven red flags that should put you on alert.
1. Baby, it’s cold outside the black box
Your LSP shouldn’t treat the translation process as a mystery—by pulling your source language into an obscure pipeline and pushing your target language out the other end. Considering that you are entrusting your vital product content to a professional organization and paying for a service, it’s not unreasonable to ask about how your content will be handled, what the translators’ qualifications are, how they manage quality, and other operational details. Your concern is natural. Your language service provider (LSP) should be proud to meet you with transparency and accountability, demonstrating their industry expertise and creative solutions to your product and market challenges.
There would be no reason to hide quality translation services.
2. Promising the impossible
Take stock of sales techniques. LSPs can invent bells and whistles to talk about during the RFP/deal-making process that sound impressive and mean nothing for your job. Ask hard questions. A quality translation provider is going to be proud of what they offer and willing to be transparent and stand behind their work. Be particularly suspicious of promises that sound too good to be true. If an LSP promises you too much and won’t say how they’re going to do it, it’s probably because you won’t like the answer. They’ll cut corners somewhere—they may use non-native speakers or machine translations with minimal edits. Or there may be inevitable delays down the road.
Likewise, be wary if they’re setting unrealistic expectations about talent consistency to try to hook you. “We can promise the same team of translators and voice talent for the life of the project”—and other reassurances like that. Things happen—people move, get pregnant, change jobs, even die. These can be hard facts of life for an LSP. Your LSP cannot promise you that nothing will ever change. And as long as there is good quality management in place, linguists can change without a drop in quality. Voiceover talent, on the other hand, is not so easily replaced. Look for translation service providers that are willing to meet you honestly in reality. There are always challenges. The key is to acknowledge them and to work together to meet your goals in real circumstances.
3. Ripping you off
Transparency begins with pricing. You are in the market for translation, so you should be quoted a price for a translation—a specific and predictable sum per word for a high-quality translation. There are numerous ways to avoid this, however. You may be charged per word and then wind up paying a fee for a “verification step,” which means that the rate you pay is higher (maybe much higher) than the rate they quoted for “translation.”
Another way an LSP might overcharge you is with service charges such as fees to download files or convert a PDF. These things cost practically nothing to carry out but could end up costing you beyond your expectation and your budget, especially when all the little extras add up with more and more target languages.
4. Offering you a translation that’s “good enough”
You share responsibility with the LSP for finding the right level of service for you. If you do not follow through on that responsibility, an LSP may end up making pivotal decisions to suit their needs. A less-than-trustworthy vendor may be willing to sign off on “acceptable quality,” but that’s not going to fuel your ambitious global tour. The problem is that you have to trust your vendor to make certain calls and to support certain quality management systems. Unless you speak all of the languages you’ll be translating into, you can’t be responsible for managing the translation quality services directly. You need to be able to vet your partner from the start and trust in their commitment and capacity to rise up to your goals.
When your success depends on getting your message across to a new market, you don’t want a partner committed to anything less than exceptional translation quality because that will determine how far and how well you can take your product to foreign audiences. Challenge every potential vendor to show you how they regularly handle quality management for localization projects, how they build teams of linguists, how they support reliable in-country review.
5. Hoarding resources
In order to ensure consistency, efficiency, and high-quality translations, you really need strong terminology assets. Some translation vendors already have valuable systems in place to manage these assets; all of them should. But your task is not simply to find those LSPs that offer strong terminology assets to support linguists; your task is also to home in on the ones committed to handling your assets responsibly and to avoid those looking to take advantage of your assets. We’ll repeat the phrase “your assets” just one more time for effect.
If an LSP isn’t on board with the idea that translation memories, term bases, and style guides are an extension of your content resources, there’s nothing to say that they will make them available for your review or turn them over to you when asked—making it much harder for you to leave them for a better vendor partnership later on. There’s also no guarantee, in this way, that the vendor will properly maintain these assets and keep them up to date—which is the only way to benefit from the consistency and efficiency the assets would provide.
6. Selling you underdeveloped technology
An LSP can try to sell you on their tech, distracting you from many of the other important discussions and red flags. If the reality is that their technology is not as well developed as the sales rep suggests, it will need extensive layers of customization. Once you’re tens of thousands of dollars and many months into this unnecessary development, there’s no turning back. In essence, this is just like building a unique system from scratch—and your own developers probably could have done that. And there’s no assurance that this system will be sustainable.
It’s important that you get it right the first time and not waste your resources on empty promises. There are cutting-edge localization systems that are ready to go—platforms that can bring together all of your content and all of your stakeholders and continue to scale as you expand your reach. Look for evidence of a vendor’s current capacity to facilitate your intended workflow and to build integrations into an already-working system.
Knowing When a Translation Vendor Should Get the Green Flag
Honesty and quality should be basic expectations of a service provider, but you still have to look for them. To find quality translation services, you have to understand the way the LSP works and the way they charge for their services.
Ask penetrating questions, and make your needs clear; it’s an essential part of partnership. Ask about how they take advantage of automation. With a centralized, automated platform that is already operational, you can set up systems and integrations and then watch the progress of your content from beginning to end. That way, you can verify the quality of the service and understand clearly what you’re being charged for. As your business grows internationally, you’ll want to invest more in a transparent partnership like this because it’s on your side all the way.
The Bureau Works localization software provides a centralized platform for end-to-end automation of translation tasks with a high level of transparency. Our advanced technology and convenient CLI/API integration allow you to automate your workflow while preserving your grip of process and expense management. Contact our team to find out more about how we can help you meet your translation and marketing goals.
Written by Luciana Passos
Luciana is Bureau Work’s COO. She is known as a gap bridger and a heart follower.