Best Practices

Top 4 Misconceptions About What's Important in a Translation Provider

Sometimes what people think they want is the opposite of what they truly need. Wise words when it comes to describing how translation buyers often approach their translation needs and requirements.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min
Table of Contents

Sometimes what people think they want is the opposite of what they truly need. Wise words when it comes to describing how translation buyers often approach their translation needs and requirements. It’s not that the concerns are wrong or illegitimate. But often they are symptoms of a much bigger picture that will achieve better results if addressed systemically as opposed to a reductionistic causal analysis. Let’s explain this in English now. :)

Statement 1: I am worried about whether your translators can handle our terminology

While that is a legitimate concern, the question could be framed more productively. Many clients assess translation quality by assigning sample translation tests or even terminology lists to agencies. Agencies will then complete these tests and clients will then judge who best performed and determine the winner. But there is the testing fallacy: testing tests for how good someone is at getting tested and is not necessarily a measure or indicator of future performance. Rather than focusing on the ability to produce on-demand a high-quality test, it’s more productive to assess the overall framework used to tackle terminology with the right questions and in order of importance:

  • Is the knowledge-based centralized and cloud-based?
  • Do different people have different levels of read/write permissions?
  • Can translators add terminology while they translate?
  • Can stakeholders change terminology whenever convenient?
  • Is there a process for terminology extraction?
  • What is the process of translating and validating terminology?
  • Are there tools to ensure that glossaries are being followed?
  • Can we measure the overall performance of this component?

These questions will paint a very clear picture of how likely a given agency will be able to build and maintain terminology governance at scale. They are a greater indicator of future success than a single terminology test and allow buyers to really look under the hood.The takeaway is that looking at the framework is typically more important than looking at the output for any given process. It’s like a house. You can always work on the interior design but redoing the foundation will be a major headache.

Statement 2: I am worried about how you select your translators.

Lots of buyer concern revolves around the translator vetting process:

  • How are they chosen?
  • How many tests do they go through?
  • How many degrees do they have?

While these questions may have their relevance, they are not deterministic as far as translation quality goes. Translators can often test incredibly well, go through several rounds of vetting and have all of the credentials but the key question remains: are they able to consistently deliver well and over time?Much more important than how well they test or how good they are on paper is:

  • How do we keep track of their performance over time?
  • How do we keep track of changes made by peer reviewers and clients and use this data to decide best who is the fittest translator for any given project?

This is similar to the testing fallacy. Distant glories are not indicative of future performance. Now, how someone performed yesterday on the same subject matter, that is indicative of how likely they are to perform tomorrow. Performance is more about the framework to keep track of data, share feedback and ensure that we are on a continuous improvement journey as opposed to a simple input -> output scenario.

Statement 3: I am worried about how much this will cost.

Many clients are particularly concerned about cost. And we get that. The challenge is that when it comes to cost, the cost of one translation project is typically not indicative of the cost over time. In our experience the methodology and framework matter more. Here are a few questions that will help you understand what kind of long-term costs you are looking at:

  • Is pricing per word or per net word?
  • Is there discounting according to translation memory tiers
  • How aggressive is that discounting?
  • How many extra fees will I be charged when handling multimedia files such as videos, e-Learning and Websites?

Some of our clients are able to save over 1MM per year on translation memory leveraging alone.

Statement 4: I am worried about how long it will take you to deliver.

Ability to deliver quickly always has strings attached. As a general rule, the fewer people working on a translation, the greater the consistency in tone, terminology and style and consequently overall quality perception. If we quote a 30 day turnaround with a single translator, we can reduce that turnaround time to 15 days if we add one more translator to the team and down to 7.5 days if we add a total of 4 translators. In cases where you have a wide variety of assets, it may not impact the overall perceived quality, but in cases where you have a single body of work such as a large marketing campaign, it could be detrimental to add many people to the team.It’s easy to deliver quickly. The challenge is to find a sustainable balance between quality expectations and the tight turnaround times required by the business world.


I am not good at many things, but I have become well versed in the art and science of producing high-quality translations across a wide range of specialties and languages. I realize that I know very little about most things I am trying to buy: a house, a car, a tool, or software. When it comes to buying things I don’t fully understand I tend to resort to the more glaring things such as the UI/UX of a software as opposed to the back-end, performance. Security and other less obvious characteristics and specifications. But beyond the focus on the more obvious aspect, it’s the ability to look at something throught time as opposed to as a frozen moment. A beautiful car may be attractive at the frozen moment but a dread to own every time you have to take into the shop for basic maintenance not to mention if you damage it. It’s challenging to understand things as moving through time when you do not have first hand experience of those things and its also challenging to trust Bureau Works when you don’t have a successful business partnership that sustains that trust. So what to do? Start small with us. Let us show you our worth and we will surprise you positively again and again.

Gabriel Fairman
Founder and CEO of Bureau Works, Gabriel Fairman is the father of three and a technologist at heart. Raised in a family that spoke three languages and having picked up another three over the course of his life, he has always been fascinated with the role language plays in identity and the creation of meaning. Gabriel loves to cook, play the guitar, tennis, soccer, and ski. As far as work goes, he enjoys being at the forefront of innovation and mobilizing people and teams together toward a mission. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Gabriel was honored with the 2023 Innovator of the Year Award at LocWorld Silicon Valley.
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