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Choosing a Translation Service

Jan 2015

Language ,

Choosing a Translation Service

The world is more interconnected than it has ever been. With only a few taps, the internet can put us in instant contact with people scattered across other cities, countries and continents.

It is truly astonishing.

However, with that closeness comes the necessity of accurate communication. Customers expect to be able to understand you. If they are provided with a message they can’t read, they simply won’t stick around.

Unless you happen to be multilingual, transporting your message across borders requires the input of a translator or interpreter. Unfortunately, not all linguists were created equal. To ensure a quality finished product, you have to do some legwork to find the best provider for you.

Here are some of the things you should be thinking about.


Define Your Project

You must understand what you want to achieve with your project. You can’t enter with a half-baked specification and expect your translator to whip up a wonderful finished product. It just doesn’t work that way.

Identify your target audience, decide on tone, specify specific terminology, state expected applications. Fill project documents with as much detail as you can provide. Think of these details as scaffolding for your translator or interpreter to work around.

On that note, take a minute to learn the difference between translator and interpreter.

A translator takes words or text from one language and transports them to another. An interpreter takes speech and translates it orally. Interpretation and translation are similar but distinct. A good translator will not always make a good interpreter and vice versa.



It’s hard to objectively assess the skills of an agency when you don’t understand all the languages they do. One way to get around this is problem is by looking at an organisation’s accreditation. There are numerous bodies in the UK which accredit language service provider. When awarded, these accreditations signify that an agency performs at a minimum defined standard.

However, not all accrediting bodies are identical. Find out as much as you can about their accrediting body. How does it audit agencies? How rigorous are its standards? Is it respected within the industry?


Check Quality Assurance

An agency’s quality assurance policy is very much linked to their accreditation. Most accrediting bodies will assess the processes and policies in place to ensure they maintain a certain level of quality.

Feel free to ask to see copies of these documents as they’ll illustrate how an agency’s translation process works and how they catch and correct errors. If there is anything you don’t understand, make sure you ask.


Discuss Your Project

No matter how small your project, you should always hold meetings with prospective agencies to discuss the details. Dig down into your project and discuss goals, expectations, timescales, output formats, style and expected obstacles.

This gives you a chance to see how an agency works and how they would approach a project. Additionally, it provides the agency an opportunity to address any concerns and make any recommendations they may have.

If an agency is willing to accept your project without such a meeting, it’s not a good sign. Likewise, if an agency won’t hold meetings before you agree to use their services, it is an equally bad sign.


Study Samples

As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Ask prospective agencies for examples of past work – they’ll likely have a prepared portfolio to show clients. Read over the pieces, checking for style and accuracy.


How do you weed the good from the bad? Tell us your secret tactics on Twitter. (We won’t tell anyone. Promise.)

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