Looking for a Translation Vendor? Know Before You Buy

With all of the technology available today, it is easy to think that translations can be easily accomplished, as long as you have the right software. After all, at the United Nations, representatives from all countries “plug themselves in” and immediately have the words of a speaker translated into their native language. Travelers have software uploaded in their smartphones – software that will immediately translate their words into the local language. Technology is truly a wonderful thing.

Post preview looking for a translation vendor know before you buy

With all of the technology available today, it is easy to think that translations can be easily accomplished, as long as you have the right software. After all, at the United Nations, representatives from all countries “plug themselves in” and immediately have the words of a speaker translated into their native language. Travelers have software uploaded in their smartphones – software that will immediately translate their words into the local language. Technology is truly a wonderful thing.

Sometimes, however, the technology cannot do it all. There are nuances, idiomatic expressions, and cultural idiosyncrasies of language, even within demographics of the same country. And so, it will be important, when looking for translation services, to determine whether they use only machine translation, only human translation, or some combination of both technical and human translation.

Questions to Ask Yourself Up Front

Before you can determine the type of translation services you need, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. How large and complex is my project? If the project is extensive and if it is profound, and especially if it involves unique terminology, machine translation may not suffice all on its own. There may need to be human translation too.
  2. What is the relationship level between the native and target language? If a translation is needed among “Romance” languages, then the machine translation may be more applicable and helpful. If, on the other hand, you need to translate a piece from English to Hindi, human translators will have to be involved.
  3. What are Your Deadline and Accuracy Parameters: This will determine the method (machine, human, or combination) that a translation service will choose to use. You need to be very specific about your requirements.
  4. How much are You Willing to Pay: Most services charge by the word, but provide discounts for lengthy projects. To save your time the project can be made with a help of machine translation. However if your project requires specific knowledge, it can be successfully completed only with a help of human translation, which will need more time, dedication and will influence on the cost.

Questions for Potential Vendors

  1. Are there levels of quality? There is a big difference between translating someone’s love letters found in an attic and a legal document which must bear the scrutiny of authorities. A professional service will have levels of quality and will use human, machine, or combination processes according to the quality required.
  2. Will they show you samples? This can be a privacy issue, but most reputable agencies will be able to provide samples of the type(s) of translation you need, as long as they redact any information that would reveal a client’s identity.
  3. Are there minimum and maximum fees? And are there any discounts? Most vendors will have a minimum fee, because a professional translator`s skills and time have certain value.  And fees may be based upon the level of quality you choose. Translating personal letters is a task that can be served by machine and perhaps beginner translators, while medical journal articles will require a highly-specialized translator and the highest quality level. The other factor in pricing is always the deadline.
  4. Is there a maximum capacity for a project you will accept? Most vendors will not have a maximum capacity limit. However, those that use human translation or a machine process only for post-translation editing, will require a longer time frame for completion.

When Vendors Use Only One Process

It is unlikely that you will find any vendor that uses only human translation, unless that vendor is very sector-specific, such as law or medicine. Most will actually use a combination of technology with human utilization for review and for more technical language. Human translators will also be necessary when the target language is rare.

Generally, vendors that use only humans, with perhaps a bit of post-editing technology, will charge more and the time frame will be longer. Be certain you nail all of this down before submitting a project.

You will also want to know that a potential vendor has developed or is using the latest technologies for translation. This is a field that is rapidly evolving, and any vendor you choose should be on top of these changes.

Your best bet is to find a vendor that is developed enough to offer all types of translation methodologies. This allows you to choose the best among them, depending upon the various types of translations you may need.

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