How to get value from your translation service provider

How to get value from your translation service provider

5 translation tips for added value

Value. What does it mean? Is it getting up at 4 am to queue for a new television in the annual Black Friday circus? Probably not. We’re here to tell you there is another, much simpler way to get value from your translation service without resorting to extreme measures.

Here at Geo Language Services we often get asked how companies can reduce the cost of their translation projects and still ensure high quality, accurate translations. Increasingly, we get asked whether Google Translate can do the job.

Unmanaged, free, instant machine translation like Google Translate may seem like the perfect solution, but if you’ve ever typedGoogle translate blunders into a search engine you’ll know it’s not the case. There’s a high cost to pay if you end up with inaccurate translations.

So how can you ensure quality, accurate translations and reduce costs? Here, we share our top 5 tips for getting that much-wanted value.

#1 A great brief is the perfect starting point

We all know that time costs money (though real life teaches us that much depends on your level of interest…). One of the main reasons that a translation project can become protracted and start to cost more money is that things aren’t clear from the start. Misunderstandings, numerous queries and lots of ‘toing and froing’ between translators, agencies and clients can mean that timelines slip, deadlines could get missed and costs could rise.

One of the ways we help our clients is by taking a really comprehensive brief right from the start. This way we can all be sure that we understand the objectives for the project and that all factors have been addressed. In my experience this can throw up questions for the client that they hadn’t thought about before, and these questions can also save money in the long term- so forgive us if we ask lots of questions it’s because we care.

#2 Make sure the source text is optimised for translation

It goes without saying that your source text should be the final version, signed off by all relevant parties and ready for translation. Changes made further down the line will slow down the process and may have cost implications.

However, another important factor before handing over your source text is whether it’s optimised for translation. Are there words and phrases that are going to create problems further down the line? Metaphors, idioms and cultural references are not straightforward to translate – some will be impossible to translate. Instead these should be written in a clear and concise way that anyone can understand whatever their language or culture.

Also – check for consistency. Are you using the same terms and phrases consistently throughout your text? If you are, the translation provider will be able to use a translation memory to speed up the process, and this has cost benefits for you.

If your text is intended for use in an MT system you may also need to agree some pre-editing rules with your translation service provider on anything from sentence length to tense used.

#2 Ask about Translation Memory (TM) & Machine Translation (MT)

In our humble opinion machine translation (MT) like Google Translate is not the definitive answer to your translation woes, but it does have its place when in the hands of translation agencies with experience in the post-editing of machine translation output. Indeed, post-editing is now so mainstream in translation agencies that there is now an ISO standard (ISO 18587) governing expectations of light/full post editing of machine translation, but this is a subject for another blog post.

Translation memory (TM) is another, highly proven technology that allows us to deliver great cost savings to our clients. Essentially it’s a database of everything we translate for you. It speeds up the translation process by checking the database for full and part matches with previously translated text, and it means we don’t have to translate text from scratch if we can find an appropriate match.

For you, our clients, translation memory saves you money because you aren’t paying for retranslation of the same text. It also allows us to translate content more quickly. On the quality level it also gives us several advantages: it helps to ensure consistency of terms and phrases used across your documents (especially important for large or ongoing projects), and most TM tools have customisable QA functions which enable us to programme them to automatically flag up anything from missing full stops to inconsistent terminology.

#3 Get more for your money

At the risk of sounding like an obvious logical fallacy, another way of reducing costs is actually to get more done. Think about the big picture when outsourcing your translation project. What other supporting documents or marketing assets will need translating? Are there links between different pieces of content that would require more translation – such as a PDF linked to a translated webpage, cover letters to support a direct mail campaign, an automatic email reply translated to handle any queries?

Economies of scale mean that translation service providers are able to deliver a large project more quickly and at a lower price than if you broke that project into lots of different individual jobs.

#4 Always use the experts

As with so many things, it’s often a false economy to go for a cheap or one-size-fits-all solution instead of an experienced provider. The key benefit of using expert translation providers – and of course we modestly put ourselves in that category! – is that the end result will be a high quality, accurate translation, aligned with your objectives, local market and industry. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort making sure our translation processes are proficient and this is recognised in our ISO 17100 quality certification. ISO 17100 ensures that your translation is carried out by a native subject expert translator and reviewed by a second translator with equal or additional competence, then rigorously QA checked by our own trained in house team.

The cost of a poor translation is not just about putting mistranslations right. Damage to your reputation is not as easy to quantify, but often costlier. Having invested considerable sums in launching into a new market, consider what it might cost you if a bad translation backfires on your brand.

When you select a translation service provider, always check the following:

  • Are their translators native speakers in the target language?
  • Do they offer genuinely independent proofreading?
  • Are they ISO 17100 or ISO 18587 certified?
  • Do their translators have subject matter expertise relevant to your needs?
  • Can they handpick translators for each project, ensuring the best person for different types of material? Marketing, website, product sheets, etc.
  • How rigorous is their internal Quality Assurance system?

If you’re comparing different translation service providers, or are assessing your existing arrangements, take the above points into consideration. Comparing providers on price alone will not necessarily give you an accurate idea of whether you’re getting good value, but if you factor in these points, you’ll know you’re receiving the best for your money.

For a chat about your translation requirements, get in touch with our team! Call +44 (0)1483 577 750 or email

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