Have Questions Before Buying Translation? Ask these Instead!

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Here you are, on the hunt for a professional translation service for your business needs. Maybe your company aspires to do business abroad and you need business translation services. Or maybe you are in negotiations with international business partners and you need professional interpreting specializing in business jargon to take the partnership to the next level.    

Whatever the reason may be, you prowled Google, asked colleagues for recommendations, and researched language services providers (LSPs) to discover what differentiators will work best with your needs.

Now it is time to ask your candidates the hard-hitting questions to finalize your decision.

Unfortunately, many ask the wrong questions when inquiring about languages services. Here are a few examples of the wrong questions to ask, followed by a corresponding superior question that will result in more valuable information.

Wrong: Who are your translators and what are their qualifications?
Right: How do you define quality and what is an error?

Established LSPs will have a system in place for measuring translator’s & interpreter’s qualifications, and only utilize those resources who produce the best work. So, it is more important to ask how they define a quality translation rather than who the language professionals are.

Also, it is important to inquire about what the LSP’s definition of an error is. For example, if a translator translates a word to “happy” instead of “glad”, that is not an error. But if a language professional translates “increase” instead of “decrease”, that is a major error.

Wrong: What does your process look like?
Right: How do you measure quality and what do you do for quality improvement?

Yes – knowing the translation process can be insightful for its own sake but questioning how they measure and improve the quality of their processes reveals more relevant information. You want your language services partner to consistently review their processes, seeking areas of improvement to serve their customers better.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) tools are one example of implementing a quality improvement process. ISO is an independent, non-governmental, international organization that brings together experts from over 160 different countries to develop international standards for almost every industry. If an organization is ISO certified, that is a huge leg-up over organizations that are not.

Wrong: Can you translate (X) number of documents?
Right: How can you help us with this project?

Asking an LSP a generic capabilities statement is not thorough enough to know how they can contribute to your project goals. First, explain the details of your project to the LSP, then let them tell you how they can help. You may find that with their robust experience, they have suggestions you did not think of.

For example, let’s say you need your website translated. There are many components within website localization that go beyond translating words. The LSP may offer to help with search engine optimization for that language and region being targeted or dig deeper into the targeted culture to make sure appropriate colors and images are used.


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