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Is That Online Translation Really Free?

The idea that using an online translation tool to translate materials for free has a certain appeal. It is no surprise that many are tempted to use these free tools to translate materials for their company; the idea of saving money on a service is attractive. However, while a free online translation might give you the basic idea of what a text says, the saying “you get what you pay for” is certainly true with regard to translation. A free translation is likely to contain errors. What’s more, if used in place of a professional translation service, using the free version could actually cost you money instead. You likely already know that large translation blunders are risky. If you were a hospital administrator, would you take a chance on free translation software at the risk of your patients? Even a mistake in the wording of instructions for taking medicine could make the difference between life and death in the most severe cases. A translation error like that could cause a major lawsuit, resulting in significant losses for your company or organization.

Even if your translation error is not likely to result in something so significant, it could end up costing you more in the long run. If your customers notice the, it could impact your company’s reputation of professionalism. At this point, you may hire a professional translation company to fix the error. It will also cost you more time than if you had translated it correctly the first time. In addition, if you have already printed the translation in a brochure or other material, you will end up with extra production and printing costs to replace the incorrectly translated versions, also costing you more in time and production in the long run.

If you are looking for ways to save on translation, keep the following in mind:

  • Plan ahead. Sending your project to a translation company with plenty of time before it is due will help you avoid rush fees.
  • Is there a large amount of text? Check with the translation company about bulk discounts, especially if there is a lot of repetition throughout.
  • Avoid very small projects to avoid minimum fees. Otherwise, you will pay extra to compensate for the time spent in managing the project. It is best to combine several small projects into one larger project for a better overall rate.

While there may be a cost up front to translate your materials if you opt to use a professional translation service instead of the free translation software, the aforementioned tips may help lower your overall cost, especially knowing that the “free” translation you received online may not actually be free for your company’s reputation and budget in the long run.

Quality as a differentiator in translation? Think again...

When asked what makes your company different from others in your industry, what do you tell people? What truly makes you stand out? If your answer is quality, think again. Everyone's selling quality these days. Sure, it's fine to point out that you utilize high-quality materials or services to deliver the final product to your clients, but that's not really what makes you different. At least, it shouldn't be. The same is true in the world of translation. We don't know of a single translation vendor who would say they don't sell quality services to their clients. If you find one, please let us know. If you're not selling a quality product, why sell anything at all? So rather than listening to a translation vendor brag about its quality and accuracy in translation, (which should be a given) find out what makes the vendor different than its competitors. What makes it unique within the Translation and Interpreting (T&I) industry and stand out among other vendors? What will make you choose one vendor over another when it comes time to purchase translation?

From our own clients at ATS, we've heard several things that help them in making a decision. Here are the top 3 we hear most often:

1. A Personal (and Personable) Experience: Clients want to feel that their project is important, no matter the size or scope. If they have to deal with a lot of red tape in order to receive the translation, they'll soon look elsewhere. Personal experiences don't always mean local ones. Many of our clients are all over the United States and world and have been referred by colleagues and other clients. Why don't they choose a more local vendor? Well, just like any shopping experience, they want to go with a service they've heard will serve them well.

We try to offer that experience to all of our clients. We want to know about our clients and what they do in order to better serve them by respecting their time and allow them to make their decisions based on the information we can make available to them. Even though we may never have the chance to meet them in person, we want our clients to know we value them and can add value to their business or organization by providing them with a seamless communication experience across languages.

2. Specializations: Our linguists specialize. What does this mean? It means we won't send a clinical trial consent form to a translator who specializes in automotive texts simply because her native language is the target* language for this client. We make sure our linguists are specialists in the area(s) they translate, as well as natives of the target language with the education and training necessary to complete the translation as though it were originally written in the target language.

Although specialized linguists might not be a huge differentiator in the T&I industry, it can be the difference between a professional service and language student or instructor from a local language department. Consider your industry's terminology and the complications that arise when complex topics are discussed with those outside the industry. Now, consider the complications that could arise from having the document translated by someone who does not specialize or has little knowledge in the area.

3. Thoroughness: One very special point in which our team at ATS takes great pride is thoroughness. In providing our clients with specialized linguists who work on their texts, we know that our work is thorough. To add to this, we make sure to ask our clients questions about the text itself before we ever touch it. To name a few: Who will be reading the text? What might be confusing to them or has possibly been confusing to those who have read the English text in the past? What industry-specific terms should be maintained in English? Will our clients have in-country reviewers working alongside our team to develop the text for readership in other countries and markets? In what format do our clients prefer to receive the translated documents or materials?

Thoroughness is a broad differentiator. So, if your potential vendor expresses that you'll receive a thorough or accurate translation, ask them to break down what they mean by "thorough" and "accurate". We often have new buyers ask us, "How will I know it's an accurate translation? I don't speak Spanish." That's where we come in. And we further explain how we are able ensure the thorough, accurate and yes, top quality job they seek. But we don't do it just like our competitors. We have other differentiators that add incredible value for our clients, and quality is just a given.

*target language: The language into which the text will be translated. For example, if a client requests that a document be translated from American English into Canadian French, the source language is American English and the target is Canadian French.

Quality Assurance in Translation: 3 Questions to Ask your Provider

Quality Assurance is something promised by all language providers, or at least, it should be. However, what makes the QA process from one provider different from that of another? How do you know that the process will work for your translation project? These are two questions you should be thinking about if you are in the market to purchase translations, and here are some tips to help you.

Ask about the overall process before you contract the provider.This can save you a lot of questions from superiors and your own clients. How do you know that the translation will be accurate and free of errors? Do you speak the second language (of the translation) well enough to assess it? We love when our new clients ask, "Well, how do I know that the translation is correct?" Obviously there must be a strong sense of trust in handing over documents for translation to a provider. So, interview the provider and inquire about the overall processes. If you see any red flags, this could be a sign to shop elsewhere. You should hear answers about the process that ensure proofreading, editing, final revisions and collaboration among the linguists who will work on your project. Objective revisions that ensure quality are key, whereas subjective changes should be avoided.

Require that changes made to the text be handled by the linguists themselves. This may seem apparent, but there are providers who will request more information from the linguist as they prepare your documents for delivery without having the linguist review the actual file. Ask that all revisions to files be made directly by the linguist (not over the phone, not via an instant email message or chat, but to the document itself). This way, you can rest assured that the linguist was able to review the file in its entirety when making the revision, which is crucial in the QA process. Without complete context, one might not have enough information to properly revise a phrase or paragraph, and this is where errors can easily occur.

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working professionals_image

Ask what tools your providers uses in the QA process.Does your provider keep client-specific glossaries, Translation Memories (TMs) and a style guide on hand and provide these to the linguists who will work on the project? Will your provider be willing to work with your in-country reviewers, if you have them? What evaluations does the provider have for its linguists and how are they reevaluated for their work?

These three tips will help you to understand the translation process and quality assurance of translations more, as you decide which provider is best for your company. Quality Assurance processes are found in all industries, and the translation and interpreting industry is no different. If your potential or current provider cannot answer your questions directly and without hesitation, it might be time to shop elsewhere.