Buying translation services – a beginners’ guide

If you’re new to buying translation services, there are a few things you should – and should not – do. If you get it right, you can save money, make money and enhance your image. Cut corners and get it wrong and the opposite may be the result. Here’s a beginners’ guide.



Dictionaries on a bookshelf

What do you want to do with it?

First thing is to decide what do you want to do with the translation. Is it for information only or is it a marketing brochure or contract, for example? If it’s a staff notice about the coffee machine you can probably afford for your text to sound stilted because it wasn’t a native or a professional who translated it. But what if it’s a legal contract or a sales brochure? A billion is not the same in the US and the UK, and a flat in Sweden or Norway on ‘the first floor’ is where we in the UK call ‘the ground floor’. A professional translator will be familiar with such pitfalls and be able to avoid them.


What’s wrong with using Google Translate?

Google Translate is great for getting the gist of things, and it’s getting better. But it’s not designed for text that has to be accurate. Even Google itself disclaims warranties of accuracy and reliability for the service: “This service may contain translations powered by Google. Google disclaims all warranties related to the translations, express or implied, including any warranties of accuracy, reliability, and any implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and non infringement.”


Why use a professional translator?

Professional translators translate for a living. They take words in one language and replace them with words in another. But it is so much more than just words, it is having the skill to stand back from the words, understand and convey the meaning. They usually have university degrees in translation studies and will have spent time living in the country of their target language. They translate into their native language or language of habitual use and their translated texts don’t read like they’re translations.

The CFO of a bus company once approached me after I had given a talk and told me with great pride how they had hired some Russian bus drivers. They had got one of them who was good at English to translate an operating manual. That feeling of being pleased may quicky evaporate. What if a bus driver did something wrong and caused an injury because of following an operating instruction that was translated wrongly? And who was checking the translation?


Why buy translation services from a language service provider?

Buying translation services from a language service provider (LSP) like ours add value for many reasons. We have a pool of translators so we can match the right one to your project. A legal contract requires a legal translation specialist, software strings are best translated by an IT translator rather than a generalist who is good with a dictionary. For the maritime industry, our language specialists know all about acronyms in the shipping world like AIS, IMO, FOCs and the ITF. If the translator does not understand what s/he is translating, the reader is likely to be left puzzled too.


As standard, we apply the rule that translations should also be reviewed by a separate linguist, who checks for accuracy, errors and omissions. We vet our linguists, check their qualifications and we work as a team. On multilingual projects, any questions and answers are shared so everyone benefits from a common endeavour and shared understanding. Pre-delivery checks and quality control iron out any final wrinkles.


Translation companies also offer project management, file conversions and standardised presentation of multilingual projects. This has a price tag, but can save you hours of work.


We use specialist software known as CAT tools, like SDL Studio. They ensure consistency of terminology and make the process faster by never translating the same sentence twice. They cut costs too as they ‘remember’ previously translated sentences, for example from an earlier project.




Top points when buying translation services:

  • If it’s for an international readership, we can simplify the language.
  • Do you need everything in a document translated, or can you save money by only translating parts of it?
  • Be sensitive – what works well in one country may be offensive in another.
  • Consider if you need UK or US English. German – is it for Germany, Switzerland or Austria?
  • Be helpful – supply reference material, company style guides, links to websites etc. Help us to get it right.
  • Be specific in what you want. We can help you define that.
  • Cheap, fast and high quality combined does not exist.


Get in touch today and let’s talk about how we might help you with your translation needs.

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