What is the best translator for your project?

business translation

Pros and cons of a translation agency, a freelance translator or a bilingual copywriter

Whether you’ve made a conscious decision to expand your business overseas or whether foreign clients have approached you with an opportunity you can’t refuse, it is important to choose the right language partner for your international business venture. Your translator will be responsible for all your communications with foreign markets: needless to say, you should have full confidence in their skills and reliability.

Read on to understand the role of the different language providers and the pros and cons of each solution.

The translation agency

Pros – potentially faster, may accept a broader range of file formats
Cons – more expensive, less control

A translation manager acts as a middleman between the client and the translator. Their role is to understand and clarify your business objectives, to describe the tone of your brand, to find and brief the translator(s), to ensure consistency across all translations and to make sure the translated documents are delivered in time. They should also control the quality of the copy by checking the credentials of the translators they work with, by organising appropriate proof-reading and by implementing their own quality control procedure. Finally, they are in a better position to handle urgent and large projects by involving several translators at once (although this may affect the consistency of the results - read my article on why it’s best to avoid urgent and large translation projects if you can help it).

The translator

Pros – cheaper, more control, better relationship and knowledge of your product and industry
Cons –potentially slower, file formats accepted will depend on the provider

Put simply, the translator delivers the work. Cutting-out the middleman can have many advantages: cheaper translation fee, less potential for miscommunication and more control. Working with one person is a good way to ensure greater consistency across your documents: a good translator will aim to become an expert in your products and services by asking many questions at the beginning of your relationship. If you’re happy to do the leg work (such as transferring web content into a Word document for them to access) and to be a little more patient, this can be an more economical arrangement with better results.

The copywriter

Pros – Better localised copy
Cons – potentially more work from you to start with

In many cases, your foreign copy may be best written directly in the local language. This will allow the copywriter to combine your objectives and requirements with local markets and cultural references. The job is completely different from that of a translator, and needs to start with your brief. Watch this space for my next article on how to brief your copywriter.

The free automated translation

Pros – Free
Cons – poor quality, no responsibility, often time consuming

I know you'd like me to say it's ok, that machine translation has come a long way, that it's prefectly fine to use it instead or payting a trained, qualified and experience specialist... Well, if there is ever a place for machine translation, it is exclusively restricted to a context where all parties are aware of it. For exemple, you may rely on it to help out in the absence of interpreter during a trip abroad or to quickly get the gist of an incoming email in French, but don't be fooled into thinking it a permanently acceptable solution. Using Google Translate to create a local version of your website or marketing copy or to prepare a tender bid is likely to result at best in embarrassment, at worth in expensive liability. Not to mention the hours wasted trying to make sense of it all. Read more about the dangers of Google Translate here.

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