Web Marketing Today

How to Choose a Translation Vendor; 4 Steps

Editor’s note: We welcome Rebecca Ray as our newest contributor. She is senior analyst at independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory, where she focuses on enterprise globalization, social media, multilingual SEO, and global product development.

If your web analytics show increasing traffic from other countries, it may be time to consider translating your content. In this entry, I share four easy steps to help you identify the right translation partner for your business.

Step 1. Leverage Word of Mouth

Ask colleagues, contacts at other companies, friends, and family if they can recommend a company, based on their experiences. However, resist the temptation to hire a student from the local university or a colleague who offers to edit the output from Google Translate. The professional translators engaged by language service providers will be more expensive, but they are worth the money. That’s because they know the exact terminology and style to apply to your website content, your search engine optimization keywords, and your email campaigns. And they will deliver on time.

Some reputable suppliers apply machine translation, as a first pass, to keep your costs down. But they always have human editors who perform at least one editing pass, if not more, depending on your quality requirements.

Step 2. Consult Professional Associations and Market Research

If you come up dry with word of mouth, don’t despair. There are other resources, such as professional associations like Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) and Association of Language Companies (ALC). These sites also provide information on topics such as the role of the translation vendor, how to choose one, and directories of potential suppliers. Multilingual Computing is also a good resource for best practices in the translation industry. It also contains advertisements from language service providers.

Other places to explore include your local chamber of commerce and local chapters of international trade organizations. On the web, consult your local yellow pages — for example, type “San Diego Yellow Pages” and then search on “translation company.” If you want to work with a larger vendor that can cover many language combinations — i.e., English to French, English to Spanish — and offers a large variety of services, check out “The Top 100 Language Service Providers” from my employer, Common Sense Advisory.

Step 3. Determine Your Selection Criteria

Once you have a few names, look them up on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, in addition to checking out their websites. That will give you a feel for the types of services they offer and the way they approach their potential customers. Now it’s time to develop your list of selection criteria. Here are some questions that you should consider.

  • Do you need a lot of hand-holding?
  • Are you looking for guidance on how to build and manage a multilingual website?
  • Does your company produce highly technical content?
  • Do you require interpretation services as well as translation?
  • Are you hoping to find someone to answer correspondence in your translated language?
  • Do you need development expertise to localize an app?

Create a comprehensive list of your requirements and then decide the importance of each one. That way, you can make your decision much more objectively. The following tables show one way to assemble this data, with “5” being the most important, and “1” being the least. In hypothetical scenario below, “Candidate 1″ receives a score of 114.5 out of a possible 132.5. Do this for each candidate and compare the results to support your decision-making process.

 

Requirement

Importance

Highest Possible Score

Total

1. Vendor must be local

5

5

25

2. Spanish and Chinese

5

5

25

3. Technical guidance for website

3

5

15

4. Experience with similar projects

4.5

5

22.5

5. Pricing

4

5

20

6. Off-site backup

5

5

25

Total

132.

Requirement

Importance

Candidate 1

Total

1. Vendor must be local

5

5

25

2. Spanish and Chinese

5

5

25

3. Technical guidance for website

3

4

12

4. Experience with similar projects

4.5

3

13.5

5. Pricing

4

3.5

14

6. Off-site backup

5

5

25

Total

114.5

Step 4. Develop a List of Screening Questions

Based on your selection criteria, the next step is to build a list of questions to be used when interviewing your top candidates. Here are some sample questions that follow from the criteria presented in the tables above. The actual questions you use would depend on your circumstances.

  1. “Please point us to examples of projects in Spanish (for the U.S. market) related to websites with an ecommerce component for small companies.”
  2. “Can you come to our location for meetings or to help train our website team?”
  3. “How do you verify that the translators and editors assigned to our project have the right level of competence?”
  4. “Describe how you will keep our data confidential and safe, even during natural disasters.”

Cost

Translation prices vary widely, based on languages, industry, special terminology, and word count. Common Sense Advisory’s 2012 survey of more than 3,700 suppliers in 114 countries, using 220 language pairs, found that the average per-word rate for translation for the 30 most commonly used languages on the web fell from $0.205 in 2010 to $0.134 in 2012 — a drop of 34.71 percent. Since 2008, prices have decreased by 41.58 percent.

Note that I’ll address the details of pricing and contract negotiation issues in next month’s post.

Summary

Embarking on your first translation project, especially when it involves your public-facing website, can seem like a major challenge. However, if you follow the above guidelines for identifying and selecting a reputable language service provider in a systematic and objective way, you’re well on your way to meeting that challenge. You can then focus on building a long-term relationship with that supplier that will help you grow your business.

Rebecca Ray
Rebecca Ray
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Comments ( 6 )

Have Something To Say ?

  1. Richard Michie November 5, 2012 Reply

    Great article and some very good points on choosing a supplier. Translation so often gets left to the last minute it makes sense to do some research. These tips should help companies choose translation suppliers they can trust to deliver quality translations.

    • Rebecca Ray November 21, 2012 Reply

      Thanks for the positive feedback, Richard! We have confirmed in our research that buyers actually control the quality they get, whether or not they specify it.
      The more information a prospective translation supplier has up-front, the more precise their quote can be. In addition, it allows them to deliver much better quality.

  2. SM November 13, 2012 Reply

    A very interesting article. Most of your saying is almost true. I run a translation agency and am a translator myself for more than 2 decades (do you remember I asked you if you would like me to do the translation of your website about 10 years ago?). At least one thing I can say is, “less expensive, less quality”. If you try to find a translation agency to translate your websites for $0.13 per word, the result will be disaster…

    • Rebecca Ray November 21, 2012 Reply

      Interesting that you mention the link between price and quality. We just opened a survey on that very topic this week. We will publish the results in January. If you’re interested in participating, here’s the link:
      https://www.research.net/s/Z8B3NR3
      (Sorry – I wasn’t at Common Sense Advisory 10 years ago, so I can’t comment on your offer.)

  3. Jose Luis Cortes November 15, 2012 Reply

    Rebecca,
    Beautiful article! Full of useful information and very important numbers. Also, the links provided are extremelly useful. Thanks! I will be looking forward to the next article!!

    • Rebecca Ray November 21, 2012 Reply

      Thanks for letting us know that it was useful for you. Feel free to send me any topics that you would like us to cover related to translation, localization, or global business. We’ll do our best!

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