How to get the most from your translation services provider

by Karen Elwis

Selecting the right translation company is obviously a critical factor when it comes to ensuring top quality translation. However, if you are writing the source copy yourself, there are other important steps that you can take - even before you approach a translation provider - both to reduce your costs and to ensure that the final foreign language version of your text is fit for purpose.

There are various ways to help make sure your copy is "translation-friendly", the first being to ensure that the source text is carefully proof-read before you submit it to a translation company for a quote. Bear in mind that even the best tailor can't create a silk purse out of a sow's ear. In other words, if the source text isn't top notch, then transforming it into a first-rate translation is bound to involve a lot of extra work, which inevitably impacts on the end-cos... If a text doesn't make sense in the source language, then it almost certainly won't make sense in the target language either. So be clear, be concise and be sure the text says what you intend it to! Moreover, if you make alterations to the text after you've received a quote, the price will most likely change anyway, so you'll have to get another quote and be back to square on... Starting off with a well-written, carefully proof-read definitive version of the source text saves a lot of headaches all round.

Formatting is another factor to consider at the outset. If you have particular formatting or layout requirements, intimate these when you are asking for a quote, not once the translation is complete. Likewise, if your format requirements change during the project, let the translation provider know as soon as possible.

If you want the translated text to have a particular tone or style, it's helpful to make this clear when you commission your translation. The more information a translation supplier has about your target readership and intended "message", the better the translators can be briefed and the intended style achieved. With marketing texts in particular, finding equivalent puns in one or more target languages can be time-consuming or even impossible. So it's worth bearing this in mind when you or your colleagues are writing the source copy, as these issues can affect both price and timescale. If your marketing department took 2 weeks to develop a snappy five-word slogan, the translator will require time to find something that works equally well in the target language.

Consistency is often an issue, especially in the translation of large technical manuals or lists of trade-specific words or phrases. In these instances, providing in-house glossaries or background reference material helps to ensure that your translation is written using the same in-house terminology as used in previous documents. So if you've had translations of similar material carried out before, or if your company's in-country representative has a list of terms which are used regularly within your industry, it really pays to make sure your translation provider has access to these.

Finally, whilst you know your own industry inside-out, there may be aspects of the translation industry that are unknown territory for you, so it's only natural to have questions about how the whole process works. Even if you don't have an immediate requirement, any professional translation providers worth their salt should be happy to answer your queries. Project managers will usually be pleased discuss potential clients' requirements and to help you work out the best language and language-related technology strategy to tackle your export markets either now or in the future.

About the author

Karen Elwis is a translation manager with Internet translation services provider Lingo24 (


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