Why work with a Translation Services Company?
Nowadays, businesses that need translation or localization services have several choices: hire in-house teams, send to freelance contractors, or work with a translation services company. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages; what works for one company may not work for another. It all depends on the business’ specific needs and requirements. We will take a look at these options and give a brief assessment of some of the cost and benefits of each approach.
Building your own translation department
The advantage of this approach is that you have dedicated staff to handle ongoing translation work. In addition, with time, the in-house translator(s) will become intimately familiar with your in-house terminology, the styles of different writers and the requirements of specific projects, departments and authoring teams. It would be almost impossible for anyone who is not part of your company to achieve this level of familiarity with your vision, culture and processes – and thus the higher levels of quality that such familiarity makes possible.
The cost of purchasing and maintaining a suite of translation/localization tools, and training and supporting staff who use these tools, can be burdensome.
Hiring dedicated in-house translation staff is not without challenges, however. If you have dedicated staff to handle ongoing translation work, then you need an ongoing supply of work. If the demand is sporadic or characterized by sharp peaks and troughs, your translation staff may be overwhelmed on some days (and perhaps even unable to complete projects by the deadline), but have nothing to do on other days. In-house translators may also need training to be able to handle the types of materials requiring translation and/or the file formats in which your teams author content. By extension, in-house translators may also require training on the tools in which content is authored and/or on dedicated translation or localization tools. The cost of purchasing and maintaining translation/localization tools, and training and supporting staff who use these tools, can be burdensome. If your strategy calls for expansion into multiple markets, your translation-related software, hardware and space requirements and the scope of your training program will all expand in direct proportion to the number of languages you need to support. Of course, supporting multiple languages also requires that resources be centralized and that someone manage the overall translation process. Finally, there is no guarantee that translators who work in the languages you need and who possess the necessary domain expertise will even be available for hire or agree to work at a specific location.
When to go this route
The initial investment in setting up your own translation department with dedicated tools and staff is high, and better suited in environments where:
- time is available to hire and train translation teams
- management staff is available to oversee the translation teams, tools and resources
- language needs are specific and the volume and regularity of work is high
- experienced personnel is available to integrate the translation properly into the final formats.
How Advanced Language can help
If you decide to go at it alone, don’t worry, we can support you. Advanced Language’s professionals can help set up and qualify your teams, software and hardware tools. We can even help get your Translation Memories and Glossaries established and help with regular maintenance. When those odd language jobs come in or your team gets overwhelmed, we can handle the extra load without burdening your staff. You can also look to us for complex integration services, multimedia engineering, and quality checks.
Depending on Freelancers
Companies that do not want to take on the risk and responsibility of managing in-house translation staff may opt instead to subcontract their translation work to freelancers. With the advent of the Internet and proliferation of online professional contractor services portals, working directly with individual freelance translators has never been easier. Contractors based anywhere in the world can provide translation. A business that needs Korean translation, can get it directly from Seoul, Korea. The direct translation cost when working with a freelance translator is lower than the cost of working with a translation company or with an in-house translation team if you do not have a steady, ongoing need for translation service.
There will be the times when freelancers will be unable to take on your projects because they are busy working for other customers.
There are several costs to consider when working with freelance translators. First, there is the cost of defining the required skill sets, searching for translators and qualifying candidates for subcontracting work (i.e., assessing the level of their expertise, knowledge and skills). The cost of managing the relationship with the freelancer translators can be significantly high. Working with freelancers requires that someone in your company manage the scope, communications, risks and all other aspects of your outsourced translation jobs. Project management is especially critical in jobs involving multiple languages. Translation processes need to be developed and maintained to ensure consistent results across multiple languages and across multiple jobs. Translation and other software tools need to be purchased to enable someone in your company to carry out certain tasks, for example file processing pre– and post-translation, that few freelancers are able to perform due to the high cost of the tools and the extensive training required to operate them. Finally, freelance translators are likely to have several other clients and in keeping with the adage “first come, first served,” there will be the times when they will be unable to take on your projects because they are busy working for other customers.
Despite these challenges, working with freelance translators can offer a professional, granular service at a lower cost to companies that have minimal or sporadic need for translation, all while maintaining control over the translation process and language assets, if you so wish. The benefits, of course, presuppose that your freelance translators are professionals who constantly reflect on their work and are willing and able to provide a high level of service.
When to go this route
The initial investment of locating and qualifying independent contractors is high, but manageable. If you deal in large volumes or have highly technical materials you will need to (or have someone) manage terminology and other translation assets (such as Translation Memories). Keeping a pool of available freelance contractors is beneficial if your business:
- has managerial staff to handle locating and qualifying contractors; answering queries; managing your translation assets; and
- deals in multiple languages, but not enough volume to justify a significant personnel commitment to each language
- has someone to manage translation assets (such as Translation Memories and Terminology Databases) or have no need for those assets.
- has experienced personnel and the right tools to integrate translated content back into manuals, videos, and websites.
- has the ability to monitor translation quality and consistency across many jobs.
How Advanced Language can help
If you decide to hire your own freelance contractors, the professionals at Advanced Language are here to help. Not only can we help you to qualify translators for the languages and industry that you need, we can help you get the right tools in place, manage your terminology and translation memories, monitor quality, and provide any complex integration services that may be involved.
Full Service Translation: Language Service Provider (LSP)
Working with an LSP or Translation Services Company can be advantageous if your company requires either complex integration, high-volumes of work, industry-specific terminology, and/or translation into multiple languages. Although there are numerous advantages to the consolidated services of a professional translation company, some of the major ones are:
- Centralized management of both human and language resources.
- Outsourced responsibility for translation/localization risk management, vendor management and other areas of project management.
- A dedicated project manager who is responsible for your specific project and serves as your primary point of contact. Ideally, you will work with the same project manager on all of your projects, so you don’t need to keep bringing people up to speed on how your company does things.
- Avoidance of the cost of purchase, training and maintenance of translation/localization and related hardware, unless the LSP requires that its clients purchase a subscription to the LSP’s “solution,” such as a portal or proprietary translation tool(s).
- Access to a variety of expertise, including localization engineering, translation/localization project management, desktop publishing, authoring for translation, multilingual publishing or internationalization, rather than experience in a single area, such as translation.
Needless to say, these benefits presuppose that the translation services company is experienced, has well-established processes based on best practices, is attentive to your needs and requirements, and is flexible and knowledgeable enough to identify and accommodate these needs. In other words, the translation company must be focused on providing the information clients need to make fully informed decisions based on their specific needs, and that the translation company is more interested in building lasting relationships with clients than simply booking a quick sale.
The cost is inherently higher with a Translation Services Company. The overhead of expert planning, management, integration, and quality control—all critical to maintaining a professional level of quality, may not be for everyone.
Language Service Providers (LSPs) – In More Depth
Let’s look in more detail at the advantages to working with a translation company (also known as a language service provider). For example, you have a single point of contact, so if you want a status update on your 10-language project you don’t need to call or email 10 sets of translators and editors to figure out where things stand. You can have all your language assets centrally created and managed. Finding a qualified and available translation team to get the job done when you need it done, rather than when translators are available, is no longer a headache. If a translator experiences an unexpected medical or personal problem during one of your projects, you do not need to worry whether the project will be completed by the deadline (assuming that the translation company you have selected is actively managing risks during your projects, of course). You no longer necessarily need to spend money to buy multiple translation tools and associated hardware, design training programs to ensure that your staff and freelancers are able to use them effectively and manage periodic upgrades and migrations. And so forth.
When qualifying a translation company to be your vendor, it is important to ensure that the translation company can explain how they typically handle these fundamental challenges of translation project management.
However, special care must be taken when choosing a translation company. For example, if a translation company does not live up to the promises it sells – in other words, if the company does not use a well qualified translation team to create your terminology databases, translation memories, style guides, and other linguistic assets and does not diligently maintain those assets, the quality of your linguistic “assets” may be poor or even become unusable. In a worst-case scenario, the translation company may not even create such assets as part of their translation process. Any such shortcomings or failures decrease and may even negate the return on your translation investment. If the translation company does not have well-established processes for qualifying new translators, managing translation teams, ensuring continuity of the translation teams from project to project and managing knowledge about your products and services, the quality of the resulting work will suffer and will be less likely to meet your expectations – and those of your customers. Compounding these problems, the cost of finding and switching to a new provider can be high.
When working with a translation company, knowledge management across projects is especially critical, since those who do the actual translation work are usually several degrees removed from the content authors and developers. The language teams at translation companies are typically comprised of contractors, so they are outsiders not just to your company, but to your translation company as well. This distance makes it more difficult for translation teams to familiarize themselves with your in-house terminology and style, as well as other linguistic preferences and project requirements, and also makes it more difficult to create and maintain feedback loops between those who write and those who translate. When qualifying a translation company to be your vendor, it is important to ensure that the translation company can explain how they typically handle these fundamental challenges of translation project management.
Another concern that you might (and should) have when working with a translation company is the control over your language assets, such as translation memories, terminology databases and style guides, as well as the transparency of the processes used to manage these assets. Some translation companies create and maintain language assets in proprietary software, meaning that they cannot easily be converted into a different and/or standardized format and handed off. While you might not necessarily want to maintain full control of your assets or know in detail how they are maintained and stored, it is still important to ensure that you can readily access your assets should the need arise without having to buy any additional or proprietary software (especially non-standards-based software).
If you are paying to have your projects managed by someone, you need to have the confidence that you are getting what you are paying for!
Finally, the bulk of what translation companies do that adds value is project management and planning. Consequently, when assessing a translation company with which you are thinking of working, it is critical to assess the maturity of the company’s project management processes. At the very least, the translation company should be able to provide you with information on:
- How they will identify and manage risks in your project(s)
- How they will assess the scope of the project
- How they will enable you to formally verify the completeness of the project scope before project commencement so you can avoid unpleasant surprises down the road
- How they will handle communications and project status reporting
- How they will select the teams for your project(s)
- How and when they will present a schedule for your approval
- How they will ensure that critical project milestones will be met
- How and when they will answer any other questions you may have
To sum up, the decision whether to hire an in-house translator, subcontract to one or more freelance translators, or work with a language service provider should not be solely based on cost. It should be made after carefully evaluating your company’s translation needs, the level of service that is required to meet those needs and your company’s level of comfort when it comes to outsourcing vs. assuming the many risks associated with translation and localization projects. Only such an approach will allow you to develop a comprehensive and cost-effective approach to translation.
Advanced Language Translation’s Project Managers are always at your disposal for anything from simple questions about a project to planning your localization strategy. We are here to help, even if you are not currently our client and are just shopping around for translation. See for yourself. If you have a question about how we can work for you, or need guidance with a current translation project you are handling, use the contact form below and one of our experts will get back to you within a business day, with no cost to you. It’s the perfect way to see how valuable a skillful manager can be to your business and its translation needs.
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