How to find the best translation agency

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a rating system to identify the best translation agency?

Buying translation is a daunting prospect for those who have no prior experience of commissioning this type of service, and if the buyer has little or no knowledge of languages, then it’s hard for them to have a point of reference on what is needed to produce a good translation; specifically: the level of skill, and the combination of education and experience that qualifies one person as a translator rather than simply a native speaker of a language.

Consequently many fall into the trap of buying translation as a commodity; as if buying rice or cotton; and go about comparing quotes on the basis of cost and/or speed of delivery. Translation is a service, however, and like all services, it is performed by people whose education, skills and time all contribute to delivering the final ‘product’ (for want of a better expression).

While it’s logical that you would want a service to be performed by the best people, it’s actually quite alien to most of us to buy a service from a) someone you don’t know b) aren’t ever likely to meet and c) where you as a buyer do not actually consume or experience the service first-hand.

Here’s what translators say about translation agencies

Every now and then I take a peek at what our translators are saying about us on the Proz Blue board, the litmus test with contented suppliers – we are well on the way to being the best translation agency.

Company Rating over last 12 months Overall rating
Web-Translations 5 5
Lingo 24 5 4.9
Thebigword 3.4 4.2
Applied Language 4.4 4.4
Transperfect 3.6 4.1
SDL International 4 4.4
Lionbridge 1 4.6

* Note: The links are to the corresponding blueboard page used by translators to rate each agency for likeliness to work again on a scale of 0-5. The scores in the table above are accurate as of the 29th October 2014.

Think of the last service you bought…

You might have had your car serviced, or maybe you had your hair cut in a salon/barber’s, perhaps you’ve visited the dentist recently? These are all personal examples that everyone can relate to. It’s easy to pay more for a service when you’re the direct beneficiary, the experience you go through and the interaction with the person providing the service can easily and quickly justify the value. Personally I get my haircut on the corner of Leeds city train station, not for its location, I just like the guy that does it and he does a great job.

It gets harder to gauge the value on a service where you have no idea what has been done – we place the trust in our car mechanic when they say there’s a split in a pipe and it needs to be replaced, or when your dentist explains that although there’s no pain, its important you have a filling. This is where trust is important, but because you are personally involved you can quiz the person directly; there is something comforting about looking in the whites of the eyes of a person asking you to buy a service from them.

Business is different…

Unless you need a haircut, don’t drive or need to see the dentist you should be able to relate to the personal examples, however business services are different in that they tend to fall into the rather broad categories of: Legal, Financial, Web or IT. When you choose a lawyer or solicitor you might go by recommendation or you might have looked someone up for a particular skill. The natural thing to do is arrange to meet. Once you get to know someone’s background, invested the time to communicate your situation (giving rise to the need for the service) you have some comfort factor in knowing that you now have a relationship with a person you will entrust to do a good job. You feel confident, you like the person, and so you buy the service.

Now imagine…

You need a document in another language so that someone can understand it. There isn’t any desirability in this purchase; -it’s not something that will ‘happen’ to you personally (like a haircut), neither is it likely to be an on-going business need so you don’t feel the need to establish a relationship (in the way that you might with a lawyer or an accountant). You don’t speak the language, so feel uneasy that you can’t even tell if what you are getting back is excellent, good, average or worse. You weren’t the person who wrote the text in the first place. You just want a document in another language, surely that’s pretty standard right?!..

Not just any translation will do…

Conveying something in another language in a way that reads naturally is actually quite hard. When a text needs only to inform, the reader needs to understand. When a text needs to sell or influence, the reader needs to be motivated and compelled. Achieving the desired outcome isn’t easy.

So please… be kind… show a little appreciation

Web-Translations understand that delivering good quality translation can be a pretty thankless task to the many millions of freelance translators out there. If it wasn’t an art from which people derived satisfaction it would be on a par with legal and accounting services, which (as I understand it) are not quite as much fun in providing. But translators can’t just work for the love of it. They need agencies that fight their corner, justifying better prices, upholding greater values, raising standards.

Web-Translations is a high quality agency

Ultimately it is our freelance translators that provide our service, so in keeping them happy; we are in the best position to pass on a great service. We use highly skilled, educated project managers to develop and nurture great working relationships with suppliers in the same way that we do with clients.

Take a look at our Translation Buying Guide for more tips on how to buy translation.

Help us get the word out…translation quality is worth paying for!

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