Translation agency fees: what are you paying for?

In a world where machine translation (MT) is on the increase, it’s no surprise that someone might wonder whether they could save some money by having their text translated automatically. A performance comparison of machines vs humans is one factor in the debate, and is something we’ll touch upon soon. For this week however we’d like our clients to consider: what are you paying for when you hire a professional translation agency? Or to phrase this differently: what do you forgo when you choose to put your translation into a machine?

A dedicated Project Team
When using Machine Translation, the text goes in, and the translation comes out, without you having any control over the process. With an agency, you become head of a dedicated Translation Project Team that also includes the Project Manager, Translator(s) and Proofreader(s). With the help of the Project Manager, you’ll remain in touch with the linguists indirectly, ensuring that you retain ultimate creative control.

Project Management
Your Project Manager oversees the translation work from start to finish. At the beginning they’ll discuss your preferences: formal or informal text? Aiming to advertise, inform or explain? Humour or hard facts? They will then pass these preferences onto the linguists, ensuring that your brand voice is maintained across all languages. This is particularly important when you’re trying to market globally. Sometimes a particular word or phrase simply won’t work in translation, and significant changes need to be made. Your PM will advise you on any such issues so that you can make an informed decision going forward.

Translation agencies keep a record of the work that they do for you, so that they can make consistent language choices for all of your texts. The result? The same effective style of copy, regardless of who translates it, or how far apart the jobs were.

Quality Assurance
Machines and humans both make mistakes. The difference? When a human translator messes up, there’s a proofreader in place to catch the mistake. If you’re confident that a machine can perform QA on its own, search ‘autocorrect fails’… I rest my case. The proofreader will fix typos and grammar errors, and – of equal importance – double check that the text meets your style requirements.

Need your text in a bilingual table for designers to work with? Unsure how to format Arabic translations in InDesign? Fancy some help putting the text onto your website? This is usually all in a day’s work for a Project Manager, and will save you time and effort.

As you can see, paying for professional human translation is about more than the quality of the translation (it is also about that – but that’s a discussion for another time!). Our advice? Pay a little more for a comprehensive service; then you can feel safe in the knowledge that your translated content will be of the same high standard as your original work.