Have you ever signed up for a phone plan thinking you would be paying X per month and when the bill arrives, you are floored by the total?
We know many companies operate by stealthily avoiding certain language and explicitly not sharing details of hidden fees. And if the fees are hidden, when else in the transcation might you not be aware of?
Often, translation vendors don't offer complete transparency into the translation process, whether that be hidden project management fees, or a lack of information surrounding the actual translators creating content for your brand.
Either way, we agree that this doesn’t serve the customer well, and we have some thoughts and questions for you to consider before launching your next translation project with a new vendor.
We’ve outlined the questions to arm yourself with to ensure you are being provided with quality translations and get the most bang for your buck.
Who are Translation Vendors and What Do They Do?
A translation vendor, the business managing your language projects, is tasked with selecting the right translators for your project.
These vendors are also responsible for the editing of content within your projects and providing the green light for completion. In short, translation vendors are a pretty essential piece to your language services puzzle!
As we covered in our writing for translation piece, there are many moving parts to keep your content digestible and relatable - and a good vendor should take this all into consideration when selecting a translator for each project.
Ask what relevant industry experience your vendor has and who else they will be working with to complete the project.
What other managers, translators, linguists, or other resources will be involved in the project, and who will see and edit your content?
You may even want to conduct your own research to check the vendor’s previous projects and ensure their work meets your quality expectations.
What Aren’t Your Translation Vendors Telling You?
If you don’t ask, you won’t know until it’s too late.
1. The Editing Process
Editing may seem simple to the layperson who thinks it’s a “second pair of eyes” for glaring mistakes, but within strong language services teams the process should be detailed and extensive. The internal review process is where content will be finalized and polished ready for publication.
Without a detailed process in place, translation quality can take a massive hit if editors miss critical errors or mistakes. For example, translated content in a very specific industry should reviewed by those that have experience with that industry.
There is also the debate of monolingual versus bilingual review: with monolingual review, editors only see the content after it has been translating, breaking the process down to a binary “this works” or “this doesn’t work” determination.
With a bilingual review, the editor sees both the original content as well as the translated content -- this is where we move from an objective to a subjective process, potentially leading to more rework content solely based on the opinion of that one individual editor.
Ask how work is edited and verified for quality internally. Do translators edit their own work, is there a team of translators that work together and co-edit, or is there a dedicated review role?
Are there additional associated costs, and are there experts available for specific industries? How does the vendor keep the review process objective?
2. The Translator Selection Process
Smartling has shared insight on the vetting process and how to push for transparency. There is no point in draining your budget if the outcome of your project isn’t going to move the needle or resonate with your audience- we can all agree here.
Talent is one marker that can not be cut if you are looking to slash your spending. When we talk about translation, we are discussing the professional translators themselves.
You will want to make sure there is a procedure in place for the vendor to vet and select the best translators available. Who are they and what expertise are they bringing to the table? Ask if the vendor subcontracts their projects, hires in-house translators, or works with freelancers around the world.
It’s important to remember when you hire a Language Services vendor you're not hiring just a translator, but an entire team that helps facilitate content translation. This team includes editors, quality assurance, programmers, project managers, publishers, system integrators and more.
It’s wise to understand how projects are assigned to translators. It could be a first come first served situation, or there could be qualification process in place to ensure knowledgeable translators are working on your content. It matters!
Ask about recruitment policies, work capacities, and quality assurance strategies. Why should they get your business? How are translators qualified, and what is their turnover rate for translators?
Attempt to determine the vendor’s structure and process, are translators in-house, or freelance, and do editors work alongside linguists or separate?
It may even be worth running a translation test to evaluate potential providers and ensure translators can truly capture the nuance of your organization and industry.
3. Hidden Project Management Fees
Surprise! Hidden costs arise when vendors do not disclose the crucial details around project management fees, engineering fees (the cost to set up/ integrate systems or solutions), editing and proofing fees, and publishing fees. Yeah, those little suckers add up!
At Smartling, we never charge project management fees, and we don’t even have a project minimum to get you started.
Ask your vendor to break down all the fees included in your project before you sign on the dotted line, and be prepared to push back if anything stands out.
Ask if certain fees can be waived if you are planning on submitting several projects, or even search for a vendor that doesn’t charge any extra fees.
4. Billing Structure: Per Word or Per Language
Pricing out translation services can be tricky. As we mentioned above, there can be hidden fees around project management or project minimums that demand larger budgets.
The details of how you will be charged for the translation itself can be as equally confusing, and may even be glossed over. Some providers may charge per word, with others specify pricing per language, or even per project.
If you don’t know the right questions to ask, you are likely to find the answers when you receive a hefty invoice.
Confirm the services a quote represents. Does $0.20 per word cover editing and proofreading, or only translation?
How many rounds of feedback will you get for free? Will you be charged per language on top of a per-word cost? Ask!
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Smartling loves to share industry insights and information to help customers get the quality translations they need to grow their businesses.
Laura Wyant is a freelance digital strategist and writer/editor. She is currently working with start-ups, tech companies, and health and healing spaces. Laura has been contributing to the Smartling blog on topics around cloud translation, digital strategy, and overall creative translation process. When she isn’t working in media, she is working to educate herself on matters such as intersectional women’s health and advancements in technology.