translation agencies

Top 10 misconceptions about translation companies

We take a look at some fairly widespread misconceptions among clients about translation companies. Payment, technology, competition… Can you tell what’s fact and what’s fiction?

Below is the second installment in our series on misconceptions about being a translator. This week, we take a look at translation companies and some fairly widespread misconceptions among their clients.

1. “Translation can be done on the cheap.”

Translation can be cheap. A translation can be very cheap indeed if, for example, all you do is run it through a free online translation program –and bingo! However, if you want a proper translation, a quality translation, well, that’s another story…

2. “The best translation agencies are the largest ones.”

Not always. If you have a large number of documents to translate on a regular basis, perhaps it’s true. However, if it comes to jobs in a specific field, a small specialized agency or a freelancer with experience in this area may be a better option.

3. “I don’t need a translation agency, all I need is a translator.”

Yes, you do need a translator… as well as an editor, a project manager and an additional translator for each extra language. Whenever the project is complex (several languages, urgency, content types, files formats, etc.) a translation company will likely provide you with the most appropriate language services for your needs.

4. “The more translators you get, the better will be the quality.”

If you turn to translation services on a regular basis, it could be worthwhile always using the same translator or team of translators for your work: they will be familiar with the content and jargon of your material, and you will increase the likelihood of having consistent and quality translations.

5. “Encouraging competition among translation agencies ensures the quality of translations.”

Many clients hire one translation company to take care of the translation and another one to proofread it, thinking they will get a better result. Yet here’s what always happens: the agency tasked with reviewing and editing will try to find as many errors possible to prove that they did a thorough job with a view to taking over the agency responsible for the translation in the future. This inevitably leads to the invention of a large number of errors that are ultimately no more than personal preferences. As a result, the client ends up losing a great deal of time mediating between the two agencies.

6. “A back translation guarantees the quality of a translation.”

Retranslating a text back into its original language is only very rarely an accurate quality test.

7. “My bilingual employees can help me check the quality of the translations produced by my company.”

This is like asking your partner (or anyone else who cooks) for his/her opinion of a signature dish cooked by a top chef. They won’t be able to say much more than whether they like it or not…

8. “For quality translations, the important thing is quality control.”

Actually, you should focus on improving quality rather than just controlling it: give your translation agency all the material the linguists need so that they can in turn submit a quality translation (context, purpose, glossaries, style guides, etc.).

9. “The source text has nothing to do with the quality of the translation.”

Quite the contrary, most mistranslations are due to an original text that was poorly written or one that was unclear.

10. “Technology should be avoided.”

Don’t mistake machine translation (MT) for computer-assisted translation (CAT). The best translations are those carried out by one or more human beings using the right software to help them.

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This article has been written by Mathieu

Mathieu was born in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. After studying Literature and Linguistic Research, he moved to Argentina where he is currently a translator and a web editor.