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7 Key Questions to Ask A Multilingual Translation Services Provider

Key questions to ask language service providers

Selecting a provider for multilingual translation services can be an intimidating task, especially if this is your first venture. Whether you are translating training materials for a global software rollout, making your company website more accessible to potential customers across the globe or launching a product internationally, you need to be sure that you are getting good value for your investment and that the final product meets certain translation quality standards.

You might worry about how you would check the quality of the final product if you don’t have in-house knowledge of the target languages. You might also be concerned about the costs associated with translation and how long it will take to see ROI from your investment. These are all valid concerns that a good multilingual translation services provider can address if you ask the right questions.

7 Questions for Multilingual Translation Services Providers

When evaluating translation providers, ask the following questions to help you compare their skills, the technology they use, and the extent of their services:

  1. Do you use translation memory and CAT tools?
    Translation memory (TM) is a tool that leverages your previously approved translations to help save time and money on your project. The TM is a database of all of your approved translations for reuse which grows with your savings with each project. Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools also contribute to a more efficient translation process and help build the translation memory. It is important to note that a CAT tool requires a human translator to participate in the process and is not the same as “machine translation” that can use only software.
  2. Can you handle various formats such as XML, HTML, Articulate, InDesign, FrameMaker, message.properties, and YML?
    Even if you don’t know what all of these file extensions and software types are, your multilingual translation services provider should. Source content comes in many forms and you want to be sure that they can process all the different formats you use in-house keeping intact throughout the translation process any existing formatting, layout, markup or encoding in the files.
  3. Are your translation projects centralized with translation memory and multilingual terminology glossaries to ensure that all linguists working on a project can access the most current assets in real time?
    Efficiently managing language assets is a critical part of a well-organized translation project. Custom glossaries and translation memory are only truly valuable if all the people on the project have access to those resources in real-time to eliminate duplicate work.
  4. Are your translators in-country?
    Terminology in technology and software focused industries are changing all the time. Having someone local will ensure that you are using the most current terms in your industry within that country keeping your brand image seen as forward thinking and well represented locally. Machine translation engines that are not tailored for your company will not account for these distinctions, and even an experienced translator is not likely to know local subtleties unless they are located in the target country.
  5. What subject matter have you translated that is similar to mine?
    Subject matter expertise is also an essential component of high-quality translation because not every translator will understand your industry’s terminology or processes. You don’t even need to factor in language to understand the importance of specialized knowledge. For example, an IT manager would never ask a colleague in the HR department to review the content of a technical manual for accuracy. Why would you expect a translator without subject matter expertise to be able to effectively communicate industry-specific terminology in another language if they don’t understand what it means in their own native language?
  6. Can you integrate with our content management system (CMS) and repositories to streamline file exchange for translation?
    The ability to execute smooth and efficient file exchange cannot be underestimated in a large translation project or by an organization who translates content regularly. If you already use a CMS for source files, you want to be sure that your multilingual translation services provider can integrate seamlessly into that system to both receive and send files. If a provider cannot do this, you can expect countless extra hours of manually exporting and importing content in languages you most likely do not know.
  7. Do you have quality assurance auditing tools and what do they check?
    Most companies don’t have the internal expertise to check the quality of translation, especially in multiple languages. Look for a provider that can measure translation quality objectively with proper tools and processes for evaluating accuracy, consistency, spelling, number and date formatting among other essential checks. Localization testing is also an important quality assurance step, especially for customer-facing content that has an impact on the perception of your brand.
  8. BONUS QUESTION – Can you provide me with technical or business reviewers who can validate the translations if my internal people do not have the time or capacity?
    More often than not your internal marketing, software development, sales and other specialists who you would normally ask to validate translations or multilingual terminology glossaries do not have the time. Even if they say that they have the time, they will make validating translations a low priority which can push translation projects past their deadline. The other consideration is that their time is more valuable to the organization focusing on their main responsibilities. Make sure your language service provider can help you scale staff with technical reviewers or even project managers where you are experiencing bottlenecks or shortages in support to meet your goals.

Translation is a worthwhile investment, but like any major project, you want to be sure you get it right the first time. Take the time to carefully select a multilingual translation services provider to ensure that you get quality results and a good return on your investment.

What other questions do you have for multilingual translation services providers?

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