Translation Services: Use a translator, a Translation Agency or Do it In-house?

  • Share this article on Facebook
  • Share this article on Twitter
  • Share this article on Linkedin

A challenge almost any company entering an international market will be faced with is translating its marketing materials, product and service documentation, and other documents into the language of the target market. Depending on your requirements, there are basically three options:

  • You can do the translation yourself or have someone in your company do it.
  • You can find and hire a different translator for each language.
  • You can hire a translation agency.

To make this decision,Translation Services: Use a translator, a Translation Agency or Do it In-house? Articles you will have to consider several factors, including your abilities and resources, your needs, and the cost.

Your Resources
Do you, or does someone else in your company, have the ability to do the translation? If you require a translation into Spanish, for example, and you have a Spanish-speaking employee in your company, it is tempting to simply assign him or her to perform the translation services. However, there are several factors to take into account:

1. A translator is more than just someone who speaks two languages.
A translator has to be perfectly fluent in both languages and will usually translate from her second language, the source language, to her mother tongue, the target language. It is of great advantage if she lives in the country your translation is intended for. She needs to be familiar with the topic that is translated and have excellent writing and editing capabilities in the target language.
Consider this: When you have your marketing material written, do you simply choose any person who speaks English? Or do you select someone with excellent writing skills – and still have the text proofread by a second pair of eyes? You should have the same demands for your potential translator. So does your German, French, or Spanish employee have the necessary writing skills in her first language?
If, however, you have such enormous requirements for translation into one single language that you can employ one translator full-time, this might be the most economical option. Just make sure that you have the necessary expertise to choose a competent translator. Remember: this will be the only person to perform all your professional translation services. If you are dissatisfied with the work this person is doing, it will not be easy to switch translators. Also, you will probably still want to have someone else proofread the translation, just as you probably had someone proofread your original texts.

2. Having you employees perform the translation services costs you too
Do not forget to take into account the time it will take your employee to work on the translation. A professional translator can translate about 2,000 words per workday. Someone who is less experienced may need quite a bit more time.
During this time, your employees working on the translation won’t be able to perform their regular job tasks.

Your Needs
Do you regularly require professional translation services into one language or do you need a one-time translation of one or more documents into several languages? If you regularly need translation services into only one or two languages (20,000 words or more per month), it may be worthwhile to hire your own professional translator to work in your company full-time. If, on the other hand, you occasionally need translations into many languages, or if you have very large translation jobs to be completed in a short time, using a translation agency will take care of all the necessary logistics. The agency will find the appropriate translator for each language, or possible more than one translator if the deadline is tight, assign the proofreading tasks, and ensure that everything is completed on time and the service quality is top-notch.

The cheapest option to get your translation services done is seemingly doing it yourself or having an employee of your company do it. However, there are hidden costs, such as the time spent and possibly inferior quality, that you should consider. A poor translation can cost you more in business than you would ever have spent on having the work done right.
Another option, which is also quite cost-effective, is hiring a freelance translator yourself and skipping the middleman, i.e. the translation agency. If you decide to go this route, make sure that you have the knowledge and experience to pick a qualified translator and to judge the quality of the translation.
The last option is giving the job to a professional translation agency, which will take care of everything related to the required translation services. This is the most recommended option for most companies. It ensures that you get the best possible quality, which is the most important factor when deciding which way to go. Remember: You may pay a little more for this service upfront, but you will keep paying for a poor translation for as long as you use, publish, or distribute it. The cost in lost business due to poor quality translations dwarfs the money spent on a good translation. When using a translation agency, you also won’t need to worry about paying the translator internationally, as it is always a good idea to choose a translator in the target country.

The decision is yours. You have several viable options, depending on your resources, needs, and cost. Always keep in mind though that the most important factor when choosing any professional translation service provider is quality.

© Christian Erwig-Straughan