You are looking for a coat – but would you like short or long sleeves?

13. January 2020

A translation agency does more than simply translate text – we translate and mediate the customer’s values. To ensure the best possible success, the process must be well-thought-out, with sufficient resources dedicated to the process. This means a reasonable budget, a clearly worded goal, and the setting aside of sufficient time to complete the translation.

It is time to dispel the myth that a translation service is merely the service of translation – take a text, put it in another language, and you’re done. A professional translation service is like great tailoring: if the customer knows what they need and why they need it, and they communicate it clearly to the provider, then the final result will satisfy all of the parties involved. While there are some fields in which the result, not the process, is what is important, then this is not exactly the case when it comes to translation. Organisation of the work process is what usually defines the result.

Let us come back to the example of tailoring already mentioned above. If you order a coat from a seamstress – just a coat, without specifying any guidelines, wishes or needs to the seamstress – you can be quite sure that a coat will be sewn for you. However, it is equally as likely that by submitting an order in this way, you will not be satisfied with the coat once it is finished. Most likely, the finished garment will not have the exact cut you were looking for, or its sleeves are too short, and overall, you would have liked it to have been camel beige instead of red. The seamstress performed her job with excellent craftsmanship, but according to her own understanding and taste. The story is the same with translation.

If you simply buy a translation from a service provider, then that is what you will get; however, the translator has not considered your unique needs and those of your company’s target audiences. The question of who is responsible for the unsuitable translation remains, although the customer generally believes that the fault lies with the translator. However, as the saying goes: it takes two to tango. If the translator receives the correct input from the customer, the process will go smoothly, fewer resources will be expended, and the final result will meet expectations.

How does this work?

We live in a globalised world, and this means that it is necessary to communicate your message in an ever increasing number of languages. On the one hand, we expect all educated people to speak English, and translating into other languages is seemingly not necessary. But is this truly so? Maybe your target audience speaks mainly German, or perhaps Polish, or even Farsi? Thus, if you only keep your messages in English, you risk losing your audience. Incidentally, the number of people in the world who cannot speak English is unexpectedly large. What should be done about this? Finding a separate translator for every language? This is not a bad idea at all, because if your needs are limited and your target audience is confined to only a few languages, then cooperation with freelancers works.

It becomes problematic when your target audience is demanding or multilingual, when your organisation’s technical solutions – web portal, product catalogue, e-shop, etc., which you use to communicate with your audience and offer your products or services – require a technical approach, and when translation volumes are high. In these cases, you will probably need an automated service in one form or another, and this is where a translation agency can help you. It is true that no single agency is able to guarantee translation into all the languages of the world. However, a good translation agency has a broad network of cooperation partners, and with their help a solution can be found for translating into exotic languages.

Usually, at least three people – all equally as important – are involved in any given translation project at an agency. The project manager, who accepts the job and coordinates communication with the customer, translators, and editors, is not just a customer service representative – their role in the translation process is of key importance. It is the project manager who asks the right questions from the customer, puts together a team, and is responsible for the completed work that is returned to the customer. Since translation services today combine human skills with smart translation technology, the project manager will also decide which technological solution will be used in the performance of the work. The team also includes technical experts and many others, whom the customer never comes into contact with directly, but who all contribute in some way to making sure that the final result meets your expectations. If even a single important aspect, for example, a term base, is missing from this chain, the risk of the finished work not meeting expectations only increases.

At the beginning of the New Year, when you are busy making new plans and setting budgets, the moment is also right to consider a translation service. In particular, you should consider whether translation is an “off your back” budget line with minimal cost, one that will remain similarly insignificant as the years go by, or whether it can become a well-thought-out work process that supports the activities and aims of your company. This is your choice.

I recommend that you view the translation service as more than simply a translation service. A translation agency is more like a consultation firm that helps to smoothly integrate the translation process into your company’s communication and marketing processes, and also manages it thereafter. Whether you require this is your own personal decision. Although it is certainly worth trying out!

Inge Rätsep

Inge Rätsep