When working with translators, it is essential to understand the four main categories of translation services providers.
1. Language Schools
Language schools often provide translation services alongside their language teaching and profit from the general misconception that anyone who can speak a foreign language can translate it. Usually, the schools act as brokers; the actual work is done by native speakers of the target language, hired by the schools to teach their courses and translate, if the need arises.
Avoid translation services that make statements such as “translations by native speakers”. Is every native English speaker a qualified writer? Is every non-native English speaker a qualified translator?
One can usually spot these schools by their boasts of “teachers and translators with native fluency”. In this type of arrangement, the average fees charged by schools with nationally recognized names are from 20 to as much as 30 cents per word, depending on the language, size of the project, and level of difficulty. Those who translate for these brokers are sometimes paid as little as 4 cents a word, and rarely more than 10.
Most universities keep lists of faculty members, and sometimes students, who “do translations on the side”. College professors can be fairly adequate and, sometimes, low-cost translators on minor projects, but they can be a very risky gamble on major projects.
In the first place, their technical knowledge is normally very low, and their language is often out of touch with current technical and business usage. Secondly, they lack the professional knowledge to manage a major translation project, so that the client ends up holding their hands through scheduling, production coordination, deadlines, etc. Thirdly, they simply lack the practical knowledge of world corporate issues, international business trends, and total quality management that are essential for an effective translator.
On the plus side, some charge as little as 10 cents a word, although the average is around 14 cents a word.
Some freelancers are top-notch professionals; while some, who call themselves translators, are unemployable incompetents in search of odd jobs. How can you tell who’s who? As in contracting for any outside professional services, of course, get references, work samples, credentials, etc. Even more important, talk to the translator. Make sure he or she understands your corporate culture, your technology, and your clients. Although the good translator is elusive, the bad translator is often quite easy to spot. Please click on the link to read the 6 Main Rules for Spotting Bad Translators.
4. Translation Companies
Translation companies are only as good as their owner. I suggest using the same criteria to judge them as for freelancers. In addition, a translation company must be able to provide total project management. This means that the translation company owner must be a seasoned translation manager, who will help you define the project requirements, monitor the translation process, and deliver the final product on time, within budget and in conformance to requirements.
These advantages become more obvious, and indispensable, on large or complex projects. On small jobs, the advantages may be negligible, and you may be able to do just as well with a competent freelancer.
However, if your translation involves multiple languages, it is large or complex, if you have a tight schedule or require typesetting, printing, etc. A competent translation company may, in the end, save you money by handling all facets of the project.