10 tips for outsourcing translations


In today’s competitive global economy, effective communication plays a key role in capturing a share of the international market. It is no wonder that the global outsourceable translation market has long since crossed the 5 billion dollar mark. With the pinch of the current recession, it is all too tempting for companies to allow price to be the deciding factor when contracting translation services. This is however a risky policy which in many cases results in poor quality with detrimental repercussions for the company’s image and possibly ultimately higher overall costs due to costly corrections, lawsuits etc. So what should companies focus on when outsourcing translation work? We have put together our top ten tips on how to get the best translation.


  1. Always use a professional translator who translates into his/her mother tongue –who in other words is a native speaker of the target language. Only a native speaker can get to grips with the subtleties of the language and ensure that idioms and metaphors are interpreted correctly.
  2. Just being a native speaker is not enough. Especially for complex subjects, choosing a native translator who is also a subject specialist with an in-depth understanding of the industry and an excellent command of the technical terminology is vital.
  3. Setting a clear and feasible deadline can greatly influence the quality of the final text. A translator working under extreme time pressure will inevitably have to make compromises. In an ideal scenario, translators should be able to produce around 2,500 words per day. Allowing extra time for proof reading when setting the deadline will also help to ensure the highest quality standards can be met.
  4. In order to obtain the best translation results, the source text must also be error-free and comprehensible. The translator should not have to waste valuable time trying to second-guess what is intended which could result in an incorrect interpretation.
  5. Especially when translating technical manuals and for repeat orders, consistency is key to a successful translation project. This can be achieved by providing the translator with any prior versions and existing glossaries. A competent translator will of course also have his/her own terminology management system which is updated regularly.
  6. Experience is the father of wisdom, as the saying goes. This is particularly true in the translation industry. A translator backed by years of experience has learnt to avoid the many pitfalls which can be detrimental for many inexperienced colleagues both in terms of terminology and business practices.
  7. When placing an order for a translation, clear specifications about exactly what must be translated and the purpose of the translation will also avoid any unforeseen costs. Special formatting requirements should also be addressed.
  8. Keep it simple and accept the limitations of language or allow sufficient time. Catchy headlines and puns cannot always be translated word for word. Just as the advertising specialists had several attempts to come up with that perfect sales slogan, a translator may also need more than one attempt and a little extra time to find the perfect solution.
  9. Translators with linguistic qualifications are a safer choice than relying on in-house employees who happen to speak the language. Not only do they lack the routine, and thus may need far longer with poorer results, but they are also prevented from attending to their own specific tasks.
  10. Open channels of communication between the client and the translator will help to keep things running smoothly. A translator should be given a contact familiar with the source texts to discuss any problems and equally the translator must be available to update the client on progress to date and to receive any amendments to the original specifications.

There you have it. A rough guide to getting the best from your translation service provider. We hope that this will help you make the right choice when outsourcing your texts. In order to get a top quality translation, price cannot be the sole deciding criterion.

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