tips for finding a technical language partner

6 Tips for Finding a Technical Language Partner

A Guide to Technical Translation for Manufacturers: Part 2.

As a quality-conscious business, it is natural that you would want to find a language service partner, or LSP, who is able to produce quality translations capable of meeting the rigorously high standards demanded by the manufacturing industry. With the large number of LSPs setting out their stalls in an increasingly competitive marketplace, choosing the right partner for your project is no mean feat. Even narrowing the scope to include only providers that offer a specific technical translation service does little to thin the herd. There is no one quality that sets an LSP apart from their competitors as the ‘best’ choice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make an informed decision. Here, we have listed a number of criteria that you might want to give consideration to when choosing an LSP for your technical translation.

<<< Part 1. What is Technical Translation?

Part 3. Get the Best Return from Your Technical Language Partner >>>

Tip #1. Industry Experience
This first point might seem like something of a no-brainer, but given the importance of accuracy, efficiency, and all-round quality to any piece of technical translation it certainly bears repeating. When researching a potential LSP this should always be the first thing you investigate. There are a few questions you should look to answer:

  • How long has the LSP been in business?
  • Who are the key personnel, and what do their work histories look like?
  • Are there testimonials you can read?

Whilst there isn’t necessarily a correlation between years of experience and quality of service, odds are good that the LSPs that have been around for longer will have a better understanding of the industry and the general needs of service users, as well as having been able to recruit more knowledgeable and experienced staff. If they’re an established player with some strong testimonials, they’re likely to be a pretty solid choice.

Tip #2. Accreditation
It is important to pay close attention to any and all relevant accreditation that your prospective LSP has attained. Generally speaking, you are looking for both breadth and depth here. If the LSP is a member of a centralised organisation such as GALA (Globalisation and Localisation Association) or ELIA (European Language Industry Association), they will have had to make a clear commitment to upholding industry-wide values that promote excellence in language service provision. It is also prudent to look for compliance with ISO standards that demonstrate good business practice. ISO 17100 is an LSP-specific directive that sets out frameworks aimed at ensuring the delivery of quality translation, whilst ISO 9001 applies to all businesses and requires that they have in place sufficient quality control mechanisms. If your prospective LSP broadcasts compliance with either of these ISO standards and is a member of one or more accredited professional organisation, you can rest assured they are likely to be reputable.

Tip #3. Affordability vs. Quality
Tempting though it might be to opt for a cheaper LSP to free up financial resources for other parts of the project, you must always be mindful that a lower price can often be indicative of a lower quality service. With an inaccurate technical translation having some potentially catastrophic consequences, the budget approach is almost universally the wrong one. The sheer number of LSPs ready and waiting for your call means you should never have to compromise on quality and finding a partner who can deliver an accurate translation at a price that doesn’t break the bank is easy if you’re willing to devote enough time to researching your options.

Tip #4. Use of Technology
As with more or less any business sector, technological innovations have made their way into the field of translation. It is certainly important to be aware of how your potential LSP makes use of technology during the technical translation process, as the level to which software is embraced will vary from provider to provider. As we touched on in the previous article, the true value that technology offers the technical translator can be somewhat hit and miss; memory software can hugely increase efficiency by creating a living library of important terms whilst machine translation can speed up the process significantly but at the expense of much of the accuracy offered by a human translator. Beyond translation software, you should also enquire about workflow management tools – these can simplify some very complex business procedures and are often a hallmark of a professional operation. The degree to which a given LSP integrates technology into their process is a factor which should definitely be considered before a decision is made.

Tip #5. Sample Translation
Oftentimes the best way to gauge the quality of the work you would receive is also the simplest. If an LSP is serious about delivering on the promises they make regarding the standard of service they offer, they should have no problem providing a small sample translation for you to review. This is an important part of the search process as it allows you to ascertain for yourself whether their knowledge of not just the target language but also your industry, products, and practices is at the level you require. This step is also useful as it offers you some insight into how they approach their work, allowing you to identify potentially unprofessional attitudes before committing to an expensive and lengthy contract.

Tip #6. An Individual or an Agency?
Finally, you should give some thought to whether your LSP really needs to be an entire translation agency, or if the project could be handled just as effectively (and work produced to the same standards) through an individual freelance translator. Whilst larger projects will almost always necessitate the use of an agency, there are certainly times when a single translator will prove to be a capable alternative at a much more desirable price. Whichever route you decide to go in this regard, it is vital that there is a contingency plan in place in case of unforeseen issues. Create a shortlist of three to five LSPs so that you will always have somewhere else to turn in the event that, for whatever reason, your original choice is unable to deliver.

So there you have it – six simple tips that will help turn the process of selecting your technical language service partner from daunting to doable. There’s no shortcut to choosing the right LSP, but you can definitely make it easier on yourself!

<<< Part 1. What is Technical Translation?

Part 3. Get the Best Return from Your Technical Language Partner >>>

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