Translation Options for Businesses

Crowdsourcing? Machine translation? A language services provider? Which translation option is the right choice for your business? If you need translation help and you’re not sure what your alternatives are, we’re here to help. Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of each of the different translation options for businesses.

Asking  a Bilingual Employee

Hey, doesn’t Jim in Accounting speak Spanish? We can just have him translate this, right?  Right?

Wrong.  Asking a bilingual employee to translate seems like a simple, elegant solution- no need to hire anyone new or deal with another company, and it’s free.

Before you add translation work to your employees’ existing responsibilities, consider the following:

Translation is a specialised skill.

Doing it right requires native-level fluency and cultural awareness in the target language, and the writing skills to render the source text effectively. If the document in question is essential and you need the text to read well and the meaning to come through clearly, you need a professional translator.

Your employees’ energies could be better spent elsewhere.

Requiring an employee to translate for you means that you’re taking them away from their core duties. Can your business afford that? An employee who is not a professional translator may not be able to complete translation tasks effectively. Is that a good use of their salary?

Quality control is important.

Even trained translators make mistakes, which is why language services providers engage a separate translator to proofread.

Google Translate/ Machine Translation

It’s the elephant in the room- Why can’t you just use Google Translate? It’s fast, and it’s free, how can you beat that?

What with the way the press is always hyping up the latest translation gadgets and Google Translate updates, we’ll forgive you for thinking that machine translation is just as good as a human translator. But you would also be wrong, at least in a business context. Translation apps and Google Translate do have their place- they make it possible for travellers to communicate with their hosts, and they make it possible to get the gist of material in another language.

However, when accuracy matters, they often fall short. Depending on what you’re translating, there may be privacy implications, as well. For more, see Why Can’t I Just Use Google Translate?

If you’re going to use machine translation for anything important, it’s best to use a customised option from a professional language services provider and to have all the output proofread by a native speaker.

Crowdsourced Translations

If you already have a large international community of customers/users, you may consider crowdsourcing some translation work. While crowdsourcing can have benefits, like increasing brand engagement and community building, it’s also more complicated than it might seem at first glance.  You have to consider how you’ll manage your volunteers and how you’ll ensure that their translations are accurate and reflect well on your brand.

In general, crowdsourcing your own translations is only a viable option for certain types of companies and certain types of content. Agencies that offer crowdsourced translation may be a better bet, especially if the “crowd” consists of professional translators and proofreading is on the menu. However, even these options aren’t suitable for all types of content. For example, marketing content requires a certain amount of finesse to get right. Crowdsourcing deprives you of the opportunity to develop a relationship with a translator who knows your brand, knows your story and knows how to communicate that to your target audience in another language.

Hiring Freelancers Directly

Of course, if you don’t need a full-time translator on staff, you can always hire a freelance translator directly.  You’ll get a professional translator, possibly at a lower price than you would if you used an agency. However, before you go this route, carefully consider the potential cons, too:

  • How will proofreading and quality control be handled? Do I have staff with the knowledge and skills to handle these tasks?
  • How much time will it take to source, vet and manage the translators and their projects?
  • Translated documents sometimes need to be redesigned to accommodate changes in script and text length.  Is your team up to the challenge?

Using a Language Services Provider

When it comes to translation, the price is what you pay, and value is what you get. If your business has ongoing translation needs or a large one-off project, using a language services provider is often the best value.  Here’s why:

  • Technology: Most LSPs have access to translation technology that makes it easier to manage projects, and that can store translation memories for later re-use. That means you never have to pay to translate the same phrase twice, and the translation process will become more accurate and efficient over time. At K International, we use Tracklingua, our own bespoke, customisable translation management system, along with MemoQ for translation memories.
  • Accountability: A good LSP will assign a project manager to be your single point of contact. That means you always have someone who is accountable for keeping your project on track.
  • Quality control: A good LSP will have consistent, effective quality control procedures to prevent embarrassing errors from slipping in.
  • Data Security: A reputable LSP will use secure data handling procedures to protect your business and your customers.
  • Other services: A good translation is often about more than language- documents may need to be redesigned, marketing copy may need to be completely rewritten from the ground up to account for cultural differences, videos may need multilingual voiceovers . . . The list goes on, and if you’re working with an LSP that can provide these services, you’ll save time and money in the end.

Want to discuss the right translation options for your business in more detail? Contact us today for a free consultation!

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