How to choose a translation agency


It is common practice in the services sector for a client to choose a supplier on the basis of three factors: quality, cost and speed. Quality is a difficult one to measure in advance where the translation sector is concerned and is often pushed aside as being something that can be taken for granted, and there is no denying that it should not really be an issue. And this is why, understandably, energy tends to be invested in looking at the other two factors, i.e. cost and speed, which are undoubtedly important but not enough in themselves. Regardless of which agency you settle on, in our view it is absolutely essential to check that, when it comes to quality, the requirements set out below are met; this will reflect on the image of your business or law firm. These are the FAQ’s that need to be asked when considering instructing an agency.


1. Is the translator mother tongue?

Always check that the translator assigned to your job will be translating into their mother tongue. Whilst not in itself a watertight guarantee that the translation will reflect high quality standards, this is in fact absolutely essential. Professional translators only translate into their mother tongue: no matter how long their list of qualifications, someone writing in a language that is not their mother tongue is extremely unlikely to have a sufficient grasp of that language to be able to avoid making mistakes. You may well make a saving on the fee, but in reality this frequently proves to be a false economy at the expense of quality, with the image that you would like your business to project suffering as a result; bear in mind that not only do you run the risk of making a bad impression, but you may also end up paying for the whole job to be done again.


2. Does the translator specialize in the language of law?

It’s important to check that both the agency and the translator that you choose to rely upon can truly hold themselves out as specialists in the legal sector. Without a detailed knowledge and understanding of the two legal systems involved (the one to which your foreign document relates, and your own), providing a proper translation of legal documents is a virtually impossible uphill task. This is knowledge and understanding that only a lawyer or legal expert can have, and which means that potential (and at times extremely serious) legal risks connected with incorrect translations are avoided. It is of fundamental importance that your translation is carried out either by someone with experience in practice as a lawyer (or a legal expert).

A lawyer, who reads and understands the meaning of the source text not only on a syntactical but also on a professional level, will also soon pick up on any discrepancies in the document and be able to flag them up.


3. Am I dealing with bricks and mortar or a virtual office?

È It’s important to establish that the language services provider has offices with permanent staff, including a project manager capable of allocating the proper and most appropriate resources to each type of job..


4. How is quality control/revision carried out?

Revision involves quality control checks being carried out before the translation is delivered. The translation is checked carefully by another person against the original, word for word and sentence for sentence, in order to identify any errors or misinterpretation and to ensure that the translation is perfectly in line with the source document.


5. Is client confidentiality guaranteed?

In the legal sector, confidentiality is crucial. A translation agency must guarantee absolute confidentiality, signing the appropriate agreement with its client if necessary and, in turn, also having its translators sign one. In addition, the agency should provide you with the option of the text being handled in an anonymous form. An agency should never, ever, circulate your document on the Internet in order to locate the cheapest translator. Additional trust and confidence stems from the long-standing ongoing relationships that an agency has built up with its team of translators.
Finally, steps should be taken following delivery to ensure that the relevant documents are destroyed.


6. PWho are the agency’s clients?

The names of clients that the agency works with are an indication of their strength. Leading names can provide an additional guarantee of quality. But this counts for nothing unless an additional requirement is satisfied: trust. If instructing a particular agency to provide the translation of a lengthy document goes against your instincts and better judgment, then it is always preferable to have them translate a chosen few pages, which will mean that you are then better placed to decide whether quality meets expectations before handing the whole job over.


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