The most important questions to ask translation vendors

Does your project require the human touch (human translation or HT), or will machine translation (MT) work well with your text? Maybe the middle-road of post-edited machine translation (PEMT) is precisely what you need. But, if you’re not sure which translation solution best meets the needs of your company and project, you’ll need to ask a few questions—and dig deep for answers.

When comparing translation solutions, it’s important to understand that there is no single approach that works equally well for everyone. There is no “best method” either—the best method is the one that works best for you. To find your ideal translation method, start by asking yourself a few questions before you contact a vendor.

Ask yourself:

  1. What is the size of your project? If your annual volume is over one million words, most HT agencies and many PEMT agencies aren’t prepared to handle that. Crowd or MT solutions will be your best bets.
  2. How related are your languages? Closely related languages, like Latin-based French, Italian and Spanish, are easier for MT solutions to translate correctly. But if you need to translate from English to Chinese, you’ll need human translators to achieve the best results.
  3. How fast and how well do you want it done? HT agencies aren’t built for speed, as a rule, but are built for quality. MT projects tend to be faster, but the setup for large MT projects also takes time. Either way, be clear from the beginning on what quality you expect from your vendor.
  4. What price per word are you prepared to pay? If your budget is restricted, MT, PEMT and crowd HT options are less expensive than HT.

With your internal answers in mind, it’s time to ask prospective translation vendors their own set of very important questions.

Ask a vendor:

  1. How do you define and measure quality in translations?
    You want to make sure the vendor has an objective way to measure quality so everyone’s expectations are on the same page.
  2. Can I see an unfiltered set of translation examples?
    Translation agencies, like any other business, would prefer to only show samples of their best, highly edited work. But you’ll get a better sense of the quality they provide if they let you see an unfiltered set of real translations.
  3. Do you have minimum fees, or any additional costs?
    Many HT services have minimum fees, and some services have hidden extra costs for project management, file handling or technology integration.
  4. What is your max capacity for translation, and how will the scope of my project affect the timeline?
    HT and PEMT providers often have trouble handling high volumes of work, or will gladly take the work, but give a very long timeline for project completion.
  5. Do you have an API? What integrations are available?
    Providers with APIs and integrations with platforms like mobile cloud services (MCSs) or ecommerce make managing content much easier.

Each type of translation vendor works differently. Here are some vendor-specific questions you’ll want to ask.

Ask the HT vendor:

What parts of your workflow are manual and what are automated?

The answer to this question will give you insight into how scalable their process is. Completely manual translation sometimes means higher cost and lower speed. Crowd HT providers, on the other hand, normally automate project management tasks.

Ask the crowd HT vendor:

Do you have your own technology platform built for your purposes?

This answer tells you how on top of technology the vendor is, and how ready they are to scale with you. Crowd providers should be absolutely on top of their technology and the best use leading-edge techniques (like their own platforms) to make processes hyper-efficient. Do we at Gengo have our own platform? You bet!

Ask the MT vendor:

What costs are associated with each stage of scale?

Depending on the provider and your needs, you may use cloud-based, self-hosted or other solutions for which there may be consultation or usage fees.

Ask the PEMT vendor:

What qualifications and experience do your post-editors have in our industry?

If your translation work includes specialist content, inexperienced post-editors may make serious errors. If your company has different types of content, you may want to see if using different solutions for different purposes offers better value for your dollar.

Still not sure which service will work best? Contact us for a free consultation.

For the complete list of questions to ask translation vendors, read our free white paper, Making sense of translation services, to find out what you need to know to confidently reach a decision.

Lauren Van Mullem

The author

Lauren Van Mullem

Lauren assists in content production for Gengo's marketing team. As a former food and travel writer, she has experience communicating with all kinds of people from around the world and believes in celebrating different cultures through understanding them.

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