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Should I Contract A Translation Agency Or An Individual Translator?

Should I Contract A Translation Agency Or An Individual Translator?


You may have automatically assumed that the most appropriate option for the translation of your web site, reports and other business documents is to contract the services of a large translation agency. In this article, I’d like to share some of the benefits of contracting a translator directly and explain the pros and cons of the two options.

Contracting a translation agency, while costing more money, may offer certain advantages:

  • A large agency has the advantage of being able to cope with “sheer volume” by having dedicated project managers to handle splitting a large translation among several translators. Although not ideal, if you need a large volume translated urgently, then it may be the only option.
  • If you need your text translating into several languages, a large agency is likely to be able to cater to this need.
  • If your business deals with a variety of technical fields rather than a very focussed area, then an agency will be able to assign documents requiring different specialisms to different translators.
  • A good agency may have provided its translators with materials such as glossaries to assist them with their translations and ensure consistency.
  • A good agency may have other Quality Assurance processes in place and should at least have vetted its translators according to some basic criteria such as number of years’ experience and in some cases satisfactory completion of a short test.

However, you should not assume that any of these are the case. Given that the agency could be taking anything up to half the price of the translation in commission, you should verify what actual added value they are providing. Is the agency carefully selecting the most appropriate translator for your project and then applying additional proofreading and verification? Or are they simply mass-mailing their translators, assigning the job to the first available person and mailing you the result without further checking?

You should also not assume that the above factors cannot be addressed if you work with an individual translator. If appropriate for your project, working directly with an individual translator can bring various advantages and still address some of the needs mentioned above:

  • You have a direct contact with the professional who will actually be working on your project. You can discuss with them any particular requirements or doubts that you have. Conversely, they can quickly verify with you any points in the text that require clarification.
  • You know that the same translator will be working on your material and will become intimately acquainted with your project and company.
  • While an individual translator will only be able to handle a modest volume compared to a large agency and will be specialised in particular fields, many translators will also collaborate with trusted colleagues where need be to handle greater volume or consult them on a particular subject area. However, a good translator will still check their colleague’s work for errors and ensure, for example, that their use of terminology is consistent.
  • You can ask the translator what experience and expertise they have with your particular subject area. Translators specialise in particular technical fields but a professional translator should also be happy to give you an honest answer if they cannot take on a particular job.
  • While agencies can in principle benefit individual translators with their knowledge base of terminology and translation memories, in practice many agencies do not perform this role. And in any case, good translators will nowadays be familiar with and have access to large on-line terminology databases which have made traditional resources somewhat redundant.

Given the above factors, if you haven’t considered it before, then I would strongly recommend that you consider the option of contracting a translator directly if it is suitable to your business needs.

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Should I Contract A Translation Agency Or An Individual Translator?


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