What to Look for in a Language Services Provider
When you hire a new employee, it’s easy to weed out the unqualified from the qualified during the interview process. Why? Because nobody knows your business and your area of expertise like you do, and you can spot incompetence a mile away.
When you are interested in hiring a professional language services provider, such as a translator or interpreter, the process can feel a little different. For one thing, you’re hiring them because you do not have a professional level grasp of the subject matter – a foreign language. This makes it difficult or even impossible to determine their level of skill in translation or interpretation. You’re hiring them because you don’t speak the language.
Things to Consider when Hiring Professional Translators and Interpreters
The following considerations will help to ensure your chosen language services provider is the best professional fit – one that will help, rather than harm, your global business relationships.
- Check references first. In most hiring scenarios, checking references is the last item on the list. In this situation, you may want to prioritize reference checks. While there are various certification and professional affiliations that can indicate a language service provider’s expertise (more on that just below), there is no specific standard or governing entity monitoring the “professional” services offered by independently owned firms and companies.Therefore, you may want to start with a company’s references, optimally from businesses or clients who are working with the same target language(s) as you are, and who have used a similar scope of services. This may be a quick way to shortlist your top three contenders. From there you can move forward, knowing the final choice will be qualified and capable to perform top-notch work.
- Staffing. Look into how they staff their company. Many firms will have a few “in-house” translators who work with the most common target languages. Then, they contract with freelance translators and interpreters for lesser-requested services. Even so, all of their employees should have noteworthy credentials, including at least two or three of the following, if not all:
- An M.A. or PhD in a language field from a recognized college or university
- Native-level linguistic ability, preferably from the specific area or region the client is from
- Globally and/or nationally recognized affiliations, the best of which require peer reviews
- At least five years of professional experience with translations and/or interpretation.
If the credentials and qualifications are not clearly stated, they should be easy for the firm to provide for you. Any hesitation or delay on their part may be a sign they are not the right fit for your needs.
- Project Planning. How do they staff individual projects? In most cases, a project manager will lead a team of qualified translators or interpreters, acting as a liaison between you and the language service providers. Linguistic expertise and high-level editing should also be a part of the process for any translations that will take place. Finding out who will be working on the project, how projects are typically organized, and how communication between you and the team will take place can give you an early indication of a company’s organization, professionalism and attention to detail.
- Rate Schedule. Expert language services are invaluable, but a realistic budget is key. Ask how they determine their rates. In most cases, translation is billed on a per-word basis while conference level interpretation services are billed by day. Keep in mind that while going directly to a freelance translator may seem more affordable, a single freelance translator cannot provide assurance that the document will be free of language, cultural, contextual or grammatical errors the same way a dedicated team can. While you may pay more for translation done by a professional team, you are also guaranteed the most perfect translation possible and a document that has been reviewed, and re-reviewed by multiple linguistic experts and editors before final submission.As with most things in the business world, you “get what you pay for.” Low-priced translation and interpretation services will typically include errors and omissions that compromise the integrity of the message you are trying to convey. In many cases, paying more saves businesses more in terms of long-term client satisfaction, increased sales and repeat business. Remember: quality doesn’t cost, it pays.
A note about per-word rates. Keep in mind that while Latin American Spanish and Portuguese translations are typically comparable in word count to English, Arabic and Chinese translations, for instance, can increase the word count by as much as 40%. Also, higher rates are commonly charged for foreign languages in lower-demand, as well as for languages that read right-to-left, like Hebrew.
- Native Language Speakers. We mentioned this in point 2, but it is worth reiterating that the best translations and interpretations are executed by native speakers. This means something coming from a group of people who take pride in their ability to be fluent in more than one language. If possible, find a language services provider that offers native speakers. If this is not possible, it is imperative that any translated documents are reviewed at least once by a native-speaker before final submittal. Using native speakers is the best way to protect your valuable information or messages from being stilted, awkward or potentially offensive – as a result of errors in context and/or cultural sensitivity.
- Comprehensive services. In almost all cases, companies who approach us for a “one time only” translation and/or interpretation contract inevitably use us again and again for other language services. For this reason, we highly recommend seeking a firm that offers an array of language services, including things such as teleconferencing and interpretation equipment rentals. This way, you have the security of working with a company you’ve established a relationship with, and you don’t have to go through the “hiring and interview” process all over again.
Are you looking for an exceptional language services provider known to provide flawless translation and interpretation services? If so, contact Chang-Castillo and Associates. We are happy to provide ample references and consider ourselves the platinum-standard for worldwide language solutions.