translation quality man fishingIn global marketing, finding high-quality translations doesn’t have to be like fishing. Baiting several vendors with translation samples and hoping to hook the best one will likely be unsuccessful if you don’t provide enough guidance to ensure translation quality.  Even if all the conditions are right, if you don’t have set evaluation criteria, you may end up throwing in your lure only to catch a smelly old boot, rather than a big, beautiful fish.

While translation samples may be a mandatory part of your vendor selection process, they aren’t always a true or complete indicator of the level of quality a vendor provides. If you must do them, it’s important to take as much subjectivity out of the evaluation as possible, preparing all vendors so that you can compare them apples to apples—or in this case, fish to fish.

Here are some tips to even the score so you can be sure to reel in the right vendor so you can get the translation quality that meets your expectations for marketing your products internationally.

Baiting the hook: What do you consider high quality?

First, you need to understand what type of fish (or in this case vendor) you’re going after so that you can select the right bait. You can’t approach translation samples blindly—hoping that the vendor with the best translation quality will magically appear on your hook. Just like in your marketing efforts, you need to be strategic in your approach.

Before you even request a translation sample, you and anyone else evaluating the samples should have an agreed definition of what you consider to be high quality. You need to have answers to these questions:

  • Who’s looking at your translations?
  • What exactly are you looking for? Grammar, consistency, a particular style?
  • How do you gauge your current vendor’s translation quality? If there are issues, what are they?
  • How are you going to compare the translation samples? Are you comparing them to your translation projects delivered by your current vendor?

The answers to these questions are important because translation quality can be very subjective. If you’re looking for a particular style, you need to establish your measurement criteria before sending out a sample request. You also don’t want to compare samples to the work of your current vendor, because they have had time to learn your organization and content—getting feedback and guidance from you along the way to improve quality. Defining the evaluation criteria upfront will ensure all reviewers are on the same page regarding evaluation of translation samples for quality.

Casting your line: What can you do to make the process effective?

To successfully prepare each vendor for the translation samples, you need to provide each with the same information. Avoid snags by giving each one the information they need to do the job well.

For example, when you are evaluating translation samples for marketing content and have set style preferences, articulate this to the vendors. It can be tricky for linguists to pick up on your brand’s tone if they don’t have any context or insight as to what you’re looking for. Remove all doubt and share this information right away. If you have any reference materials, such as style guides and glossaries, provide these as well. The more clarity you can give, the more likely the samples will be up to your translation quality expectations.

You should also train all of your internal reviewers on what to look for around style preferences, giving them guidelines to remove as much subjectivity as possible to ensure that the samples are evaluated in the same way across the board.

Also, be sure to give vendors adequate time to complete the translation samples. If you only give them a 24-hour notice to complete a lengthy project, it can be done, but translation quality may not be up to your standards if the work is rushed.

Reeling in your catch: What should you look for after samples are returned?

Your bobber has gone underwater, and you’ve got a translation sample on the line. Now what? It’s time to reel in your catch and see how it compares to others. Here are some things to look for:

  • Is the sample free of grammatical errors?
  • Does it have a professional look and feel?
  • Based on the guidance you’ve given to each vendor, have they successfully met your quality expectations?
  • Is the translation fit for purpose?

If all samples fall short, you may need to evaluate your internal reviewers to determine if they’re properly qualified and adequately prepared to do the job. Are they native speakers? If no, they may not an ideal candidate to review your content. Were they given proper guidance on how to evaluate each sample according to the same standards? If no, then they will need more training to get up to speed.

In general, translation samples can give you insight into really poor translation quality that has actual errors. Quality around style is much more subjective. Style and brand
preferences can be addressed with linguists to give them the proper
guidance to meet your expectations. That is why there is much more to the quality equation than just looking at translation samples. To properly evaluate a vendor’s commitment to quality, you should also ask for more information about any quality processes and plans they have in place. Do they track and measure quality throughout the translation process? How do they make adjustments to continually improve the quality? Analyzing these methods is a more accurate way to determine a vendor’s commitment to translation quality because issues regarding style can easily be fixed with some proper guidance once you start working with them.

Don’t leave your translation quality up to luck—it’s way too important. Choose the right bait and cast your line strategically so that you can come out successful at the end of the day. There are other ways to evaluate translation quality. Check out this whitepaper on 10 questions you should ask to better gauge quality standards.

Have you sent out any translation sample requests? Did they help you pick a translation vendor? We’d love to hear more about your process!