Archive for the ‘Tips for translation buyers’ Category

The translation as a vegetable

September 21, 2011

A few months ago, I was somewhat stirred up when a client informed me “I buy translations locally in the same way as I buy my vegetable box.”

It took me a long time to work out why that riled me so much. After all, vegetable growers are skilled people.

In the end it boiled down to two things:
1. Few translations are commodities in the sense that local vegetables are. If I want to “buy” a certain language pair or specialist subject I wouldn’t necessarily even be able to procure it locally or even on the same continent.

2. I felt the person in question was in a position to be more aware of that, which is why I am posting it here – another small contribution to making buyers aware of the nature of the product and the care that is needed in sourcing translation and interpreting.

I was translating this client’s non-English qualifications for a job application in another country where English was spoken. Try the above sentence with a few telling substitutes: “I buy scientific research/nuclear physics/Emerging Economy investment advice locally in the same way as I buy my vegetable box.” See? Not essentially local businesses. They’re purchased on quality and expertise, you would be proud to find a local provider, but would you really make it the primary criterion? Think about it.

On a lighter note, I have two puzzles to share with you, one linguistic and the other not:

1. Why do people who come from hot climates hate the British weather, but dive under cover into air-conditioned houses as soon as they get home?

2. Why is the football team FC Bayern München known in English as FC Bayern Munich and not FC Bavaria Munich?

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Where should you buy translation/interpreting?

August 23, 2010

I have had a few calls recently from potential customers who were worried by price issues. When that happens, as an “intermediary” I often give the name of a translator whom they can contact direct, who may not be VAT registered and who will not add the management (and finder’s) fee the intermediary needs to charge (think wholesale v. retail, though a direct translator bearing all the responsibility for a job rather than relying on an intermediary to read proof etc. will probably pitch prices somewhere in between these extremes).

I have a foot in several camps: around 85% of my living comes from the translation I do myself, the remaining 15% from intermediary work. In my “own” work, I serve both direct clients (a growing market for me) and translation companies. Sounds like more feet than any human being is entitled to! The question therefore arises for both myself and my clients: when should you go through an intermediary (translation company/agency), and when should you go direct?

Some simple rules:
– one-off jobs can often be handled by a translator/interpreter directly.
– if you are dealing with a limited number of languages and maybe not placing T&I work every day, you could be well advised to go directly to the translator
– especially if you are dealing with the kind of work where direct contact with an individual is useful, such as promotional or sensitive material where discussion with the author can be crucial.
In some ways the individual then deals with opposite poles – material where consistency and client knowledge does not matter so much, or where they are really particularly important.

But be careful where you shop: especially if you are not familiar with the T&I field, useful resources are www.iti.org.uk (my own personal affiliation) and www.iol.org.uk which are specialist professional associations with lists of qualified and tested individual professionals. Expert users “shop” there too! Members are listed by specialisation as well as language, so you can find the closest possible fit with your needs. The “letters after your name” which they provide are also particularly useful if you need to have the translation certified for court use, for example. And by the way, these are UK institutes, there are of course equivalents in other countries.

However, there are cases where the individual T&I professional cannot meet all your needs. If you are a busy person placing:
– a wide range of languages
– long jobs which a single person may not be able to handle within a specific deadline
– regular projects, particularly if (as above) they are long or in a wide range of languages
– you need the translation to be read by an additional external proof reader (a service some individuals provide and some do not, but most can do on request)
– you don’t have time to handle the phone calls, individual queries, general and particular management work involved
– you may want complex technical handling to give consistency over immense projects or have several languages handled in technically complex formats
– if, as a rare translation user, you really want someone else with expertise to choose your T&I professional, negotiate, know who to go to and what questions to expect etc.
If, in other words, you need a one-stop shop or a professional project manager for any number of reasons, then the additional fee normally incurred for a large in-house T&I/communications department or – more and more frequently – paid to a T&I company is more than worth while. ITI (web address above) has corporate members, there are also specialist professional associations for translation companies such as the ATC (Association of Translation Companies), EATC (European Association of Translation Companies) etc.

Either way, it makes sense to identify the best supplier to suit your needs.