The key to identifying added value in translation is recognising that the initial translation is only a stage in the overall documentation process. Is this process over when you receive a particular translation back from your language service provider (LSP)? No, it probably started before this particular job and will continue for the foreseeable future. You will probably need more translations in the future, and you should not be managing them as separate entities, but rather as a process over time.
These are some areas where you should be asking for added value in translation, and examples of how language suppliers can help in each one.
Quality: the concept of “quality” can include not only linguistic excellence, accuracy, tone, register and appropriateness, but also managing expectations, ensuring the right terminology is used, consistently meeting agreed standards, creating customer-specific processes, etc.
Knowledge of your industry: does your LSP have a large team of experienced, specialised translators? The better your language partner knows your industry, the better. Someone who knows your company’s terminology and understands what he is translating adds a great deal more value than a translator who isn’t specialised in your particular field.
Consistency with past translations: does your LSP use Computer Aided Translation software? The use of Translation Memory enables consistency across all the translation undertaken for a particular client. Regardless of which translator worked on a given text, they build up a specific TM for each client.
Other services and capabilities: does your supplier offer any number of languages in parallel? Can they help you with your internal processes?
Speed and timeliness: can your supplier handle large volumes in a short period of time? can they deliver on time every time? What if they fall ill? What if they stop answering your e-mails (and phone calls) just before your deadline?
Linguistic support: can you get your language supplier to expand on why he translated a sentence in a particular way? The best way to manage the internal review process is to make sure your LSP is only a phone call away – and that you can rely on them to pick up.
Formatting: can your supplier translate Powerpoint files? Can they do entire catalogues in QuarkXpress or other professional formats? Will they just translate your document and let you do the rest? or can they adjust it so that you don’t have to spend time fixing text boxes which are too small?
At the end of the day, the best supplier is the one you trust. But in translation, like in most other services, trust only comes with time. And even then, when it comes to trusting language service providers, who you trust is an entirely different story…