7 tips for working with a translation agency

Working with a translation agency

Translation agencies are here to help you. We take pride in what we do and we’re always looking to improve. But getting the best possible results takes teamwork. Only you know what you need from your content, so offering clear and concise instructions will only make the finished product better. Here are some simple steps to make working with a translation agency as efficient and effective as possible.

1. Check the translation agency does what you need

If you don’t do a little research before you choose the best translation agency to handle your project, you might hit a roadblock right off the bat. No matter how diverse the background of a translation agency, no company will be able to accept a job in every language or every type of document. An agency’s website will list the languages they translate, what kinds of work they specialize in, and often a brief sampling of their active clientele. Don’t ignore this information. If you’re not sure if a company can accommodate you, it never hurts to ask. But ruling out total nonstarters will save time for everyone.

2. Introduce yourself

So you’ve chosen a translation agency you’d like to work with. You probably know a little about them from your research process. Now it’s time to help them get to know you. Your translators don’t need to be experts about your business; but it’s a good idea to give them a general sense of who you are. This will allow them to tailor content to your desired audience. They can also get a head start on reading up on specialized vocabulary they might need for your field. Some translation agencies will have more time than others to devote to building a relationship with you, but any good company will want at least a little familiarity.

3. Don’t do more than you need to

If you’re looking to work with a translation agency, you’re already on the right track. You’ve recognized that even if you have some knowledge of your target language, you’re not a professional; translating requires more skills than just language proficiency. This all means that one of the best things you can do for your translator (and yourself) is to let them do their work. It might seem like attempting your own initial translation will save time, but more often than not it makes things harder. If your second-language writing is unclear, the translator will be spending time untangling and rewriting it. A well-written text in the original language, on the other hand, provides much more useful information and can be translated in one smooth process. Even if you do feel your initial translation is fairly strong, send the original text too, in case certain words or phrases need clarification.

4. Be honest about deadlines

One of the primary negotiations you’ll have with your translation agency will be to do with deadlines. I say negotiations, because your motivations will often be different— you’ll want content translated as soon as possible, and your translators will have schedules packed with more than just your project.

Meeting translation deadlines

Don’t create urgency for no reason if you want a quality translation

However, deadlines can be worked out smoothly as long as everyone is honest. Your translators will be honest about how quickly they can finish a project without sacrificing their quality standards. You should be similarly reflective. If you know you need something done sooner than the deadline you ask for, you’ll be at risk of stress and trouble unless it just happens to get done early. On the flip side, if you demand it get done right away just for the sake of having it in hand, the product might not be as good as it could be, and that translator might be less happy to work with you again. When it comes to deadlines, open communication is key to positive relations.

5. Have a clear brand message

You can leave most of the work to your translation agency, but there are a few questions that only you can answer. For example, often in our multilingual marketing work here at VeraContent, we encounter names of companies, programs, events or products. It often doesn’t occur to us that even branded names such as these are not always language-neutral. Many such names involve words that will be meaningless when taken out of the culture that speaks the original language. For example, if you’re a Spanish soap company with a line called LujoPlus, buyers in your area will understand that those soaps are your more upscale options. But prospective customers in England won’t know “lujo” is Spanish for “luxury”.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You might decide you like the sound of the original name enough to leave it as is and let the meaning go. Or, you might prefer to pick a translated name and use that in English marketing. The important thing is that you make a decision and stay consistent. Things will get confusing for all involved if your product is called LujoPlus in some promotions and Luxury Plus in others. Your translator will be happy to use whichever terms you prefer and handle the consistency for you. Just be sure to tell them how you want it.

6. Provide clues when research might be needed

Research is part of a translator’s job. Any time we come across something we aren’t familiar with, we try to get the gist before translating around it. This ensures we aren’t misunderstanding crucial details. It’s not a client’s responsibility to explicate their content, but a helpful note here and there, especially for niche references, could save your translator a lot of time. If your text talks a lot about an acronym, for example, add a quick note of what the letters stand for (especially since most acronyms will change from language to language).

7. Give feedback if you’re partnering long-term

Your translation agency wants you to be happy with your results. Like any kind of writing, translators rely on feedback to improve the work they produce. A lot of this feedback will come from internal editing at the translation agency— any final product you see will have been passed around and carefully polished by the team. That process will ensure the language sounds good and is free of errors.

Giving feedback on translations

Feedback is an important part of building a relationship with a translation agency

But there are always issues of personal preference. Only you can judge if something has come out exactly how you wanted it. So if you’re cultivating an ongoing partnership with a company, let them know if there are things you’d like done differently. A good translator will be happy to make adjustments to content style or formatting of so it best serves your needs.

Of course, it will be up to each individual translator to ask for what they need to make your translation top notch. But having these points in mind is a great start to getting the most out of your collaboration. Good professional translators care as much as you do about producing a clear and effective final product. The more you can work together, the easier it will be to get there.

Find out if VeraContent is the right translation agency for you. Get in touch and tell us about your project for a no-obligation chat about what we can offer.

Tova Seltzer
A lifelong writer, poet, and seeker of just the right words, Tova is excited to be spending time abroad immersed in Spanish, although she misses the breakfast scene back in Washington, D.C.
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