When hiring translation agencies or translators themselves, avoid some basic mistakes that guarantee you will get a terrible translation back.

Many of our articles in Pangeanic’s Knowledge section aim to educate users of translation agencies and translation services. It describes technology, tools and why most companies need a translation company as a partner for international business. It is directed to potential clients and also fellow translation services professionals – whether they focus on sales, on website localisation, machine translation, etc. But, apart from our “Diary of an In-House Translator“, we neglected a little bit the human element in our equation, the translators themselves. If you are lucky enough to meet people who work in translation services at conferences, or if you have worked at a translation agency yourself, you know how often and how much using the services of freelancers comes close to sheer disappointment and frustration. Everyone complains about the hard time that translators give to the people who hire them. Complains range from missing deadlines to not adhering to the terminology provided, to fees often beyond what the translation agency is charging, lack of attention and lack of quality control….

But as we discussed in a recent article in our Spanish Translation website, there is a lot that the initiator of the translation service (the client) can do in order to avoid poor choices and incorrect approach to hiring translators. Here are some tips to follow if you really want to guarantee a bad translation. And I admit that after almost 19 years in the profession, I see many agencies and translation agencies making the same historical and well-known mistakes. Let’s see our 6 tips to get a terrible translation.

1st – Most Important: Hire Non-Professional Translators

I have heard all kinds of stories about the quality of a translation job, from languages being mixed to the translator disappearing and never sending the work, or being trapped in a revolution, sudden family bereavement…

Without exception, we go back to the root cause: who checked the translator’s credentials?. Anyone who has mastered a language through birth, work or study can call himself or herself translator. But that does not make you a professional. If you are using a translator based on the cheapest price on the Internet, or because of a personal recommendation … then you playing staking the odds to get a bad translation. Invest time in some due diligence and you can avoid future disasters.

2nd – Extremely Important: Provide an unrevised, unchecked text to translate

It is still amazing how many texts some clients send us which contain awkward sentences that are really difficult to understand even by native speakers. If you make reading difficult in your native language, do not expect any miracles from the people who have to understand it and provide a polished version. Typos, long sentences, particular terminology with no reference material… it all mounts up to get a bad translation back.

3rd – Extremely Important: Hire the Cheapest Translation Agency on the Internet

Self-explanatory.
Whilst technology in translation will make you save time and money (computer-assisted translation, machine translation, automated workflows for translation management, etc), the entry level into the language industry is still low. A team of bilinguals with a computer can claim to be a translation agency.
You often get what you paid for.
Good translation agencies will also be competitive on price because they have invested in technology, translation memories and tools.

4th – Very Important: Put Monolinguals in Charge

Research has proven that learning a foreign language is one of the easiest ways to grow old healthier. It even has a positive effect in keeping your brain younger and avoiding Alzheimer’s disease. It makes your neurons work (and thus stay fit). But let’s face it, not everyone has an interest, will or knack for languages. Some people just have no wish to learn a foreign language.

Languages are fun for me. I speak 4 proficiently and can get by in another 3. For me, putting people who don’t speak a second language in charge of your translation projects is not just asking for trouble: it is close to business suicide. Monolingual people lack a fundamental understanding that bilinguals have and that allows them the insight required to truly understand the challenges, nuances and details of the work they are facing. Some translators reach the profession after years living in a foreign country. Managing a translation project is not like managing GoodsIn&Out. I have seen competent managers in order business areas fail miserably trying to organise and keep track of a multilingual translation project.

5th – Very Important: Over insist on secrecy when you don’t need it

Many translations we deal with are about products which will hit the market in months. We understand about not releasing or leaking any details before a product launch.
But in many cases, your material is not so secret and you will want it published in days. Translators do not work in isolation. Many belong to translator’s associations and the often check source and background documents and even your competitors for the right terminology. Context is key to a high-quality translation. Forcing people to work on isolated Excel sheets without context is not going to help you get a good translation.

6th – Very Important: Hire a Translation Agency with a History of Mistreating Its Employees

The same due diligence as in the first point has to be applied to a translation agency. Good translation agencies will get good reviews. Fair enough, everyone can make a mistake and not all relationships can be perfect.

It is simple: you can’t simply use translation agencies based on price and faster-than-the-clock turn-around times… where is the proof-reading and checking time?
Do so and pray your translation project does not have multiple translators or project managers because they keep resigning. A stable translation agency that can provide experienced, effective translation services to you is one that treats its employees and freelancers well and has developed a good workflow over the years. Often, translation agencies will pay for staff training enough in order to keep the staff happy. It will probably be involved in large international translation organisations and be part of some R&D program.

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