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Navigating the Changing Waters of Translation Providers

Navigating the Changing Waters of Translation Providers

Once upon a time – or so we were told whilst sitting at our grandfather’s knee – the process of locating and securing a translation was simple, formal and structured.
Now, however, as with everything else, times have changed, the players have shifted and all is often not what it might seem.

Traditionally, clients were able to choose between working directly with a freelance translator or using a language services agency. The latter was able to offer a variety of language pairs and services, such as interpreting and transcription. This choice was often dependent on the nature of the translation. An academic, for example, might prefer to work directly with a translator who had a professional level of expertise in the required field. Often these relationships have been quite collaborative in nature.

On the other hand, a multinational company, doing business on a global level, would obviously prefer a translation company that could handle the wide variety of their needs.

However, the playing field has changed radically over the last few years, often, but not always, for the better.
A third entity has now inserted itself into the equation, and the other two are often in a process of transition.

An increasing number of freelance translators, working in one language pair, are soliciting translation projects, and translators, in a multiplicity of languages. They are also sometimes bidding for more work than they can handle and outsourcing the translations to untested providers with whom they have had no prior relationship. The consequences can be disastrous.

On the other hand, some professional freelance translators are also changing the game for the better. Working only into their native language, with a wide range of area expertise, they are increasingly able to provide a competitive advantage. Some of them partner with known colleagues who can offer a broader range of services, including DTP (Desk Top Publishing), thus providing a sort of boutique agency for their language pair.

As for the traditional, larger translation agencies, they have been moving towards including even more value-added services and products, such as sophisticated localisation capabilities, copywriting and a variety of consultative possibilities. In addition, their quality control procedures have often become more sophisticated as their projects have grown more technical and demanding. Because of this they are able to handle the increasingly complex and demanding needs of companies in, for example, technical, legal, financial and IT fields.

This changing playing field in the language services arena is ultimately positive for clients seeking a competitively priced, professional product. The primary reason for this is that these changes have been market-driven, leading providers to be more focused on flexibility and serving the individual needs of their clients.

The only caveat in seeking a translation provider is, as ever, to do one’s due diligence. Check references, expect a detailed contract and ask questions. This is how you can avoid falling prey to the unprofessional few.

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