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Online Translation Services and How to Choose the Right One

By David Gikandi

If you are involved in international business, it is highly unlikely that you will go through your entire career without once having to have a document translated. It may be the one part of international business that you really loath, or it may be the part you really like. Whatever it is to you, you cannot escape it because it has a very distinct role in international relationships and business. Language brings comfort, enables access to local society and enables communication. That is if it is used correctly. Used carelessly, it could result in costly blunders and embarrassment. It has happened to the big multinationals hundreds of times, and it could happen to you. That is why it is so vital that you choose your translation services wisely, both when translating incoming and outgoing documents.

Many English-speaking business people worldwide are often tempted to communicate with all their overseas suppliers only in English. They assume that because broken English is the world#s most spoken language, everything will be understood clearly. So why go through the extra expense and trouble of using a translation service? Others simply leave the responsibility of translating their marketing materials and manuals with their business agents and partners in the destination market, never knowing for sure whether the translation was done completely and accurately. These are all wrong approaches. As much as it is cost effective to do so, you should find out what language your clients communicate in, and then get a good translation service to translate your sales materials, manuals and daily communication into the recipient#s language. It will make a major positive impression on your foreign clients and, if done correctly, reduce misunderstandings.

The Internet has brought about a proliferation of online translation services, making it considerable easier to shop around for a good translation service. Basically, there are two categories of translation services to choose from - machine and human. Machine translation is, of course, faster and cheaper than human translation. Several firms are now providing instant online translation whereby you simply email or type in your document online, choose a language and click the mouse button for an instant translation. While this is all very good, you must keep in mind that machine translation uses a machine. It will simply follow whatever syntax rules it is given and churn out a grammatically correct translation. But it will miss almost every idiomatic expression and the like. It is therefore most suited to translating memos, letters and other daily documents, but not for important contracts, proposals or manuals. When choosing a machine translation service, make sure that the technology behind it is good. Poor technology will still give you a translation, but a bad translation and it will not tell you it did a bad job. One good online machine translation service you could use is Systran Software#s (www.systransoft.com). Systran, which is also used by the Alta Vista search engine for online translation of search results, gives you a free trial to see how well their services work. Any good service should do so.

Human translation services use, well, humans. They are more expensive than machine translation services, and they do take time, but for important documents, you must go with these. That is because a human translator will reason things out and translate and expression correctly where a machine will fail to do so. But you must watch out! Starting a business as a translator is very easy! All a person needs to start a translation firm on the Internet is to speak another language convincingly and have a $20 a month Web site. The Internet has given people the power to do this. It is up to you to make sure that your selected translation service is not only established and reliable, but the translators also understand the languages fluently and the business or product you deal in adequately. Christa Graves of Language for Industry Ltd. (www.lfiwww.co.uk), an UK translation company with over 200 technically qualified communicators in over 40 countries gives the following guidelines in choosing a translation company for your business:

  1. Check to make sure that the translators have a background in your industry sector. Get a copy of their profile to prove this.
  2. Make sure the translator lives in the destination market; otherwise, you may find that the translation may be accurate but the style and the terminology used is 'old fashioned'. Language is dynamic and ever changing. Remember that languages soon become 'outdated' for those who do not live in the country of their native origin.
  3. Ask for a test project, free of charge, and have somebody verify the work. If you do not know a suitable person, you could ask a university in the destination market to check the accuracy of the conversion.
  4. Can the translator work with your local agents or subsidiaries and let you keep control at all times? This is particularly important because even if the translator knows the background of your industry, your company might have its own company phrases and terminology that you would want to keep consistent worldwide.
  5. Do they actively work with email or other electronic standards of sharing files? In the electronic age it is easier, faster, more reliable, and more efficient to move file around electronically.
  6. What selection criteria do they use for their translators? Do they test their ability?
  7. What quality procedures do they have to ensure that the text has not been altered and that nothing has been omitted? Are bold and italics still in place?
  8. Make a price comparison. Get a bottom line quote. You could find yourself hit with additional cost which where not originally quoted for.

For important translations, you should also personally check to make sure that the job was done correctly. One of the easiest way to do that is by back-translation # translating the foreign-language version back to the original language by a different company than the one who made the first translation. Using this approach, you will be able to detect omissions and blunders. Depending on the importance of the job, you might want to further assess the quality of the translation by undertaking a complete evaluation with testing of the message#s impact.

No matter how much the world seems to be getting smaller and everybody seems to be learning broken English, translation is more important than ever. Translation, and good translation at that, is not only courteous to your clients and business partners worldwide, it also makes very good business sense and polishes your global image.

David Gikandi is the President of Access Global Trade Exchange (http://www.access-trade.com), a comprehensive online provider of international marketing tools, information resources and affordable international business solutions for small, medium and large companies worldwide.

Article by Access Global Business Toolkit (http://www.access-trade.com), a comprehensive online provider of international marketing tools, information resources and affordable international business solutions for small, medium and large companies worldwide.

Tags: Communicate



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