When arranging competitive tendering for translation agencies, many customers are faced with a dilemma. There are usually only small differences in pricing, service portfolios differ slightly, and the technology used by all translation agencies is more or less the same. So, how do you know in advance, which translation agency produces the best quality?
The worst approach to competitive tendering for translation services is to assess the quality of a translation agency solely on the basis of individual translators. In that case, the factors considered are the years of experience the appointed translators have and the number of pages they have translated in the field in question. Sometimes, the most experienced translator is the best, but not necessarily always. You should always select the best expert for the assignment, regardless of their age or years of experience.
It is hard to understand how the number of pages translated can yield points in quality assessment. Reporting an enormous number of pages in the tender is no indicator of how good or bad the translations have been.
When quality assessment is this difficult, many customers have decided to have candidate agencies do a test translation. However, having a test translation done is not without its problems either.
Pros and cons of a test translation
One advantage of a test translation might be that it enables the customer to assess, at least to some extent, the translation agency’s service process and the quality of a single translation provided by the agency. A test translation is indicative of whether the translation agency understands the customer’s field of operations and whether it is capable of assigning the translation to the best possible expert, without the tenderer setting strict requirements for the experience of translators. If, in a competitive situation, the translation agency cannot deliver an adequate test translation that adheres to the instructions given, it probably won’t be able to do so in other cases either.
However, an excellent test translation does not guarantee that equivalent quality can be provided in the future. There may have been an exceptionally large team involved in the test translation or it may be the case that the translator who did the test translation won’t be able to handle all required translation assignments after all, due to other work assignments, holidays or falling ill, for instance.
Remember the following when commissioning a test translation
1. Choose a source text with a clear context. Explain the context in the assignment. The purpose of a test translation is not to test who can guess which topic the text is related to. In a real translation situation, a professional translation agency works in close cooperation with the customer to ensure that the translator has understood the context correctly and the translation meets the customer’s needs.
2. Do not choose a text that has already been translated as the digital footprint of a translation may be long-lasting. If a previous service provider is also taking part in your competitive tendering, do not give them an unfair advantage by using a source text containing terms and phrases that can be found in texts that have been translated by them before.
3. Make sure that your text is not full of special terminology that cannot reasonably be known or worked out. In a real translation situation, the translation agency can usually refer to a term base built for the customer and also verify terms with the customer. Instead, you should test the translator’s ability to search for information with terms that are relatively easy to find and focus more on the translator’s attention to detail and the fluency of the translation.
4. Never let participants know in advance when you are going to send out the test translation and provide an appropriately short time for translating. In this way, you can assess the outcome and the translation agency’s delivery performance in a real translation situation.
5. Ensure that test translations are assessed fairly and professionally. Even if you have a bilingual colleague who could check the test translation, it is preferable to turn to a professional. Only a language expert can assess a test translation in a linguistically reliable manner.
When used appropriately, a test translation is a tool good enough for quality assessment. However, in our experience, the best guarantee of quality is a recommendation from a satisfied customer. What do Delingua’s customers say about us? Read our customer stories and find out.