Translations – Do It Yourself or Outsource?

Despite uncertainty in the global markets, many organizations are still experiencing significant international growth. This means localization is as important as ever, and companies need to have a translation process in place that is both efficient and accurate in order to communicate effectively with global clients and employees.

In reality, many companies do not regard localization as a core part of their global business and end up asking bilingual employees to help with the translation of business documents. Some supervise the process or handle final proofreading, but many assume the most critical role of all — translator.

Consider the following scenarios:

  • One of your products is wildly popular in France, and it’s about to be upgraded. The local marketing manager volunteers to update all of your French-language marketing brochures and sales presentations.
  • You’ve just set up a new sales office in Shanghai. To train your new employees on company policies, you ask a bilingual employee in your New York office to translate all of your learning and development materials.
  • When your company had only two international offices, you only needed internal communications translated into those languages. Now that your company has expanded, you find you’re coordinating the efforts of five bilingual staff members.

Arrangements such as these can work, but it’s usually not long before organizations begin to outgrow them. For instance, you might begin to notice inconsistencies in boilerplate copy at the bottom of every press release. Your legal team may be surprised by small tweaks that have significant implications in a localized document. You start to experience delays because your bilingual employee needs to manage a more urgent deadline related to their regular work before getting to your translation. When time is of the essence and you need a fast turnaround, delays can have a negative impact on business.

Many organizations seek to avoid the pitfalls of relying on employees for this task by working with a translation service provider. Those that make the transition find there are several advantages to this approach. For instance, a full-service agency will be able to manage translations in almost any language and area of expertise. These services have access to hundreds of professional translators and can source bilingual experts that have the language- and industry-specific technical knowledge you need. Further, you’ll always have access to a dedicated professional translator whose primary job is to focus on your translation. As a result, you can count on a fast, professional translation that is entirely consistent with prior and future documents.

What’s more, it removes the burden of this task from your employees, many of whom assume these tasks as “side” jobs in addition to their regular work. When you engage a dedicated translation service provider, your employees no longer need to spend valuable time working on a tedious translation. Instead, they can use that time to focus on work that drives your business forward.

In addition, while it may seem an effective approach, assigning translation duties to members of your team presents numerous drawbacks. For example, although bilingual employees may be confident about their ability to translate a piece, that doesn’t mean they’re qualified for the task. Most don’t have the specialized training or knowledge that’s required to produce an accurate translation. The result is a poor-quality translation, which can make your organization look unprofessional.

Another problem: Employees usually don’t have the tools or software that professional translators use for speed, consistency and accuracy. Not surprisingly, most companies don’t invest in translation memory software. That means employees must translate documents manually. This approach is highly inefficient. It takes more time, results in delays and creates inconsistencies. Also, since they may not have access to the software used to create the original content (InDesign or MadCap Flare, for example), they simply recreate it in Word.

By contrast, professional translators can employ Translation Memory to leverage previously translated content and work within the original file format to retain formatting and context. And in some cases, machine-translation with post-editing (MTPE) can be used to save time, accelerate the process and reduce costs.

Once you’ve decided to make the leap to an external translation service provider, there are four steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.

1. Build the business case. If you’ve decided your internal process isn’t meeting your needs, take the time to document how and why working with an external provider will be an improvement. It’s common to meet resistance to this type of change but spelling out the advantages up front will help you gain buy-in from key stakeholders.

Be sure to outline how the translation service provider will help your company:

  • Save time and soft costs on tedious translation tasks being done by your employees.
  • Avoid missing big opportunities, such as responding to large RFPs or launching new products before competitors, because your internal staff cannot meet your deadlines due to other priorities.
  • Manage larger volumes of documents for translation.
  • Handle translations in more languages.
  • Improve efficiency of the translation process.
  • Obtain more consistent, higher-quality translations.

Some of the soft costs associated with translation might include:

  • A poor-quality translation of your website can discourage potential marketing leads from making contact as well as hurt your reputation.
  • The time your sales manager spends translating marketing material is time they could have spent selling.
  • Missed deadlines delay delivery of products or services to customers and may put a valuable relationship at risk.

2. Involve your team. Many organizations find the loudest objections to using a translation service provider come from their own employees. Some aren’t eager to give up the responsibility, and few believe the quality of the agency’s translation meets their standards. One way to build trust in the translation service provider is to give the employees on your team – especially those who have been translating documents – a role in the transition. During this period, they can work alongside the agency, providing guidance and ensuring accuracy and consistency. They can help build a company-specific glossary and also transfer their knowledge about company style.

3. Communicate the benefits to your employees. Be clear that the switch is a business decision made both for the overall benefit of the company as well as your team. Some employees may take the change personally. Engaging a translation service provider means that all employees previously involved in day-to-day translations will have more time to focus on their main job responsibilities and advance critical projects. And if they’ve been working after-hours on translations, they can now spend more time with family and friends and on personal pursuits. If they seem reluctant to the change, seek to find the underlying reasons why.

4. Strive for consistency. It’s important to work with a translator who is not only fluent in the required languages, but who is also a good match for your organization’s tone and writing style. A good translation service provider will allow you to test two translators during the transition period so you can find the right match. During this period, you and your team will have the ability to communicate directly with the translator. The goal here is to collaborate and learn. Translator consistency allows you to move the process forward and not get stuck in an endless cycle of trials.

Making the switch to a translation service provider is easier than you think. The steps above will ensure your transition goes smoothly. With the new process in place, you can be confident professional linguists are providing quality translations of your global communications.

Click for a quote. We will be in touch to discuss your requirements and solution options.

To set up a call to further discuss your needs or additional information, please send an email to