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How to Choose a Translation Vendor (Long)

A shorter version of this paper is available.

When a company identifies a need for documentation to be translated into new languages for both existing customers and new customers it is important to ensure you choose the right translation vendor. In doing so, it is necessary to identify options (with associated costs and risks) for meeting current demands, processes for handling future translation requests, and a big-picture strategy for documentation translation needs across product lines and worldwide needs.

To begin with, let’s first identify what a translation vendor does. Or at least what a vendor is assumed to do for the purposes of this paper. A vendor:

  • Works with you to manage people and processes
  • Finds the right translators based on your needs
    • Regional needs (Spanish EU/Mexico, French Canada/France, Portuguese EU/Brazil, English US/Australia/England/Canada)
    • Technical needs (Science/Medical/Finance/Tech)
  • Works with desktop publishing
  • Verifies all final content against expectations

Let us also identify the difference between translation and localization. It’s crucial to ensure you get the lingo right. Translation means taking words in one language and translating them to another. Localization means taking concepts, images, ideas, content and making it all understandable to the target user Localization also includes “locale” for a specific language or terminology. For instance Latin American Spanish is localized differently than European Spanish. Note that the term “L10N” (Localization … 10 letters between “L” and “N”) is often used generically to cover everything, including translation. Most translation vendors only talk about L10N, assuming that you know that it “includes” the translation process.

Much of the value of translated content is in the translation memory and the associated tools that can work with it. To further clarify terms used in this paper, let’s look at what a translation memory is and what we mean by translation tools and how they work.

This content was originally delivered for Tekom in Germany and at Lavacon in Hawaii.

Publishing Smarter offers consulting services related to the selection of translation vendors. Contact us for more information.