This is the age of empowered users. From publishing to music, from accommodations to rental cars, the Internet has made it possible to cut out the middle men and give rise to a new so-called "sharing economy" where companies like Uber, Fiverr, AirBnB and Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program make it possible for anyone to find just about any service under the sun directly. This empowers users to do things on their own that used to require professionals. After all, when was the last time you used a travel agent?
It might seem that business translation and localization fall into this category as well: if you spend a little time on Google, you can find platforms offering cheap translations to anyone. Cost-conscious entrepreneurs might start to wonder: why would anyone pay for a professional translation agency if much cheaper alternatives are just a few clicks away? What value can traditional language service providers (LSPs) possibly add at this point in the game?
There are at least four good answers to this question:
Finding and Managing Qualified Translators
There's one obvious advantage an LSP has over the home-brew method of trying to find suitable translators for your project yourself: every reputable agency works with a pool of seasoned translators, often located in-country to stay up-to-date with the latest cultural and linguistic developments. Instead of starting over with new, untested collaborators, an agency's biggest asset is their roster of trusted professionals.
Managing these translators is not a trivial task, especially if you take into account that many business projects involve more than two languages. Instead of a single language pair, you might find yourself working with several languages and an entire team of translators localizing for several markets simultaneously. Coordinating and communicating with them about your project specifications and scope changes, confirming availability and deadlines, monitoring their progress, requesting updates, and keeping them abreast of the latest instructions requires vigilance and routine. Why not use an agency which already has the necessary procedures in place?
Translation Quality Control
We often encounter the mistaken assumption that anyone who speaks two languages is qualified to translate between them. The fact is that translation is a highly specialized skill that relies on extensive study of languages and cultures together with years of experience to precisely render the meaning of one language in another.
As difficult as it is to find reliable, high-quality translators, the difficulties multiply when specialized texts have to be localized within today's tight deadlines. Professional LSPs have procedures in place that ensure tight quality management and feedback. Every text is proofread by at least one other professional after the initial translation, and the agency's project managers track performance and reliability.
In complex work environments, the PM also maintains term glossaries to ensure consistency over the course large translation projects and between languages and guarantees that information is neither lost nor duplicated -- and the final texts are delivered on time.
At first glance, it may not seem like much extra effort to deal with a few freelance translators rather than one agency, but if you've ever dealt with international bank transfers and teams working in separate time zones, you may begin to understand the savings in time and fees only an LSP can offer you. Instead of having to deal with repetitive tasks such as confirming terms, tracking invoices sent and received and making sure no payments are missed with each translator you work with, the LSP is your one-stop shop handling all these potential headaches for you.
Advanced Translation Tools & File Formats
The complexity of current tools and formats demands a high degree of experience and specialization from translators. Not only do professional translators use tools such as machine-assisted translation (MT) or translation memory, but they also know how far to trust them and not to rely exclusively on computerized help. They also know how to deal with obscure file formats. If your translation isn't just a straightforward text document but comes as part of a website or an app, you'll want to make you're working with an experienced agency that can reliably extract all the text that needs to be translated from the document -- such as all meta tags, image description and URLs -- and then fit the translations back into the proper place. Only one mistake in any given document is enough to break a webpage or crash an app.