Planning a new translation project for your business? You might be tempted to ask for a test translation from your language service provider to make sure they can provide you the quality you are looking for. However, it may not always be necessary to delay the translation process by requesting one. The best strategy is to consider the nature of your project and what you expect from the agency, communicate your needs clearly and if you are still in doubt, request a test translation.

When is a test translation a wise option? The answer is… It depends!

test translationWhen potential customers ask us to do a test translation for them, we are more than happy to show them the quality of the translation work we do here at BeTranslated, your professional online translation agency. However, test translations can pose issues for the agency, delaying the translation process. When we prepare for a translation project we follow a strategy of identifying the customer’s goals, recruiting and training the team, and then identifying the processes that will help us achieve these goals. A test translation, before doing any of these steps, can be somewhat counter-productive. This is why we ask our clients to consider whether a test translation is absolutely necessary for their translation project.

Why a test translation may not be the best choice

A customer has identified requirements for a large, long-term project, but asks for a test translation up front to see if the quality is good. Naturally, we oblige, as the client is our priority. Most translation companies find their best translators regardless of price, review the translation numerous times to make sure it is of the best possible quality. However, the test ends up merely demonstrating how the agency can produce a professional translation, without using the tailor-made processes or the specialized linguists they’re going to use going forward. The request itself has put them in an awkward position, and the only way out is to provide a quick but high-quality example of the work they do.

I suppose it’s a valid test in one way — they’re throwing down a challenge, and if you can’t react successfully then that says something about your abilities in general. However, test translations add on extra time to a project, and the agency may end up going with a different translator for various reasons. Your test translation may be an accurate reflection of the professional translation’s agency’s abilities, but may not reflect the precise direction the final translation will take.

How a test translation can help your business

Of course, when dealing with more technical projects such as legal translations, financial translations, or texts that require specialized knowledge such as machine operating instructions, you will want to be reassured that your content will be translated by someone with all the necessary knowledge, vocabulary, and skills. One way to verify this before proceeding with the project is to request a test translation.

A specialized, native translator with knowledge in your subject area will be asked to provide a sample translation, with the intention of attributing the project to that same translator once confirmed with the client. This way you can get an overview that will help you decide if the agency and translator are right for you. We always appreciate feedback, so if something is not right with the translation please let us know, and we will find another translator more suited to your needs.

With or without a test translation, communication is key

Our suggestion for translation buyers is to dig deep into the process that’s being designed to meet your needs rather than spot-checking the provider’s ability to pull off a good ad-hoc translation. Have they analyzed your criteria for success? Have they put together a plan that demonstrates how they are going to meet those criteria? Do their key players seem credible? These factors are an indicator of your long-term success much better than a single high-quality translation.

What do you think about test translations? Do you think they accurately reflect a translation provider’s abilities? We’d like to hear your comments.