Often, on the surface, all that is connected to the translation process might seem not too complicated. Document translation services can fall into that category. After all, a client requires a translation of a document, and a translator or a translation agency provides translation services. But is that really so simple?

Actually, it could be. First, it could be if the client knows exactly what he needs and what he has to do for his part. On the other hand, the translation provider has to know exactly what service he can provide. He also has to fully understand what the client needs.

Of, course, then there is the fact that the freelancer or the agency has to go through the whole process of actually providing the service. That in itself is a multilayered process that involves many more elements than just translating any single document.

Even if you just focus on one aspect of document translation services, that is, their specialization types, things ate not so simple. For example, Cultures Connection says that there are at least eight different types of document translation services.

In essence, as Clear Words Translations puts it, “translation and interpreting services to assist an individual or a company to overcome a language barrier.” But that assistance clearly depends on the close cooperation of both sides throughout the process. A translation client has to know exactly what he needs and take all the steps that depend on her/him. A translator or an agency has to understand what needs to be done and provide this service to the best of their ability.

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This post has been updated in August 2021. 

Getting the best out of a document translation service – how does a client have to be involved?

Here, it might be a good idea to start with a possible example. Your company wants to make a breakthrough in a number of Asian markets where the Chinese language is in use. For that purpose, it is planning a detailed advertising campaign for which it has prepared a series of printed and online ads, that include a series of videos too. All the written texts are prepared and ‘all you have to do’ is engage a document translation service.

Typing your keyword into Google search and looking at the first few hits you get might seem a good solution. It could be, but only if you have a thought out plan of what needs to be done.

So you know that you need a translation into Chinese, but as Interpro correctly points out, “there are some languages that require you to consider the region or countries you are targeting.” Actually, the number of languages for which you have to have a clear target exceeds those that don’t.

Is it just China that you want to focus on, or is it also countries like Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia where Chinese is also spoken. And then, even within China, you have to consider some local specifics in the Beijing area, Hong Kong, the industrial zone of Shanghai, or elsewhere within the country.

For such reasons a well-prepared translation plan needs to consider the following elements:

  • a precise idea of what you need the translation for;
  • defining the specialized field of the translation;
  • the scope of the project – how much translation is needed;
  • the time frame that includes addition for possible changes;
  • detailed editing of the document(s);
  • the precise definition of the formats in which the documents will be presented;
  • preparation and retention of glossaries;
  • defining a budget for the project.

where to get documents translated

Preparing for document translation

In preparation to engage and use a document translation service you first need to precisely define the target groups that you intend to reach with your documents in another language. Your instructions to the translation service provider have to be very specific to that effect. The service provider has to include all the localization elements in her/his translation specifically for each target group. You can always check in advance to make sure you know that the translator or the agency is going to provide exactly what you need.

When you know exactly what kind of specific field the theme of your document(s) is, you will know to look whether a potential translation service is able to handle it. Your translation can concern the medical, engineering, legal or any other specialized field. Still, it can be a combination of two or more. It is good to be aware whether the potential service provider has experts in any or all of those fields.

You have to know which parts and how much text of your project you need to be translated. It is also good to have an ideal completion date in mind. You always have to have in mind that any possible changes that you make while the translation is ongoing can have a more detailed effect that you expect. If you want the translation on your desk as close to the set date as possible, you need to edit your documents as much as possible prior to the translation.

The translation service you choose should know ahead how it should format the documents. It is good to know ahead of the process whether the potential service can handle such a format.

There is more to do

It is quite common now that quality translation services can also handle other aspects of document translation. That can include DTP services, but also, subtitling and voice-overs for including the text of the documents in videos. Choosing a service that can provide all these services, saves both time and costs.

Preparing for a translation also includes providing the translator and/or the agency with specific terms that you want them to include. This is particularly true of any specialized field that the translation is dealing with. If you already have the translation of the specific terms, the better.

The service provider can than prepare a dual, or multilingual glossary. This is not only a base for the specific translation, but for any possible future job in that language. Also, if you for any reason need to change the provider, you can use such a glossary as a good starting point.

When you have all the above elements set and clear, it is much easier to define a more precise budget for the whole translation project. Such a budget will certainly make the search for the right document translation service provider much easier.

What to look for in a document translation service – classifications

According to the classification mentions above by Culture Connection, these ate the eight types of document translation services:

  • Technical translation – in a broader sense everything from user manuals to financial reports. In a more limited sense, this refers to technical documentation such as IT documents;
  • Scientific translation – essentially a sub-group of technical translation. Refers to all documentation in the domain of science, natural or social;
  • Financial or economic translation – tall documents that range from annual accounts and reports to financial contracts;
  • Legal translation – as explained here, anything from summons and warrants to expert opinions for judicial purposes;
  • Juridical translation – concern all legally binding documentation. This could be laws and regulations to insurance policies;
  • Certified translation – also known as authenticated translation. These are documents that “which require legal validation and are thus referred to as “certified” or “sworn.” More details here.
  • Literary translation – simple to define, but hard to do. Translating any literary form, involves precisely getting the sense, meaning and even the rhythm of a literary text.

Document translation services like Open Text correctly point out another element that belongs among such service. That is text localization. They list a number of services that belong to this category:

  • Technology;
  • Software;
  • Hardware;
  • Documentation;
  • Online help;
  • Web;
  • Web applications;
  • Website content;
  • e-Learning;
  • Benefits.

To all this, you need to consider services like term bases and glossaries, editing and proofreading. As mentioned above, you always have to consider the ‘non-linguistic’ services, like subtitling, voice-overs, and DTP.

document translating services and how to translate a document

Factors to consider

Consumer Affairs at one point recently came up with a report on translation agencies. The publication concludes that translation agencies vary “with regard to the turnaround time, price, certifications, and overall quality of a translation agency are massively important.” This particularly when you have to decide which one to choose for a specific translation.

Elements like the scope of languages and services, expertise and price are obvious ones to have in mind. But what about, as Ace Lingo points out, you have specific document security needs? If they exist, it is always good to check how a certain translation service handles information security.

According to Connie Moorhead of Security Infowatch, “some translation services may retain documents for long periods of time. “ That is why it may be wise to ask a prospective document translation service regarding their data disposal protocol.

It is also good to know how much of your project is going to be done by ‘live’ translators and what part will be done by machine translation. This part is important if the documents need additional changes or editing after their translation is done. It is important to know what will be the human part in editing.

If you are in no way familiar with a certain language, it might be hard to evaluate the end result. That is why, as Ace Lingo suggests, it might be a good idea “to have a second document translation service ready to go that you can use as third-party verification of the main service’s efforts.”

This initially might look like a superfluous expense. But, in the end, it would mean that you have used the chosen document translation services to the full extent. More importantly, it would guarantee the best translation results.


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