What’s a commodity? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a commodity as a mass-produced unspecialized product. The translation of any document, however, is not a commodity. There are many elements which make translations services diverse from commodities. Here are a few of the factors that translators must take into account for any translation, which means that translation is, in fact, a very specialized and customized service:
- The type of document being translated will modify the kind of terminology necessary in the translation. The intended target audience for the document will dictate the vocabulary that needs to be used.
- Another thing to consider is the level of expertise required by the translator which is based on the document’s subject matter. For instance, a translator may be committed to financial terminology while another has a natural knack for business reports and correspondence, while a third one specialize in pharmaceutical documents.
- Often overlooked, the reason someone needs a document translated in the first has a big effect on the kind of translation they might require. For example, a personal document such as a driver’s license or birth record needs to be an exact word for word translation, because these details are standard and important. However a tagline for a product ad needs to be localized to the local culture where the ad will be displayed and should never be word-for-word translation (which may give you questionnable results like “Nothing sucks like an electrolux”).
- Does the translation require certain Certifications? This can be a very specialized area, whereby certain government agencies require translations to become performed by certified translators or certified translation agencies. Sometimes documents have to be notarized with a lawyer.
It is important to remember is that there isn’t a bouquet of rules and practices that may encompass every translation project. Unlike commodities, the translation associated with a document is a very specialized service. There are even specific qualité standards for the translation industry (These are equivalent to the ISO standards and certifications). In Canada, it’s the CGSB131.10 2008, and for the EU, there's 15038:2006.
The primary objectives of CAN-CGSB-131-10-2008 and 15038:2006 are:
- To guarantee the use of professional translators
- To ensure the consistent management of each supplier’s human and technical resources, as well as its quality standards
- To ensure documentation of and full compliance with all language, managerial and administrative processes
- To ensure that these processes are adapted to the particular requirements of the language industry
- To safeguard clients’ interests by establishing a framework for client/supplier relations
These standards are not legally required to work in the translation industry (as of today, they may be in the future). However, they can help a translation services customer to pinpoint real translation services provider that respect a documented quality standard.
Firms that send bids or RFP and just consider the lowest cost without thinking about quality are often surprised at the outcomes. Remember that, if your business model is even marginally dependent on brand image, you should think twice about going down the road of cheap translation providers. The old adage that you get what you pay for is extremely applicable to translation services industry.
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