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Questions people ask about translation

As a language service provider that receives a plethora of text on a daily basis, there is a certain amount of routine involved when receiving translation requests.  In order to stay competitive in the very competitive world of the translation industry, it is important to develop a workflow in dealing with requests. Of course, the document has to be counted and a quote has to be sent to the client in accordance with a standard price list, but that is actually only a miniscule portion of what actually goes on if you want to be awarded the project and it is exactly at this point when the most important factors are determined, not only for winning the quote but also carrying out the translation itself successfully.

First of all, it is important to keep in mind that no translation is exactly the same. It is for this reason that translations are executed within the scope of projects. Projects, by nature, are never the same. Each project has to be handled as if it were a single event that will only happen once.

Furthermore, when a request is made, it is usually at this time when the majority of customer specifications are collected. This is really important because in order for the project to run well, the finished product, the final translation, has to be what the customer expects. At the time of a request, it is exactly these criteria which have to be made clear.

In my opinion, the best way to win quotes is to treat each and every one as if it were going to become a project, and that from the very beginning. Ask questions! Make sure these questions are posed to both yourself and the customer. It is important to define what the customer wants and if this is not made clear, it is also the time to ask the customer for details. Enquire on what delivery date is required by the customer. Ask what the translation is going to be used for. Find out if customer has any special wishes that have to be taken into consideration. The key word here is communication. Don’t forget that 80% of all project failures arise as a result of poor communication. Counter-measures have to be taken to prevent a lack of communication.

In addition, the document has to be analyzed, not only with regard to its volume but also the content. What type of text is it? Is the source text particularly difficult to understand? Is there specialized vocabulary involved that might not be readily understood? Does the document contain any information which might require further explanation of the customer’s part? (e.g. abbreviations, company-specific vocabulary, invented metaphors which may prove difficult to translate). Is the text general in nature or is it marketing content that may need to be additionally localized for a specific target group/country? What type of translator would be best for translating this type of text?

The document format also has to be considered. Is it a PDF file that has to be converted? Does text length have to be taken into account for the translation? (e.g. software translations, brochures, etc.) Does the translator have the technical means to translate the document or will additional DTP (Desktop Publishing) work have to be done? Does the formatting of the document pose any certain issues?

After this is done, imagine that quote being issued has been approved and the translation project gets underway. As is the case with any type of project, it is important to determine a price and figure out the timescale of the project, as well as document specific quality requirements for the translation at hand. In order to win the quote, the timescales have to be short, the price has to be low as possible and the quality has to very high. That is the key to winning any quote in just about any industry.

If analysis is performed correctly and all these questions can be answered, it is generally not difficult to be awarded the job, but the key is to be able to do this systematically and efficiently, thereby showing your competence and generating customer trust.


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