How long does it take to find and get started with a new vendor?
Thread poster: cbcoti
cbcoti
Local time: 19:21
English to Danish
Aug 8, 2013

From the day you start looking till you can actually start working with a new vendor, how long would it take?

For instance, if I want software UI and and help files translated into 20 languages every 6 months, starting November, when would we need to start? Is it at all possible within that time frame or should we expect to start next summer instead?

Research, selection and negotiation will be done by people with limited knowledge on localization and no previous experience with selecting or using translation agencies. We are currently using internal subject matter experts as translators so we would need to adjust our internal procedures as well.

I know it is a very broad question, but any input is greatly appreciated.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:21
English to Polish
+ ...
Not a direct answer Aug 8, 2013

This is not a direct answer, but here are two problems as seen from the other side of the fence:

1. The longer the selection process takes for any specific job, the less time remains till the deadline. In extreme situations, agencies have several days to find a translator for some 10 pages of text. They spend all but one day just sitting on the offers that come in. Then they sift through them, judge the contest, pronounce the winner and promptly decline to pay any rush fees. And feel reluctant to acknowledge the effect of rush on quality. You need to prevent selection procedures and other bureaucracy from spanning so long that there won't be enough time to perform the actual job in civilised circumstances.

Also – and I really don't mean to be confrontational here or alienate you or anything of the sort, this is just to let you know how that type of thing feels on a translator's side – I sometimes skip the posting agency if I see that type of time proportion between translator selection time and job completion time is like that. Obviously, I feel bad for losing my customary rush fee not because somebody really was surprised by an unpredictable situation and is an underdog who needs to be helped, but simply took his sweet time choosing the optimum–quality-to-price translator.

2. If you have staff who actually know about translation and about the subject area of the job, then those staff membersh should be interacting with translators during the selection process. The fact of recruitment and negotiation being managed by rookies and outsiders on agencies' side is the cause of many problems in this industry. By analogy, this is similar to QA being run by people who don't understand the thing of which the quality is being assured.

I would've written more briefly and clearly, but the summer heat here is unbearable.


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 01:21
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
It's not exactly clear what you are looking for Aug 8, 2013

Are you an end client looking for an agency? I'm assuming that you intend to start in November and the set deadline is somewhere down the road.

Agencies can start very quickly, but the problem here is really not how quickly the agency can start, it's your "looking" process and the negotiation process, and that's not something that anyone else can answer.

Obviously, the more time each party has, the less chance of a problem.


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cbcoti
Local time: 19:21
English to Danish
TOPIC STARTER
We are looking for a long term, high quality solution Aug 13, 2013

Thanks a lot for your answers.

Low quality would not work for us. The argument for hiring an agency is to improve quality and to win time in our end to work on the source materials. This is also why we need to take the proper time researching before hiring an agency. We need to find the optimum-quality-to-price agency, but we are willing to wait. (Well, I'm not really, but the managers are. After all, our current translation is not paid by our department and any time that could be saved in our end is invisible in the budget).

We do not have translation experts; we just have me. I do coordinate our current translation processes and I did study a little language theory as part of my university degree. Still, I'd say that it's quite a stretch to say that I am a translation expert. I have enough knowledge to pin point issues with our current process and I do have enough knowledge to be aware of the many pitfalls when doing translation work. But I'm still rather new to localization, and I have no experience working with agencies, let alone judging their abilities.

I have no mandate or budget to go out speaking to agencies so that part I would have to leave to management, while they of course will listen to whatever I have to say. We have discussed hiring a consultant to do the research, but I have been worried about the exact what you mentioned, an outsider who will turn out to be on a specific agency's side.

So.... with this very little knowledge, having to learn what to ask for, how to judge quality, etc., would it at all be possible to aim for the coming winter release? Could it be possible at all to have it in place by November, or should we aim at the next summer release?


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 19:21
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I can tell you the names of a couple of Danish agencies Aug 14, 2013

As you are in Denmark, I can tell you the names of some agencies, but I am not allowed to mention them here.

What you are looking for is a quality-conscious agency who will talk to you first to find out precisely what you need, then find the translators, probably from a database of people they know. They will also coordinate the languages, run the QA process and DTP work or whatever, and keep you informed along the way.

I can think of two that I have worked with. One is small but highly experienced, and the other is larger. They will give you good advice, and if for any reason they are not able to provide what you want, they will probably know who can.

But for a big job, it is best to start as soon as possible - both agencies and their best translators are normally quite busy!

I'll mail you directly.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:21
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Hope this helps Aug 14, 2013

Have a look at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/trxag.html

The last group there contains 10 tips to select a translation agency via Internet. While it certainly doesn't cover the whole nine yards, perhaps one or some of them will remind you to pay attention to some criterion you wouldn't otherwise.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Why not cut out the middleman? Aug 14, 2013

Most agencies subcontract most of their work to freelances. You could potentially save a lot of money by dealing direct with the translators, and develop long-term relationships with them.

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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 01:21
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
There's a place for everything Aug 14, 2013

philgoddard wrote:

Most agencies subcontract most of their work to freelances. You could potentially save a lot of money by dealing direct with the translators, and develop long-term relationships with them.

It's really hard to do software localization with freelancers, especially if you need updates periodically. Agencies don't just subcontract, they are responsible for compilation and quality control when it comes to large projects.


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Mark Benson  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
Wait... Aug 15, 2013

philgoddard wrote:

Most agencies subcontract most of their work to freelances. You could potentially save a lot of money by dealing direct with the translators, and develop long-term relationships with them.


cbcoti wrote: ... if I want software UI and and help files translated into 20 languages every 6 months


cbcoti wrote: Research, selection and negotiation will be done by people with limited knowledge on localization and no previous experience with selecting or using translation agencies ...


How do you sort that out when you need translations to 20 languages? And when you have limited knowledge and understanding?

[Edited at 2013-08-15 00:38 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-08-15 00:39 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 19:21
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It depends how long you spend searching Aug 15, 2013

It depends how long you spend searching, before you find the right agency.

However, translation takes longer than many people imagine.

In his very thorough blog post, José Henrique mentions that a translator can manage 2000 - 4000 words a day.

For safety's sake do not assume more than 2000 if your text is complex or the source text is Danish or German - the structure of the language means that translations from these languages give a lower count, as these are purely mechanical counts.

Sometimes a 'word' is in fact two words or more - and the way the definite article in Danish attaches to the noun (katten counts as one word, the cat as two...)

On average, 1000 Danish words beccome around 1200 when translated into English - and I believe the difference is even larger between German and English.

Subject area and terminology
Where there are not so many good dictionaries and resources in language pair, even between Danish and other EU languages, finding the correct terminology may take a long time in some subject areas. I am lucky translating into English, but translating into some European languages almost involves compiling the dictionary as you go!

A good agency will know what resources and glossaries are available and help you if you need to work on terminology and coordinate it.

With 20 languages, some may have to be translated twice - or 'relay translated' first into English, for instance, and then into other languages. I regularly translate Danish or Swedish to English for agencies who really want the final text in other languages - Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, Chinese...

Coordinating 20 languages, QA and UI etc. will also take time. It all depends on the size of the job.

However, once you have found an agency you feel confident with, you need not start straight away - a good agency will be delighted to have plenty of advance warning, so they can fit your project into their calendar.

The two agencies I suggested will do that for you. There may be others, but I would choose an agency that specialises in your source language(s) (Scandinavian for instance) or possibly subject area, rather than going for one of the international 'one size fits all' agencies.

My impression is that they do the job, but are not always able to give you the extra specialist attention you need. My impression is that they are heavy on administration without giving any extra value for it!

Best of luck!


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cbcoti
Local time: 19:21
English to Danish
TOPIC STARTER
We have UK source Aug 15, 2013

@Christine: Thanks a lot for your suggestions. I will pass it on.

I did earlier, in another thread, ask about how much a translator could do in a day. Most replies indicated 2000 words as a good basic estimate.

We deliver a rather specialized product. I believe that we will need to involve employees in our target countries when coining the new terms that keep being added to our portfolio. Our internal experts will have the needed subject matter expertise as well as the knowledge of their specific market.

@Mark: Well, our software gets translated each 6 months. I'd say we can improve our quality/effort ratio.

@Phil and Lincoln: I agree with Lincoln. We do not have the internal resources to keep up with a pool of freelancers and we need stability.

@José: Thanks for the link. There were a few pointers that were new to me, e.g. the hint of looking at the recruitment page. I have some questions:
- How do you check if an agency delivers proofread materials or just say so?
- When our source is UK English, would it be better to look for a UK agency than a Danish one?

Again, thanks to you all for the input!! Greatly appreciated!


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:21
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Answers Aug 15, 2013

cbcoti wrote:

@José: Thanks for the link. There were a few pointers that were new to me, e.g. the hint of looking at the recruitment page. I have some questions:
- How do you check if an agency delivers proofread materials or just say so?


This is mostly a matter of trust.
Sometimes proofreading is not good enough either, so a fail-proof test is to get some target audience members, e.g. beta-testers, to inspect samples of the translation.
Of course, you can request track-changes-activated files, just to see that the original translation was indeed checked and changed.

BTW, in the latter case you'd be astonished if you ever saw my work. I work often with the same proofreaders. We all consider each other as equally competent pros, so we have no objection to swap roles between translating and proofreading.
So I felt free to implement the "paint me red!" teamwork system. Every time one of us thinks that WE can make it better, we change it.
Sometimes, let's say that I'm translating, the reviewer doesn't like something I wrote, but s/he can't figure a better choice. So s/he marks it and sends me 2-3 suggestion which, when I see them, trigger the best one we were looking for.

cbcoti wrote:
- When our source is UK English, would it be better to look for a UK agency than a Danish one?


The source language variant should make no difference; the target does. If your source is EN-UK, there is no problem in using an agency in the USA. However if your target were EN-UK, you might have trouble with an American agency, though not necessarily.

Since we have the Internet, a GOOD agency anywhere should work fine.

The risk is in a translation agency looking for the cheapest translators they can find, so they can make a bundle.

Actually the bad fame many translation agencies in India, China & surroundings have is mostly because they try to make the entire translation "there" cheap, by using cheap unskilled translators. However the best strategy would be to avoid having the translations done "there", where it's cheap, but worldwide. If they took advantage of the low cost of living there to keep the translation cost (what is paid to the translator) "normal", and lower the agency-added-value cost, they'd be really competitive.


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Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
ATA guide for those seeking translation services Aug 15, 2013

You may find that this guide from the American Translators Association has some useful tips for you: http://www.atanet.org/docs/Getting_it_right.pdf

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cbcoti
Local time: 19:21
English to Danish
TOPIC STARTER
Guides Aug 20, 2013

Jessica, thanks for the link. It is a nice summary for me to pass on to our managers.

I was searching for guides in general and found this one:
http://www.issco.unige.ch/en/research/projects/ecolore/localisation/Components/White%20Papers/Guide%20to%20Localisation%20Management.pdf

Even though it is a bit dated and comes from a commercial source, I find that it can be a good start for a check list. What are the flaws I do not see? Do you know of better or newer ones?


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cbcoti
Local time: 19:21
English to Danish
TOPIC STARTER
Location of vendor Aug 20, 2013

José, thanks for your replies. I am glad to hear that my first intuition, going with a large agency with international presence, was not that bad. With 20 target languages, probably more to come, it would be difficult to make one target language decide our choice of agency.

My conclusion is that I will look for a vendor with international precense that has an office in or near Denmark.

Regarding the proofreading, I guess we will just have to ask and note any small signs that might occur. And you just gave me yet another argument to improve our review processes and to implement feedback processes from our acuall users.


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