Five Essential Characteristics of a Good Translation Agency

Five Essential Characteristics of a Good Translation Agency

Original post by: Patent Translator < To view the full article, visit: Patenttranslator’s Blog


If you run a search with the keywords Awhat are the characteristics of a good translation agency?@, you will be assaulted by a dozen articles written by translation agencies emphasizing characteristics such as Awe are using only native translators@ (as opposed to translators who don=t really know the source and target language?), Awe are using the latest technology@ (by which they mean translation memory tools such as Trados, something that I would not touch with a ten foot pole), “we have implemented strict and highly effective quality controls” (including mendacious claims of several layers of Acheckers@, usually from 3 to 7), Awe are ISO-certified” (which makes absolutely no sense to anybody who actually knows something about translation), and other bogus claims.

All of these articles are transparent, self-serving puff pieces designed to attract to an agency=s website clients who are looking for a reliable translation service. These characteristics, emphasized with enthusiasm in these puff pieces masquerading as objective analyses, in fact have no bearing on the quality of translations produced by these translation agencies.

I think that the main characteristic ultimately determining the quality of translation is how an agency is treating translators who are in fact the persons responsible for excellent, good, or terrible quality of the translations that they produce.

So what are the characteristics of a good translation agency? And is there even such a thing as a good translation agency, or is that merely an oxymoron these days?

I think that good translation agencies still exist, although from what I read on discussions of translators online, they must be few in number.

For example, here is today’s LinkedIn reading menu of active discussions:

  1.  Nasty rates offered by T.M. Solutions
  2.  Unacceptable Rates Naming and Shaming Group
  3.  Black List of Agencies to share
  4.  A.B.H.: are their rates always this low?
  6.  An Exposed Cheater
  7.  Non-payment for services rendered

The menu is very similar on LinkedIn and other discussion groups of translators just about every day because about 90% of agencies offer nasty rates, many rightfully belong on a black list of agencies to avoid, and some commit outright fraud.

But that still leaves about 10% of agencies which are run by generally honest people who understand that the best and the only way to ensure that the best translators will continue working for them is to treat their translators well.

So here is my list of essential characteristics of a good translation agency from this translator’s viewpoint:


  1. Translators Are Not Asked to Sign Demeaning “NDAs”

  1. Very Good Rates Are Paid to Translators

  1. Translators Are Paid Very Quickly

  1. Translators Are Not Asked Stupid Questions About Their Translations

  1. Translators Are Not Lied To


Although most of my income is derived from my own translations, I am also a translation agency. I try to practice what I preach – I don’t ask translators who work for me to sign one-sided, demeaning agreements, I pay them as quickly as I can, and I don’t lie to them.

I am not really doing that out of the goodness of my heart.

Whether I am a nice or nasty person has nothing to do with it.

I just want to make sure that once I find a good translator, he or she will always try to find the time to fit in a project from me if at all possible.




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