Why Sample Translations Break All the Rules
Kathleen Bostick, Lionbridge Technologies, Inc.
After more than thirteen years in the localization industry with three different language service providers, I continue to be amazed that we still receive RFPs with requests for sample translations.
- Terminology. Best practice is to obtain a current glossary (if it exists) or develop one from scratch and submit it for the customer’s review and approval before beginning the actual translation. For sample translations, a glossary is not normally provided, nor is there time to create and receive feedback and approval.
- Style Guide. Our customers typically provide us with style guides as part of best practice. Even if they only have the English style guide, it’s a place to start and we can help develop the style guides for each additional language. A style guide is rarely, if ever, provided for a sample translation.
- Training. Product training is very important to translators, especially if it’s software, hardware, or a medical device that’s being translated. The companies that receive the highest quality translations from their language service providers invest in training. Sample translations never have associated training.
- Questions. Over the course of a normal translation process, translators ask questions about content. Customers provide answers by clarifying terms, meaning, intent, etc., and translators then implement the answers. They don’t guess about intended meaning, but they take the feedback and implement it. During the sample translation process, Q&A is rare; therefore, translators are left to guess, hoping that they guess right.
- SMEs/Resources. To provide the highest quality translations, we all work to find translators who are SMEs in certain areas, whether it’s medical, financial, or IT. These expert resources are in high demand and booked well in advance of projects to insure the right resources are working with the right customers. Sample translations assume that the best resources are available “on-demand.” The idea that these resources can be removed from other paid projects to address a sample that requires quick turnaround breaks all best practice rules.
- Scale. A 1000-word sample gives absolutely no indication of an LSP’s ability to perform under real-life conditions. Most projects are orders of magnitude greater than 1000 words and require far more than one translator to complete the project. In addition, scope changes and volume fluctuations are a daily occurrence.
Under sample translation conditions there is no way to extrapolate how the LSP would perform if the volume increased by an order of 100, if three more languages were added to the mix, if two projects had to be executed in parallel, etc. And, of course, there is no measure of the value that professional project management brings to a project, especially to the large multilingual projects.
- Cost. The cost of providing sample translations can be high, depending on the amount of content and the number of languages. The translation industry already operates on thin margins, and adding this component to the RFP process can really escalate the cost in acquiring new business.
What do you think about the value of sample translations? Submit your comments on the GALA Blog.
Kathleen Bostick is the VP of Global Business at Lionbridge. With more than thirteen years' experience in the multilingual services, Kathleen was Vice President of North America for SDL International for nine years prior to joining Lionbridge in 2005. Often instrumental in helping companies accelerate time-to-market and increase global market share, Kathleen has expertise in a range of vertical markets, including IT, Life Sciences, consumer, e-commerce, education and government.