In this era of increasing globalization and internationalization and in the context of legal/official regulations, ever more language content is required ever more frequently in more languages and for more diverse cultural environments. When it comes to translations, there is a clear trend towards outsourcing, as the in-house production of translations is often just too much in terms of time, resources and costs for companies. Especially if texts have to be translated into several languages, the central outsourcing of translation services to a translation agency, which as a single point of contact takes over all the responsibilities and processes, really makes sense. But how can you find just the right translation agency which, in particular, will fulfill your own processing and quality requirements from the vast range and diversity of language and translation service providers available? You can find an overview below of a few key features which distinguish translation agencies from one another and which are often crucial when it comes to selecting your own translation service provider.


Translation is not just translation. It makes a difference whether you’re translating a non-specialist text, if you only need a translation for general information purposes (what’s known as a “gist translation”), or, then again, you have a specific technical text to translate that includes a wide range of reference and/or has far-reaching implications. In the latter case, your translation order is certainly in good hands with qualified and experienced specialist translators or with experts in the relevant area. As, along with a perfect command of both source and target languages, specific expertise is also necessary in order to translate the content of a text appropriately, and also technically correctly, into the target language.


Many translation agencies offer their services via on-line platforms and portals. They claim this makes everything fast, easy and cheap. But anyone who has long-term translation jobs to allocate or is undertaking more complex translation projects, which perhaps include successive steps and involve several actors (e. g. translator, proofreader, graphic designer, representative of the company’s branches abroad), is certainly going to appreciate the customized service, which some translation service providers offer by employing project managers. Ideally, you are looked after by the same contact partner over the long term and your project manager is a translator or linguist him or herself, and is thus best able to advise you on the optimum strategy for each text, mediate between you and the translators, and keep an overview of your translation projects.


For some companies, it is absolutely essential that their own translation service provider is certified in accordance with standards such as the Quality Management Standard ISO 9001 or the Translation Services Standard EN ISO 17100. If a translation agency is certified or, at least, registered in accordance with these standards, this is always a good indication that the translation service provider is well-established in the sector and is quality-conscious. Standard EN ISO 17100 stipulates as a mandatory step that every translation is reviewed by a second translator. You may not always need a translation in accordance with the standard-compliant “4-eyes principle“, e. g. if it is limited in scope; but for other texts, such as printed material or legally effective contracts, this step is highly recommended (for a good practical estimation of the revision step in the translation industry see). This helps you avoid the risk of translation errors with potentially serious consequences (e. g. damage to the company’s public image due to low-quality translation of its own on-line presence, danger to life and limb due to incorrect package information leaflets, or financial losses due to the reprinting of product labels because of an incorrect translation). Always check that your translation service provider is strongly committed to quality assurance and can give you comprehensive advice on the subject.


It is definitely a good sign if the translation agency you’re considering has already been established on the market for several years. As this clearly means that the company has been able to win the trust of many customers over time – a long and impressive list of references can also help to confirm this assumption. And you can thus reasonably expect that your translations will be delivered reliably and on time.

Conclusion: ultimately, no-one can give you 100 % certainty that you will have a good experience with a particular translation service provider. A company’s translation needs are going to be both diverse and individual. You could start by giving your potential translation partner a short text to translate, so that you can see whether the service package offered by the translation agency also meets your specific requirements and, optionally, that the preconditions for long-term cooperation exist in a “test phase” with a minimum level of risk. The comments above are guideline criteria and should help you to make your assessment.

By M.A. Alessia Rabasca
Project management – medical language service