Beyond Words - Language Blog

How Translation Services Work

Do you know what goes on behind the walls of a translation agency? Before I started working at one, I did not have a clue how the industry worked.

Several years ago as I was walking toward our building for an interview in translation sales, I envisioned that the office contained a large room full of translators, each from a different foreign country, furiously cranking out translations and speaking exotic languages over the phone.

Instead as I stepped out of the elevator, I walked past a normal row of offices, and thought, Where are all the translators? They must be hidden away somewhere.

Well, after a few tough interviews, I was hired and soon learned that my concept of a translation company was mainly a misconception. As you have probably guessed, most translation firms can’t keep a roomful of translators on staff and keep them busy enough to justify a salary, especially for the less common languages such as Hmong or Finnish. In order to be competitive, most translation firms subcontract their work out to certified, professional freelance translators who are screened to make sure they can provide quality translations.

Although I was disappointed that there was not a secret elevator leading to an office full of live translators, I learned that subcontracting to quality freelance translators is actually a good thing. Freelance translators are paid by the project and depend on continued business from translation companies, and thus, they are an enterprising group who are highly motivated to provide quality translations at low rates.

Overall, this is how most translation companies operate. In other words, translation firms work like a talent agency for finding the most experienced, professional translators in a variety of languages and industries, and assigning them to specific projects. This model allows you to receive professional translations at low rates without reinventing the wheel.

Hopefully this has provided you with some insight on how translation companies work. Check out my next post, How Do I Choose a Language Translation Company? I look forward to helping you become a more informed shopper when collecting translation quotes.