Beyond Words - Language Blog

Why use a Translation Agency?

The translation landscape is a minefield that must be carefully navigated. Obtaining a quality translation that will represent the source text of a document faithfully and eloquently in the target language is a difficult task to achieve for a project involving just one language. For each additional language, the probability of obtaining high quality across all languages diminishes dramatically when using untested resources. Add the elements of technical source files, multilingual desktop publishing, and large scale project management, and the argument for using an established, trusted agency becomes very strong.

The primary advantage of using the services of a professional translation agency versus finding a private translator is the higher probability of obtaining a quality product.

The reality of the translation business is that there are nine mediocre translators for every good one, and the truly exceptional are even harder to find. Many translators enter the field because they're bilingual and want to find a career that utilizes this ability. However, merely being fluent in a foreign language does not mean an individual is an outstanding writer.

There are certainly disreputable agencies out there that employ translators who haven't been properly vetted; however, the reputable agencies have generally gone to great lengths to assemble a team of translators in various languages and specialties who, in some cases, have been working with that agency for decades. The ability of these translators to deliver a quality product and consistently meet critical client deadlines has been established over many years. If you have questions about how to choose between companies offering translation services, refer to one of our first blog posts, How to Choose a Translation Company.

You believe you've found a quality translator, but are you certain that he or she will deliver the translation on time?

Translators are not robots — they're people with human flaws and tendencies. Some translators have the ability to deliver quality work but cannot be relied on to consistently deliver projects on time.

Project managers know their resources. They know which translators are dependable, which ones tend to get stressed out and unreliable if overloaded with work, and which ones are so prone to missing a deadline that a fictitious deadline must be created in order to ensure on-time delivery. Translators and translation projects have to be "managed," and that's part of the value-added service of working with a professional translation agency.

Imagine you have a critical project being translated into seven different languages. Not only do you have to ensure that you've found quality translators for all seven languages, you also have to hope that all seven translators will deliver their work on time. The probability of achieving both goals using untested translators with whom you're working for the first time is remote.

Are you working with source files in software programs like Adobe InDesign, FrameMaker, Illustrator or QuarkXpress?

Few translators are able to work directly with files from these desktop publishing programs, as very few actually own the programs. Most translation agencies have invested many thousands of dollars into both the desktop publishing software itself as well as the software required to export the text in files from these programs in a way that allows translators to work with it without actually having to own the programs themselves.

Additionally, most clients whose source files are from a desktop publishing program don't just want translation — they want full layout services as well, and a final deliverable that is truly print ready. Most translation agencies employ the services of design specialists who are experts in multilingual desktop publishing. The rare translator who actually owns a program like Quark or InDesign is even less likely to have a true expertise in the area of desktop publishing.

Translation agencies are a one-stop shop for multilingual projects.

With a single phone call or email, a project comprised of multiple languages can be handled by a single source. Using private translators requires a client to deal with multiple individuals, which can be extremely time consuming and problematic.

Project managers spend significant time each day fielding questions and handling issues that arise during the course of a translation project. Clients who've hired a team of translators in a number of different languages have to be prepared to do the same.

Project management is a skill that requires an individual to wear many different hats, and project managers are more than language experts. They’re also experts in managing projects in a way that ensures a successful outcome. This includes expertise in areas like workflow, quality assurance, technical support and software. Project managers at translation agencies manage both projects and translators, and, in doing so, provide tremendous added value to their clients.


ALTA has 30 years of experience providing translation services to government agencies and businesses of all sizes. In addition to handling over 50,000 large-scale multilingual translation projects over the years, ALTA was the official translation services provider for the 1996 Olympic and Paralympic games held in Atlanta, GA.