Outsourcing your organisation’s translations vs. Using In-house staff with language skills
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the right tools and resources are required to successfully meet business objectives.
Recent years have seen a growing trend for companies to place translation projects with in-house staff who have linguistic skills. The assumption here is that the person will have the necessary expertise (and of course the time) to take care of any translation needs. On the surface, assigning translation tasks to bilingual staff seems a pleasing scenario: there are no extra supplier costs to weigh down project budgets, and sensitive material can be kept in-house. But this doesn’t take into consideration several factors that can severely derail operations, leading not only to added costs and delays, but also to incomplete or poorly translated materials. Or even worse, no translated materials at all.
When making a decision between using in-house staff or outsourcing your organisation’s translations, there are several aspects to consider.
First of all, workload and time: All organisations have peak periods—periods when translation needs are heavier than usual, or periods when staff linguists are overburdened with other tasks that must take priority. What happens then? Is your staff linguist inundated with requests from all sections of your organisation to translate the financial statement, proofread five outbound emails, translate the marketing material needed by the salespeople for the huge, annual industry summit, not to mention those three contracts that have to be translated ASAP before the client will sign them, all in the month of January? A translation agency has a host of translators at the ready, prepared to take on translations at short notice during your busiest periods.
Secondly, can the staff linguist translate reliably within the specialisation, or can he/she cope with all your translation needs? ‘Oh, that’s not a problem!’, we have heard said, ‘I have a language-skilled paralegal taking care of the legal translations, an engineer in R&D taking care of the technical translations and a marketing assistant taking care of the rest’. But how does that ensure a uniform, high level of quality across all translation outputs and all departments in your organisation? While an engineer is a trained professional within his/her specialised field, translation is a field of its own- professional translators are specialised in producing high-quality translations.
The scenario above rests on the faulty assumption that knowing two languages means that a person can automatically translate between them. In fact, there is more to the work of a translator than merely rendering words in one language into another language. A translator has to take into consideration not only the target language of a translation but also the target culture, as well as the communication objectives of the project. These factors are crucial to the quality of the translation and how it is received by your target audience. Quality matters.
Professional translators do far more than simply process documents from one language to another. Translators with the right resources can keep track of an organisation’s terminology databases, style guides, and tone of voice, ensuring consistency and quality across departments and translators.
In the end, choosing between an in-house translator or outsourcing to an agency will mostly come down to factors such as workload, specialisation, cost and time. If there is an outsourced service that helps your organisation work better, or which frees up time so that the people in your organisation can concentrate on what they are really good at, then the benefits may well outweigh the costs.