Buying translations

How to make sure you get the right translation interface

Person on a computer creating a folder structure

Anyone who’s interested in automating the translation process is inevitably confronted with the issue of interfaces and the wide range of customizable options. There are various solutions depending on the system you use, so before getting down to brass tacks and thinking about actually setting up the interface with your agency, you should clarify a few things at your end.

You might (sometimes) have been frustrated with how complex the translation process can be: collate the files to be translated, zip them, send them to the translation agency, get the translated files back, unzip them, put them back in the right place in the folder structure, check everything... If you’re familiar with these problems, it may well be time to think about setting up a translation interface to automate the process and make these tedious and time-consuming tasks a thing of the past. This interface will connect your system to the agency’s system to make the workflow as smooth and agile as possible. And it will soon pay off, especially if you regularly need large volumes of text or hundreds of files to be translated, or if you need new content at frequent intervals.

What to think about before setting up an interface

So far, so good. But how exactly should you go about setting up an interface – call the agency, ask them to set it up, and start using it tomorrow? It isn’t that simple with most systems, though if you think it through in advance and take a bit of time to set it up and test it properly, you’ll quickly reap the benefits of an interface.

We recommend clarifying the following issues before you talk to your translation agency: 

1. Find out the technical feasibility

It sounds simple, but one of the most important questions is whether the source system enables interfaces in the first place. Whether you’re working with software like SCHEMA ST4 or MadCap Flare, or you’re using a file management or versioning system, find out whether your authoring, content management or PIM system enables API integration or other functionality that you’ll need, such as exporting and importing files. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re using well-known programs. 

2. Clarify IT and data security issues

The aim of an interface is automated data transfer. It’s definitely more secure than sending files by e-mail, but it may be that the IT policy at your business doesn’t allow data to be transferred automatically. So it’s a good idea to ask your IT department about it. 

3. Get people involved who understand the technical side of things

Depending on the system you use (and especially if you’ve customized or programmed your own system), it’s vital to have someone on hand who’s familiar with the technical aspects of the system and can make any changes required. If it’s WordPress or similar content management systems, this could be someone from outside your business, e.g. the person at the marketing agency who created the website.

4. Define the workflow you want

An interface will affect the entire translation process, so try to get as clear a picture as possible of how you imagine the workflow in future. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Which people should order translations?
  • Which service levels do we need?
  • Do we want to get quotes first, or go straight to ordering the translation?
  • Do we need the translation to be reviewed?
  • Which target languages do we need?
  • Do we want notifications when a translation is delivered, and if so, who should get them?

5. Think about the expense and the effect on pricing

The main benefit of a translation interface is that you save a significant amount of time and money – and setting one up will pay off even more quickly if you regularly have lots of text to translate. But an interface may involve ongoing costs on top of the initial investment, depending on the system you’re using. It’s worth looking at your framework agreement, as it may be that these automated projects actually increase what you pay for translations: if you regularly get very short texts translated, the agency may charge minimum rates each time which could be avoided if you’re able to wait and combine these texts into larger projects.

6. Give yourselves plenty of time

If you want to set up an interface, it’s best not to be in a rush. Good things take time, after all. Systems vary, but you’re likely to need time to coordinate the workflow with the agency once the interface has been set up. Be prepared to run test projects to make sure everything works as it should. 

Once you’ve addressed these six broad issues, you’re well equipped to talk to your translation agency. There are so many different possibilities when it comes to translation interfaces – ultimately, what you make of them is up to you. 


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