OUR ADVICE FOR a successful invitation to tender (ITT) for translation services.
Choosing a translation service provider is not an easy task.
Firstly, this is due to the different structures of language services: freelancers, language service providers (LSPs), machine translation services, etc. There are endless possibilities!
More importantly, however, is knowing how to identify your main criteria, to ask yourself relevant questions given your context and your translation project, and this is even more important if your project is technical in nature.
Identifying your needs properly will enable you to optimise your consultations for translation services.
Tips for a successful invitation to tender (ITT) for translation services. Follow our guide, we have all the information you need!
1. What services are covered by an invitation to tender for translation services?
We think it’s important to start by identifying the different types of translation that may be covered by your request.
You may sometimes notice significant price differences when requesting quotes. This is generally down to the specific aspects of each translation project.
Therefore, you have to be familiar with them to gauge the level of difficulty and the resulting price.
And one of the first concepts to grasp is “TEP” for Translation, Editing and Proofreading.
This three-aspect approach covers the entire translation process.
TEP is the most comprehensive version of a translation project:
- Translation of the text
- Editing – Reviewing
- Proofreading – Final inspection (quality of the content and style)
As part of a translation service, a language service provider (LSP) can offer you all or part of this process. There are 4 levels of translation services:
- The simple translation of a text by a translator: T
- Simple translation with final inspection (quality control): TP
- A translation that is edited by a second translator then subject to final inspection (proofreading/quality control): TEP
- A TEP translation including DTP services, delivered in an identical format to the original version, ready to be used directly.
The simple translation of a text by a translator (T - Translation)
This is a simple translation generally carried out by a native and experienced translator.
In most cases, this is a freelance translator who offers services in only one language. The translator translates, transcribes the source text, and makes any corrections before delivering the final translation.
The advantages of simple translation:
- Low cost: if you are on a tight budget, this is the right solution as you are only paying for the services of a single translator.
- Rapid turnaround time: the process is simplified as there is no editing or proofreading step.
Your translation project can be delivered more quickly.
The disadvantages of simple translation:
As your translation project is only managed by a single linguist, with no proofreading or ad hoc corrections, errors may be more frequent. Make sure you are working with language service providers that offer experienced and skilled translators to avoid any risks and who ensure final quality control.
Simple translation with final inspection (TP - Translation Proofreading)
As part of this service, the translation and editing of your files are performed by two different linguists. This level of service is generally offered by specialist translation service providers.
The first linguist conveys the content of the source language in the target language.
The second linguist examines the translated file and compares it to the source file for final inspection and to find any errors and makes any modifications.
This is not considered editing as such, but simple corrections and quality control (punctuation, numbers, etc.).
The TP option (Translation Proofreading) tends to be the preferred option for clients. This provides a balance between quality, cost and turnaround time.
A translation that has been edited and proofread by a second translator, then validated by a final inspection (TEP - Translation Editing Proofreading)
As with the previous level of service (TP), the source document is first translated by a native-speaker linguist.
It is then edited by a second translator who focuses on the following elements:
- Errors in wording or use of language
- Grammatical structure
- Semantic inconsistencies
- Misuse of the terminology
The third step in this service consists of performing a final inspection, involving the final proofreading of the final version.
Particular attention is paid to the fluency of understanding of the text and the contextualisation of the translation.
The final proofreading focuses on the following elements:
- Spelling and punctuation
- Grammatical errors
- Consistency of the translation of native-language expressions
In some cases, the translation is carried out using a Machine Translation Engine (MT – Machine Translation), which reduces the overall turnaround time of the translation project. This is an alternative to the classic TEP professional translation service.
The process is as follows:
- The translator inputs the source text into the machine translation system (selected translation engines).
- They then collect the text translated into the target language.
- They examine the translated text, ensure its overall consistency, correct any misinterpretations or mistranslations and correct the text as required.
- Editors perform the final quality control.
A translation that is delivered in an identical format to the original version, ready to be used directly (TEP - Translation Editing Proofreading + DTP)
This is the ultimate level of service! This is what’s known as translation with DTP. Not only do you benefit from the entire TEP process, you also have the translation in the same format as the original version.
Once you receive the final documents, you are not required to make any modifications. The files are ready to be used! The delivered content is meticulous and the page layout is appropriate.
This level of service is the best option for high-value or sensitive documents.
2. What services are covered by an invitation to tender for translation services?
As we have seen, a translation service cannot be evaluated and understood solely based on its face value.
The specific aspects of certain projects must be considered to understand the different translation processes (simple translation, use of a CAT tool, machine translation, TP and TEP).
Before drawing up your invitation to tender, you must answer certain questions regarding the context and your translation project itself.
What is at stake in your translation project?
In real terms, this means determining why your documents have to be translated. Answering this question will enable you to weigh up your options regarding the level of service you require.
Considering the translation context will enable your service provider to guide you in the best direction.
For example: translating digital content or legal documents are both different in terms of context, and they also present very different challenges, which makes a very strong case for opting for a TEP for this type of document.
In addition, this type of translation can be described as rather sensitive.
How complex are the documents to be translated?
The second question you must ask yourself concerns the complexity of your translations.
Identifying the difficulty and specific aspects of your documents will enable you to select the best translation option.
Therefore, try to answer the following questions to determine the complexity of your translations:
- What content needs to be translated?
Technical content, dynamic content, multi-media content?
- Does the translation of this content require experience in the field or sector?
- Is the content editorial in nature?
- Does your translation project involve different types of content?
If so, is the content on different media?
This requires the translation to be consistent from one medium to the next.
- How long is the life cycle of your translations?
- Are they linked to other content?
- Will they be updated?
If so, how frequently?
- Who will be responsible for updating this content?
- What tool or interface will be used?
- Do you need support to structure your source content?
- How do you use this content?
- Is this content connected to your information system?
- Is this content integrated in or linked to your interfaces: CMS, PIM, DAM?
- How do you intend to manage the privacy of this content?
How frequently will you require translation services?
Is this a one-off or frequent requirement? The more translations you require, the more important it is for you to find a stable and long-standing partner.
If you regularly need translations, we recommend that you work with a language service provider able to offer you long-term support.
This partnership will be beneficial in terms of offering.
- Greater knowledge of the context and challenges involved in your translation requirements
- Greater attention and availability
- Access to preferential prices thanks to the use of CAT tools and translation memories
What languages are involved?
English is the most common language covered by translation projects. And the majority of your requirements will no doubt be in this language.
Rest assured, all LSPs work with English, but this is not the case for other languages.
In addition, if you require multilingual translations, we recommend you evaluate your service provider on all the languages involved in your translation project.
Don’t just challenge them on English.
What is your deadline?
If you have a tight deadline, you must mention this when consulting with service providers.
Some LSPs cannot adapt to your time constraints, due to their production schedule.
Other service providers may be able to adapt to your time constraints but only if certain financial conditions are met.
3. Our advice and tips for structuring your invitation to tender
Your role as a buyer
Launching a consultation for your translation requirements puts you in the role of a buyer. You play a key role in structuring your invitation to tender.
Being aware of the need to structure a proper invitation to tender will help you avoid disappointment: purchasing the wrong level of service or selecting the wrong criteria.
For example, the price aspect, while important, has to be considered alongside the quality and turnaround time of the service.
You must avoid paying the wrong price at all costs and avoid missing out on substantial gains.
Even if you entrust your translation projects to reliable partners, don’t lose sight of the fact that your decisions must be based on objective criteria:
- The level of quality of the translation service
- The variety of languages available
- The productivity gains over time that may be provided through the proper use of professional translation tools (CAT and translation memories).
Don’t assess the service provider based on a “one shot” quote.
Try to gain a full understanding of how the proposed price is structured.
Try to understand how price differences between different service providers can be justified.
Size your requirements as best as possible
As indicated above, it is important to define your requirement properly. What is the context of your consultation? What is principally at stake in your translation project?
For assistance, don’t hesitate to consult all stakeholders in the translation project both within and outside your organisation.
In addition, you must also analyse the volume of content to be translated.
However, the most crucial point to analyse is the frequency at which you require your content to be translated, which will impact your translation work over time.
It is also important not to forget to take stock of your existing translations. Try to make use of any translation memories.
Establish a long-term translation strategy
Bear in mind that the frequency of your translations is the most important aspect, including the management of your content over time.
Don’t choose to manage your translations depending on the type of media used, but rather depending on the number of repetitions.
There are two examples that will enable you to understand the benefits of a long-term translation strategy:
If you have lots of repetitive content to be translated, your language service provider will be able to establish a translation memory as well as a glossary as your partnership progresses.
Your LSP may even propose working with automated tools. A good machine translation engine is more efficient when there is a translation memory and becomes significantly more reliable. Knowing how to manage the use of existing translations will lead to time savings for the LSP, which will be passed on to the client.
However, if all the content is different from one translation to the next, or too specific (like in a blog for example), your LSP will be unable to establish a translation memory. As you’ll be aware, there are no benefits to be passed on to the client in the long run.
Therefore, you have to think about a long-term partnership, which will result in a win-win situation with your LSP.
This relationship also enables you to organise and structure your content over time. Optimal management of all your data will lead to increased efficiency and credibility for your business.
Pilot and manage your translation strategy in-house
Your position as a buyer must also involve piloting and managing the translation contract.
The aim: to ensure that your internal principals, who are often scattered around and in different sectors, don’t develop bad habits. The risk is clear to see – jeopardising your long-term strategy!
How can this be done? To optimise your translation strategy, you must request that your translation partner regularly provides you (every 6 months for example), with statistical information regarding the services provided, i.e.:
- Clients and principals who have placed orders
- Volumes processed
- ‘CAT’ tool gains thanks to the use and pooling of translation memories and existing translations
In practical terms, you can, for example, educate your principals by sharing “in-house” examples. This will give credibility to your translation projects and help promote best practices.
There is no doubt that a well-managed translation services contract will lead to increased benefits and performance.
Your LSP will be more specific and relevant in terms of its deliverables. This will enable your operational teams to concentrate on their core activities instead of focussing on the translation.
Prioritise language service providers with ISO certification
As part of your invitation to tender, pay close attention to the possibility of easily assessing the quality of the services provided by your partner.
Don’t hesitate to set ambitious and realistic targets to challenge them on their translation processes.
You must ensure that your LSP is able to provide you with key performance indicators regarding the service you have selected.
For example: gains provided by using computer assisted translation.
Requesting a quality standard such as ISO eliminates the risk of any quality issues.