Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Decipher Tricky Documents With a Translation Service

Don't rely on your memories of 7th grade Spanish class--get those documents professionally translated.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Reading a business proposal, legal contract, or technical manual can be difficult on a good day. Trying to decipher those documents in English when it is not your primary language can be downright daunting. A translation service can make the reading material easier to digest.

These days, you have two choices when it comes to translating. Computer-based translations take a document and create a translation without human intervention. These programs churn out grammatically correct, but potentially nonsensical, translations of the original work. They are probably best used to get the gist of a document but can be a risky route to take when trying to send a document in another language to a potential client. Human-based translation services rely on people to translate documents into the desired, or target, language. With this type of translation, subtleties in the language can be incorporated.

Get free price quotes on translation servicesat

There are a few keys to having a successful human-based translation. First, you should focus on the how the business is run. Now that any person can hang a shingle touting their ability to translate documents, it's important to work with a service that takes a rigorous approach to its work, starting with translator selection. Translators are typically contractors who are called upon as needed; it can be enlightening to find out what type of screening criteria potential translators need to take to pass muster.

See if you can work with a translator who is familiar with your industry. Requesting proof to demonstrate this fluency is not unreasonable. Having a translator who is a native speaker and still lives in the country for which the translated document is intended is a plus, too. That way you can ensure that the document will reflect the latest lingo, a particularly important consideration if you are trying to create marketing materials.

Also, take note of how thoroughly a translation service questions you about your translating needs. Companies should go beyond the basics about the desired language and length of document requiring translation. Those that actually probe about what type of document needs translation and who will be reading it are better able to match you with an appropriate translator.

Finally, there is the translation process itself. Ideally, you should have a second person who is fluent in the target language serve as an editor to review and proofread your document. The second reader can also ensure the spirit of what has been written is accurately conveyed and no portions of your text are mistakenly omitted.

Then there's the final product. You may require the document to be specially formatted, incorporating charts or a special layout style. While it may not pose much of a problem with languages that use the Roman alphabet, it can be more problematic with other languages. In those cases, you should look to see if the translation service has the ability to handle printing the document fully formatted.

Translation costs depends on factors including the target language, the subject matter, the length of document, and the desired turnaround time. Services that translator services can provide include initial translation, editing, proofreading, formatting, and even printing in quantities. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars to translate a three to five-page business memo.

In today's global economy, requiring a translator's assistance is not that far-fetched a notion for many businesses. Now, if they could only translate legalese.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks