A Question of Certification, Service, and Convenience

As your organization expands and makes connections around the globe, questions of how to best connect with people and organizations that do not predominantly speak English are bound to come up. It can be tempting to handle these issues in-house, hiring your own personal interpreters and translators, and that method does offer a certain level of control. However, before setting any plans in stone, consider what you stand to gain by reaching out and working with an established language services agency.

Certification

As one of the leading language service agencies in Michigan, the most common question we get asked (besides pricing) is “Are our translators and interpreters certified?” An important question, no doubt, but certification for a translator or interpreter is not so cut-and-dry, and could vary wildly by state, industry, and language. The medical-interpretation industry, for example, is regulated at a federal level, but the legal-interpretation industry is regulated on a state-by-state basis. This means that it is up to each individual state to determine which languages they need to provide interpretation certification for and to craft examinations for each offered language. This leads to wildly varying results, with states like Michigan and Florida offering legal interpreter certification in over a dozen languages while other states, such as Montana, have no legal interpreter certification exams for any language. 

Once we enter the private sector, these certifications become the realm of third-party organizations, who prioritize certain languages above others. The American Translator’s Association, the premiere certification for translators, only offers exams in fifteen languages. Most notably, the ATA does not offer a certification exam for translators of Hindi, the fourth most common language in the world. Additionally, most certifications for language services are for translating from English or into English, meaning that there are very few official channels for checking the quality of a translator who claims they can translate Mandarin into Polish, for example.

It is not impossible for a business to learn the ins-and-outs of language certifications. Most of that information is freely available online. But it is time consuming, and could result in dozens of hours spent developing a job listing, interviewing candidates, and deliberating on the efficacy of a given certification for a role. All of these tasks are tasks that an agency has handled in the past and more. They know what certifications are available and are applicable for a given job or industry. For languages that are more difficult to find official certifications in, they will have developed processes for vetting their specialists, ensuring a quality service above all else. While working with an agency might have a higher upfront cost than working with an individual, the amount of time and money saved by putting your faith in a trusted agency is incalculable.

Range of Services

If you only need to translate an internal memo once a year, then the efficacy of working with a language agency is probably very limited. Once your needs escape that level of complexity, though, it is very difficult to imagine a scenario where partnering with a language services agency is not beneficial. That is because many agencies offer a wide range of services, and can make recommendations based on what the client needs and past experiences.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical: you are a small business owner who, after some financial windfall, is looking to take their first steps into breaking into an international market. There is, of course, the obvious uses for partnering with an agency. You’re going to need someone to translate all your product’s packaging, your marketing material, and any literature related to your business. You’re also going to need an interpreter  to connect directly with manufacturers and distributors, if applicable. Experienced language service agencies, though, are well equipped to handle dozens of other problems that might arise. They can assist in the process of transcreation, ensuring that your company’s message is delivered without offending the cultures you wish to reach. Even benign symbols like hand gestures can have wildly different meanings depending on the culture, so it is always important to vet your current marketing material to ensure it is safe for an international audience. Certain agencies will also work with your team through cultural sensitivity training, ensuring that you are ready to interact with another culture without any hang ups. Many agencies also have experience working in a global market, and can help connect you with international partners to ease your manufacturing and sales processes. Because of this wide pool of knowledge to draw from, language service agencies can be a key part in any business’s strategy to expand and develop their customer base.

Convenience

Maybe the simplest answer to the question of what language service agencies provide is “convenience.” Part of an agency’s role is to slot itself into your workflow, work around your schedule and needs, and handle any issues as they arise. If an interpreter cannot show up for a scheduled appointment, an experienced agency can connect you with another specialist skilled in the languages you require. Many will also build their infrastructure to ensure the service is delivered to you in a way that best fits your needs. At 7C Lingo, for example, we offer interpretation services via phone calls, video calls, and in-person meetings, and will have a discussion with you to go over the pros and cons of each method, ensuring you choose the right medium for your needs. 

With all these in mind, working with a language services agency consistently comes up as the best method for handling your communication needs. You may lose out on the control offered by keeping an interpreter directly on contract, but you stand to gain much more in peace of mind.