Translation schedule: balancing speed and quality

October 19, 2018by Françoise Henderson

“What is your turnaround time?” As a global content partner, this is often one of the first questions that we get from new clients. It’s an important question – setting expectations for the translation schedule is essential, and more than once we have encountered companies who have been burned in the past by missed deadlines.

While translation schedule is influenced by number of factors, it ultimately depends on the kind of service you are looking for. A good LSP should be able to deliver any localization project at a respectable speed, but naturally, higher quality translations take longer. To achieve the best turnaround times for your project, the first step is to define your quality requirements so you can choose the right service.


Defining quality

Quality is subjective. Different people will have different notions of translation quality and will prioritize different attributes. So if requirements are not made explicit, it can often lead to crossed wires, wasted effort, and unnecessary expense.

CSA Research identifies five separate definitions of translation quality:

    • Perfection: Translations that meet ideals for fluency, style, and accuracy
    • Compliance with specifications: Translations that meet the company’s specifications (e.g. instructions on the use of the formal vs. informal register)
    • User satisfaction: Translations that are fit for purpose and satisfy users’ needs
    • Process-based: Translations that are created according to pre-defined processes
    • Value: Translations that deliver maximum ROI, while also meeting any other requirements 1

We recommend assessing your localization project and determining which of these elements are the most important, and what quality standard you wish to reach with respect to each area. Clearly conveying your expectations to your localization service provider (LSP) will ensure that you are on the same page, and will help avoid complications that arise from incorrect assumptions when creating a translation schedule.


Fast translations and AI

Many LSPs offer rapid turnaround translation services that trade-off quality for speed. Similarly, in the age of AI, machine translation tools such as Google Translate can also deliver fast but rough translations.

These services can typically convey the gist of content, but the translations are often highly unpolished and will rank poorly from the “perfection” perspective. This can be suitable in situations where communicating general meaning is the only priority, but it will lead to poor quality content if end-users expect a fluent translation.


Turnaround times for high-quality localization improve over time

At Rubric, we focus on quality. Naturally, we deliver projects as quickly as possible, but we specialize in reaching the highest levels of quality according to all five definitions – so we can satisfy even the most exacting client requirements.

Rather than focusing on individual projects, we take a holistic approach and consider your global content strategy as a whole. With each project, we endeavor to learn and document lessons for the next. We identify opportunities for improvement and collaborate with our clients to continuously optimize processes and reduce costs. For example, over time we might develop stronger processes that boost QA check reliability, streamline the review process, or minimize the engineer workload.

Additionally, essential tools such as translation memory systems inherently become more effective and deliver greater value the more they are used.

We have found that this quality-focused approach often leads to steadily decreasing turnaround times as processes become more and more efficient – and it also delivers excellent long-term value.


Communication and transparency are non-negotiable

Regardless of whether you are looking for a fast or high-quality translation, your LSP should never leave you in the dark. It is never acceptable for an agreed-upon deadline to pass without advanced warning or an explanation. Even if the delay is unavoidable, your LSP should notify you as soon as this becomes likely so that you can work together to overcome the issue.


How to get the most from a global content partner

The best way to ensure a clear turnaround time without any surprises is to give your provider as much notice as possible ahead of the translation job. This is because great translators need to be booked well in advance; while they might have space for small projects at short notice, larger projects need significantly more time and planning.

If there is a genuine rush, a trusted global content partner will bend over backwards to make it happen; or if all else fails, they will be able to work with you to find a viable alternative.

If you’re interested in building a relationship with a partner that can help you meet the highest standards of translation quality, get in touch with a member of the Rubric team today.


  1. CSA Research, Understanding Translation Quality, p.1-2.

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Françoise Henderson

Françoise Henderson

Françoise is co-founder of Rubric, overseeing worldwide operations and Global Content strategy. Under her guidance, Rubric has generated agile KPI-driven globalization workflows for clients and reduced time-to-market across multiple groups. Françoise has over 25 years’ experience in corporate management and translation.

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