What Are the Different Types of Translation Services?

April 19, 2023

Commerce grows more global with each passing year. And as more businesses extend their reach into new and unfamiliar markets, they’re putting more language barriers to the test. English may be the most widely spoken language in the world, but at 1.5 billion people, it still represents less than 20% of the world’s population.

To reach these new markets and provide memorable customer experiences, businesses rely on translation services that will effectively get their message across. That requires translation that goes beyond mere word-for-word renderings and instead retells the same brand message in new cultural contexts with specific localization for translated content.

Achieving that level of translation demands not only a deep understanding of your business’s translation needs but also a clear view of the different types of translation services on the market. The translation industry is evolving more and more to cater to large-scale global needs.

High-quality translations in different languages can elevate a brand’s Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT scores) and increase your business’s relevance to a larger number of consumers.

To help you match translation agencies and technology with your business’s increasingly global customer base, let’s take a look at translation services from a few different angles.

Translation services: Freelance translators vs. language service providers

The first consideration when it comes to the kinds of translation available is scale. When your business is small and situated predominantly in a single market with a single language, you may find that freelance translators meet your ad-hoc needs. They already have complete fluency in the target language, and understand the target audience. For a local or regional retail chain that only occasionally needs to interact with a small segment of customers in one other language, this may be sufficient.

As your business grows beyond those boundaries, however, you’ll quickly find that freelance translation — or even an in-house translator — won’t do the job. Instead, you need to look to a full-blown professional translation service. These companies employ full teams of translators and translation technology that can essentially make your customer service agents multilingual — even when they aren’t.

Consider, for example, a Japanese video game company with customers in markets all over the world. It not only needs translation services for the games themselves but also a way for its customer service teams to fluently interact with customers across the globe. Only a scaleable, high-quality language service provider can meet that level of translation demand.

Types of translation services: Human vs. machine

The next key question about translation services comes down to the technology involved. On one end of the spectrum is fully human translation, and on the other end is AI-driven machine translation. Both have merit — it just comes down to what’s right for your business.

When it comes to capturing the depth and nuance of meaning in one human language and transposing that into another one, humans are still best at the job. The more specialized the job and localized the language, the more you need a human involved. For example, puns and idioms may not work as well after they’ve been translated as they do in the source language.

That said, machine translation is highly valuable in its own right. While it would take a human translator dozens of hours to translate every, user guide, service page, or FAQ document for a retail brand, a machine could do it in seconds. When your business is expanding rapidly and encountering numerous language barriers, there’s really no substitute for the speed and cost-effectiveness of machine translation.

Ideally, your business will blend both types of translators to fully capture both sets of benefits. When the speed of machine translation meets the accuracy of human translation, you have language services that balance cost and quality at scale.

Quality commercial translation at a large scale uses both of these concepts to make your message read the way you want it to in multiple different languages.

Matching translation services with your business’s needs

Translations get more or less specific depending on the purpose of the translation itself and the industry you’re in. Even customer service-oriented translations come in different flavors. The different ways translation fits into customer service roles include:

  • Multi-lingual help portals

  • Native-language chat services

  • Customer outreach

  • Help-desk literature like FAQs

  • Community support

  • User guides

  • Operational manuals

On a broader level, other common types of translation include:

Technical translation: This applies to a wide range of translation services, from user manuals to administrative documents. User guides, instruction manuals, and blueprints are all examples of technical documentation that require specialized knowledge of their subject matter.

Financial translation: Even if you don’t run a financial services firm, you may need to translate various internal financial documents. Perhaps you have offices in North America and Spain, for instance, and you need to provide company accounts for local authorities and investors in both English and Spanish.

You might also need to offer billing support in different languages. Giving your customers the ability to check their bills and pay in their own language can reduce errors and improve CSAT.

Website translation: At this point, your website is one of your most important assets for representing your business and engaging with your customers. If you do business in multiple markets with more than one language, you need to give careful attention to your site and make sure your audiences get the experience they need.

These are just a few translation examples. Doctors need medical translation to help patients understand their treatment. Translation services and judicial translation helps make legal documents more accessible to foreign language speakers.

Translation service providers should be able to translate everything from medical documents to depositions, or even infographics, all in a wide range of formats. The focus of translation is always the same: to better connect your company with its customers and clients in a way that makes them feel supported and heard.

Control costs without losing translation quality

If your business is going global, one of your most pressing problems is to find a way to tackle your varied translation needs in a way that’s cost-effective without sacrificing quality—skipping translation shutters your business to countless potential customers, while poor translation could harm those relationships and waste your money. You can’t afford either.

Again, let’s consider the translation needs of a video game company. Translating the story and character arcs of a video game is a multilayered endeavor that includes rewriting jokes and replacing pop culture references to better fit the target market.

Beyond that, though, the company has to consider customer service across the countless markets where it sells its game. How will its agents respond to inquiries in hundreds of different languages without hurting the customer experience? And how will they do that without going over budget?

That’s where Unbabel comes in. Our unique LangOps (Language Operations) solution has already changed the game of translation, not only for companies like Hero Gaming but countless others in the gaming, retail, travel, and tech industries.

Unlike many of our competitors, the Unbabel platform carefully blends human and machine translation with an emphasis on transforming the language in every aspect of your customer service. Our Quality Intelligence scoring helps you rate the quality of every translation so you can keep your CSAT scores high while growing your business — all without breaking the bank.

To learn more about Unbabel’s LangOps solution, reach out to speak with one of our experts today.

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Unbabel’s Content Team is responsible for showcasing Unbabel’s continuous growth and incredible pool of in-house experts. It delivers Unbabel’s unique brand across channels and produces accessible, compelling content on translation, localization, language, tech, CS, marketing, and more.