Quality Matters Most: Belgian Associations Publish Guide to Buying Translation Services

How to Buy Translation Services

On November 20, 2022, the Belgian Quality Translation Association (BQTA) and the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters (CBTI) published a best practices guide (download) for authors of translation requests for proposals (RFPs).

It is the second such guide this year resulting from the collaboration of two professional language bodies. A similar guide for buyers of conference interpreting services was published in May 2022.

The translation procurement guide outlines basic information about the translation business and details that all RFPs should include. It seeks to help institutions in the Belgian public sector understand “the fundamental concepts required to write effective tender specifications guaranteeing seamless collaboration with tenderers and maximum satisfaction for the contracting authority.”

The document begins with general document translation terminology, including definitions of translation, source and target languages, revision (review or editing), proofreading, and desktop publishing. This terminology section is followed by a brief explanation of how translation services are fulfilled by independent providers or translation agencies.

Included in the guide are essential concepts, such as complexity of the source text, target audience, volume, and accepted industry output for human translation. The authors refer to these as “constraints,” which are important to understand in order to formulate the right questions.

A section called “Essential Components of the Tender Specifications” delves into criteria to include in the RFP, such as the type of vendor needed. Other sections deal with tasks to be performed within the typical translation production cycle, as well as subject matter, language pairs and target audience, tools to be used, and more.

Quality Driven

In the guide’s section on vendor selection, it lists the desired profile for freelance translators and translation companies. Characteristics for freelancers include being professionals who translate only into their mother tongue, linguists who specialize on a subject matter and have a degree in translation or another discipline, and professional experience.

Criteria for translation companies include solvency, subcontracting transparency, compliance with international standards (including ISO certifications), and quality assurance practices. References are listed as a requirement for both individual providers and agencies.

The guide also includes vendor evaluation criteria (e.g., price, text comprehension, quality, experience). On the subject of quality, the recommendation is to give quality 70% of the weight in vendor evaluation and to test vendors according to uniform and detailed quality assurance criteria.

Authors of RFPs are advised to include reference documentation, glossaries, style guides, and other resources when available. Award notices must follow local legislation, which requires the contracting party to publish the number of proposals received, the awardee(s) named, and the amount(s) to be paid.

On December 19, 2022, CBTI-BKTV will host a panel discussion on the report and a networking session shortly after.