Translating for SMEs & Large Corporations – What are the differences?

The developments in technology and widely available internet have globalised eCommerce and changed the way companies do business. Today, small and medium-sized organisations are joining larger, multinational corporations in the cross-border trading process on regular basis. As a result, translation service providers (TSPs) find a growing demand for their services and more opportunities arising within the SME sector.

But are there any real differences in translating materials for SME’s and the established, large companies which are already reputable on the international scene? And if so, what are they exactly?

Realistically, linguists encounter differences from one translation project to another, regardless of who the translation is for. In fact, differences in translations can be encountered even if translating very similar material for the same client. Nonetheless, the differences between translating for an SME and a multinational organisation can sometimes be more than slight.


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Translation budgets

Although larger organisations usually work with employees who are fluent in more than one language, such employees simply do not have the time, skill or legal accreditation which would allow them to conduct and complete professional translations. Consequently, majority of such businesses outsource their translation work. Whilst they may indeed have in-house employees who speak a second language, they usually aren’t trained linguists who can deliver the high-level of quality a specialised linguist from the local vicinity of the target audience is able to do. Often, business translation services require much more than simply conveying words for words and keeping their literal meaning. In some cases, external influences such as social, political, cultural or even geographical aspects can directly impact the quality of a translation, and consequently, the company’s image.

As a result, this presents translation agencies with excellent opportunities to work and form partnerships with some of the world’s largest brands.

Due to already being established within foreign markets and having the experience of approaching overseas customers and working with language translations previously, multinational organisations fully understand the true importance behind accurate translations and have budgets allocated specifically to cover necessary language services.

Small businesses, on the other hand, typically do not have a marketing budget established, which would be allocated to covering the cost of translations and take it on one-off service basis. This can be especially true if a company doesn’t have any previous experience in working with translation agencies or international consumers. Nonetheless, in the recent years, there is a positive shift within the SME sector towards understanding the importance of professional translation services and the direct impact they can have on the company’s image abroad.


Supporting documents

Generally speaking, professionals who work for larger corporations have the first-hand experience of cross-border trading and understand the difficulties involved when translating niche documents. Providing supporting documents, which can range from specific product names, sector jargon or even any previous translations can often help the accuracy of a translation.

One of the main differences in translating for larger organisations and businesses based within the SME sector, are indeed the supporting documents, which can directly influence the accuracy of a translation. Often, smaller companies are not the originators of a product and therefore as a third-party company, are only able to provide documents which have been granted to them by the manufacturer.

In contrast, larger organisations usually manufacture and develop the products themselves. They have the technical experts on hand who can explain what translators need to know and provide technical documents which feature the finer details a linguist can refer to.


Turnaround times

When working for a large, multinational company, deadlines and time restrictions are not unusual in the day to day activities. This can often be reflected in the translation requirements. Several of the larger companies we work with here at TS24, which are already established within the international markets, require very fast turnaround times for the translation of their documents. Whether it’s documents for internal use or marketing materials used to approach new, potential clients, international organisations tend to have tighter deadlines than a company from the SME sector.

Smaller companies, due to their nature, but also sometimes due to their budget restrictions, are more inclined to slightly more relaxed deadlines. Although of course, the standard turnaround times are the same whether it’s an SMEs or a large organisation, larger companies are more likely to opt for faster turnaround times as this is also calculated into their translation budgets.


Translation memory

Starting a partnership with a translation agency and working with one regularly allows larger companies to cut costs by creating a ‘translation memory’ for their documents. A professional translation agency will be able to offer significant discounts for content which requires translation, however is very similar to documents which have already been translated previously. Overtime, this can make a substantial difference to the budget, especially when working with large documents and files.

As smaller companies, which are at the start of their internationalisation process and aren’t yet established abroad, tend to translate smaller documents on the ‘one-off’ basis, the translation memory may not make a significant difference. Nonetheless, when a company translates for example their business website, which often is a large translation project, a professional agency will be able to offer discount on the repeating words within that particular project.