Translation agreements

“Spoken words fly away;
written words remain.”

– Latin saying

Once you have spoken or exchanged emails with the translator and all the relevant project specifications are well defined, the best next step is to put everything together in clear writing.

This can be done rather formally, by adapting a model contract to your needs and having both parties sign it. A translation agreement should be designed and customized to establish the specificity of the relationship between a translation buyer and a language service provider in any particular project.

Alternatively, a more informal way of specifying all pertinent details in writing is by email. I myself started using this email method at first: I’d write an email with all the specifications, send it to clients, and ask them to reply stating they agreed with the terms and conditions. Only then would I begin working on the project.

Lately I’ve been using a model contract and asking for signatures—it projects a more professional image and gives both parties a better sense of security.

In any case, I’d advise you not to rely only on spoken words or agreements.

Having a client–provider agreement is one of the requirements of the European quality standard for translation service providers (EN 15038:2006) and the Canadian Translation Services Standard (CAN/CGSB-131.10-2008), both developed to ensure the quality of translation services offered by translation agencies and translation companies.

A translation contract protects both parties: you and the service provider. Even if the translator doesn’t take the initiative to send you an agreement, you’re right to request one. Not surprisingly, some translators develop mistrust toward clients who refuse to sign this type of document. Come to think of it, if the service request is genuine, why wouldn’t a buyer want to formalize it in a contract? Conversely, you should be careful when dealing with a language professional who is not willing to sign an agreement.

Below is one of the most comprehensive model contracts I’ve seen, provided by the American Translators Association (ATA). There may be other specific issues either party might want to specify in writing.

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Post update – Jan 27th, 2012

Seeking to help translators draft their own contracts and agreements, the ATA Business Practices Education Committee has put together the Guide to a Translation Services Agreement.

This publication provides not only a customizable model contract in one column, but also enlightening explanations in the second column. While undoubtedly handy for language professionals, it’s certainly useful to translation customers as well.

To help with ease of access, this resource has been added to TCZ’s “Useful links” section (left column).