Friday, 26 February 2016

Working with a translator - what to expect

Found your translator? What happens next?

I have described a typical scenario below. Not all translators will operate in the same way but it may give you an idea of what to expect.


The first step will usually be to ask for an estimate (a non-binding idea of the cost involved) or a firm quote. To deliver either, the translator will:
  • ask to see the document/website/copy to be translated, The format of the files provided will influence the cost: 
    • Word is ideal,
    • PDF, PowerPoint and Excel will normally incur a surcharge,
    • not all translators will be able to work direct in HTML. 
  • ask how quickly you need the translation. Two things to bear in mind here:
    • to avoid a last-minute panic and an urgency surcharge, it's best to plan ahead
    • involving the translator early on in the process can iron out translation and/or cultural issues later on.
NB: It is not easy for the translator to quote accurately direct from a website unless it is a simple series of pages,

Price: Translators operate in different ways. Some will base the quote/estimate on wordcount, some charge an hourly rate and others will quote an all-inclusive project price.

Happy with the quote? 

Time for work to begin. 

At this stage it is really helpful if you can provide the translator with as much information about your company and/or project as possible. The more they know, the better they can tailor your translation.

The translator may request:
  • a glossary or style guide, if available,
  • images where appropriate,
  • the name of a contact person for resolving queries,
  • and for large projects for first-time clients, advance payment of part (or all) of the fee.


Don't be alarmed if a translator asks questions: 
  • even specialist translators can't be expected to know everything in their chosen field,
  • company-specific terms or abbreviations will need to be clarified,
  • not everything that is clear to the author is necessarily clear to the reader,
  • translators often pick up inconsistencies and errors in the source text which can be corrected before the text goes to print.



Notice I used capitals here? It may mess with the synergy of the document (neat freaks look away now) but let's face it, ADDED VALUE is what you're looking for, isn't it?

So, because you have:
  • taken the time to select the best translator for your job
  • planned ahead to avoid a last minute rush job
  • involved the translator as early as possible in the process
  • provided as much relevant information as you can...
... the least we can do is offer you something in return. How about?
  • a fabulous translation that:
    • is true to your corporate style
    • says exactly what you want it to say
    • flows naturally in the second language
    • and won't go viral for all the wrong reasons
  • PLUS all the added benefits this brings your company:
    • increased sales
    • visibility in new markets
    • your message in the language of your prospects
    • new export opportunities 
    • ...
You know what they are because you set the objectives!

Next time I'll be talking about feedback. In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Finding the right (wo)man for the job

Where to begin?

Your text is ready and you're pretty pleased. All that extra time and effort devoted to getting every detail right and conveying the right message has really paid off. Now you need it in one or more foreign languages but where to begin?

Your options

Free translation tool:

Let's keep this nice and simple: it's free and it's instant.

BUT - be honest - have you ever laughed heartily at a translation error/gaffe/disaster (take your pick) online? We all have. Just imagine if you or your company was the butt of the joke.

Unless you really just want to get the gist of a very informal conversation, then steer clear. In every likelihood you won't understand the translation produced and have to assume it's fine. If it isn't, you might not find out until it goes viral on social media... for all the wrong reasons!

Translation agency:

A good agency will have the skills and tools to handle large multi-lingual projects that most individual translators can't take on. But not all agencies are equal.Bear in mind:

  • if an agency is promising you the earth (20,000 words overnight?) it is obvious the job will be split among several translators (in terms of output, most translators give a guideline of 2,000 to 2,500 words a day depending on the text). 
  • if the agency is cheap, it can't possibly be paying its translators a decent rate and good translators don't operate in the low end of the market.

Finally, if your text is highly specialised you will probably want an agency that works with translators who specialise in your field.

Freelance translator:

There are many advantages of going direct to a good freelance translator:

  • you get the same translator every time. If your project is ongoing, this is the best way to ensure consistency of style
  • the translator can contact you direct for clarification and becomes familiar with your business, preferred terms and house style
  • you can build a relationship of trust which is satisfying to both parties

Be aware, however, that good translators are busy translators. The best way to avoid disappointment is to plan ahead.

And not all translators are equal so here are a few pointers:

  • professional translators work into their mother tongue. With a very few exceptions, translations produced by a non-native will have some giveaway signs, however minor, which spoil the overall effect 
  • like other professionals, translators specialise. Specialist translators may have a background in the particular field or, at the very least, will have spent considerable time learning the ropes and keeping abreast of developments. 
  • if you're looking for a nifty piece of creative copy, you need a creative translator or transcreation specialist. 
Looking for a professional translator? You have several options:
As I mentioned in a previous post, translators network and can often refer you to a colleague if they can't do the job themselves. Feel free to contact me if you need any help.
Hopefully, you now know where and how to look for a translator. Next time I'll give you an idea of what to expect when working with a translator.

If you have any questions in the meantime, fire away in the comments.