• insights
  • March 5, 2018
  • pilcrow

What you need to know about translation services

How are language services charged?

Generally, translations are charged per source word. If the content requires editing, desktop publishing, transcreation and/or extra research, an hourly rate and/or further charges could be applied.

Other TSPs might also charge per target word (number of words in the translated document, on the basis that a document translated from English into French for example will increase by 30% and that that should be priced in).

It is advised to discuss billing methods with your provider for each project.

How many words can a translator translate per day?

With over three years’ experience, a professional translator can translate between 1,500 to 2,500 words a day. However, the technical nature of a document, its formatting and other factors should be taken into consideration.

What is a good translation?

There is no “right” translation since there is no perfect equivalent to express a concept or idea from one language to another. Just as one can express the same idea in a wide range of ways in the same language, there is a wide range of ways in which it can be translated.

However, a good translation needs to, but is not limited to:

  • answer its intended purpose;
  • respect the technical terminology;
  • be accurate;
  • clearly present the message and nuances of the source text;
  • sound native and be culturally appropriate;
  • use the right tone and style;
  • mirror the editorial spirit of the author.

What makes for a successful translation project?

  1. Plan ahead. Include translation as an element of your overall project workflow and not something to tack on at the end of production! That way you can anticipate costs and keep the project on budget.
  2. Pay attention to the source content. Have a final version of the source content revised for style, consistency, and readability before you submit it for translation.
  3. Start with specifications. Project specifications must be developed during project initiation and used throughout the rest of the project. Specifications are the statement of the requirements, terms and conditions as specified in the client-TSP agreement.
  4. Provide supporting material to your translator(s). Any content previously translated and published can help your translator(s) understand your preferences in style and terminology.
  5. Work with the same translators. Working with the same translators will result in translations which improve over time as the translator becomes increasingly familiar with your company’s objectives, identity and preferences.
  6. Provide feedback and final content. The only way to improve translations is by communicating your feedback (e.g. amendments and corrections) to your translator(s). You might have only made stylistic changes, but even those can be useful and can be integrated into your translation memory.

What is the role of the translator and what are his/her qualifications?

The translator is tasked with carrying out the whole translation process and delivering a complete, high- quality piece of work that meets the requirements defined by the project manager.

The translator needs to follow specifications carefully and precisely. However, by using his/her professional expertise, he/she might decide to challenge or ignore the specifications in order to provide a quality translation. If the translator does not agree with the project specifications or does not believe to have the required subject matter experience, it is his or her ethical obligation to discuss this with the project manager rather than deciding unilaterally to ignore some aspect of the specifications. Recommended hiring requirements for translators include among others:

  • University degree in languages and/or translation;
  • Certification by a professional association affiliated with the International Federation of Translators;
  • International certifications evaluated on an individual basis;
  • Work experience (at least 5-7 years);
  • Participation in professional development activities;
  • References (TSPs check references from previous employers or clients, especially if they are freelance translators).

We have bilingual staff, surely they can translate?

Many people assume that anyone with language skills can produce a good translation and therefore even extremely sensitive documents often end up in the hands of someone with absolutely no translation experience.

Although this might seem like a good (and inexpensive) idea, the consequences can be terrible. Translation not only requires excellent knowledge of both languages in question (especially the target language contrary to popular belief), but also a deep understanding of the subject of the document (whether financial, legal, medical or other). It is also necessary to master translation techniques and concepts as well as syntax and spelling. It takes years to achieve a good level of skills, and one might say that there is no perfection in translation and that, as such, the learning curve never flattens.

What is a translation memory?

Most professional translators use CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) software. CAT software, such as Trados Studio or MemoQ, provides the translator with a set of tools to help them in their task. Documents are analysed, segmented and then presented into two columns, one containing the source text and the other the target translation. As the translator fills up the blanks, each segment is saved into a translation memory.

If a segment repeats itself in another project or in the same document, the translator can choose to automatically apply the previously translated segment or adapt it to fit with the new context if necessary. Most translators will provide discounts based on the amount of repetitions. Therefore the more you translate with the same translator, the bigger the translation memory and the potential discounts. Furthermore, overall consistency within the different texts is increased. It is also possible to update a translation memory with your amendments or corrections, making it easier to improve the quality over time.