IF TRANSLATORS WERE CAR MECHANICS…, or 4 common questions to ask before buying a translation service.

“Can you repair my car? I need it for tomorrow.”

“Can I see it?”

“No. Not until you tell me if you can fix it.”

“Um…What kind of car is it?”

“A blue one.”

“I mean the manufacturer and model.”

“That’s personal information I don’t want to disclose. When will it be ready?”

“Well…what noises has it been making? How old? Mileage?”

“Questions, questions! Am I supposed to tell you how to do your job? Just tell me how long it’ll take to fix it.

Oh, and I can only afford €X.

And I want you to use these complicated, old, rusty tools of mine.

I’ve also started to tinker with the car myself, so you should give me a discount now that you only have to finish off the job. And fix that leak I made while tinkering.

Here’s a blurry photo of it to help.”

(Curtesy of Gary Smith **Confessions of a Freelance Translator: Secrets to Success**)

I hope that this story made you smile. Of course, it is a bit of a caricature.😉

Like many other professions: car mechanics, plumbers, builders, dentists, doctors, lawyers…, translators need to see the product that they are asked to work with. We are “wordsmiths”. Our job is not about: “just tell me what this means in [language]”.

When you ask for a document or website to be translated, a professional will discuss with you these 4 common questions:

1. What is the language you would like us to translate into?

Like any other professions, we have a bit of jargon lingo. The language your text is originally written in is called “source language”. The one we translate into is called “target”.

A good translator is a linguist with a thorough knowledge of the “source language”. This allows us to understand your text well. For example, I have proofread in the past a financial text translated from English, where the linguist mixed up the English and French meaning of “billions”! However, a pro will never offer to translate into their “second language”, unless they can offer you a native-speaker review and proofreading as part of their service. You want your translator to have a perfect knowledge of both the target culture and language, because we translate meanings and messages, not “just words”. Only a native or fully bilingual translator can ensure this.

2. What is the text about?

Just like car mechanics, you have generalists and those who specialize in brands. We also have specializations, e.g. texts about medicine, law, agriculture, finance, marketing. In my case, the specializations come from the professional experience in software houses and the financial industry. I also keep learning, reading publications and participating in webinars or online courses in my specializations. Just like doctors, lawyers or engineers, specialized translators have an in-depth knowledge of the concepts, terminology, and specificities of their field.

3. When will it be ready?

Typically, translators translate between 2000 and 3000 words a day. I would approach with caution working with anyone who promises you tens of thousands of words per day. It is likely that they will just put your text through a machine translation engine and do a bit of editing (or not). In that case you are wasting your money.

However, the turnaround and deadline are not synonymous. Like for any professional mentioned above, your deadline will depend on translator’s availability, the type of document and area of specialization, availability of any reference materials.

4. How much does it cost?

Translation rates depend on a variety of factors: the type of document you need translated, the area of specialization, the source and target languages, the urgency, the volume.

Rates are often calculated per word, but some translations are charged per hour because of the extra work they involve, e.g. layout work for a non-editable PDF or extensive linguistic and SEO research for marketing texts.

(Imagine translating the message behind “Just Do It” – it is more than just 3 words!!)

Proofreading work is usually charged per hour.

Some translators charge a minimum rate, others will offer you a more comprehensive solution that can include translation, proofreading, and testing. It is always best to ask for a free quote, which they will be happy to offer.

Would you commission building a house and ask for a terrace and a pool half-way through the project? Communicate the scope of work and request any auxiliary services at the start. If you don’t, you might end up stuck with an unfinished project, or worse, a set of unbudgeted charges.

Do you need professional translation for your document, website or application into Polish or French?

You can order my services or ask for a free quote here: https://edittranslations.com/contact/.