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/.

Why should you hire a professional translator if you have bilingual staff?

I’ll be the first to admit: I have built my industry knowledge and maintained my translation skills in my in-house software development jobs. In other words, I was part of the in-house staff who spoke languages and so a lot of translation work landed on my desk. However, in many cases, especially in development and testing projects, the localisation of software was actually part of my job and of the project plan. And I am fully qualified to do the job. Not all testers happen to have a master’s degree in professional translation…😊. In short, I am more of an exception that confirms the rule.

So why exactly should you hire a professional to do your translation or localisation work?

 

1. My employees are fully bilingual so they can translate competently and professionally

Ask yourself this question: You learned to count at school. Does this make you an accountant? Like arithmetic, language is a tool. In translation language is also a tool, but we don’t just speak languages. Native speakers, even if they manage to resist the influence of their host country’s culture and language, stay within the boundaries and limitations of their language. A high level of bilingualism is the most basic of the qualifications of a competent translator. Add to that mental dexterity, bicultural competence, industry expertise and strategies required to transfer meaning successfully across those boundaries.

 

2. Being a native speaker makes you fully competent in the language

Have you ever read something written by a native speaker and it didn’t make sense? Or asked them about a rule in their language and they just answered: “I don’t know, that’s just how it is.” We speak our native tongue organically, without studying the grammar, syntax or structure. Think of all the risks you take if you rely on a non-professional. The ability to write clearly and accurately is a prerequisite for a professional translation.

 

3. Do you really need to be certified to do a translation job?

You need a certification to be a plumber, electrician or carpenter. So why are you ready to accept a non-professional service in translation?  Like in other trades, translators complete courses, diplomas, and university degrees during which they learn about tools, technologies, methodologies and resources necessary to perform their duties. It is doubtful that your in-house staff understand how to use some of the tools that professionals use for productivity, such as translation memory and glossaries. As a result, you will end up with a subpar product.

 

4. My bilingual staff can translate that marketing flyer “real fast” and won’t cost me anything

When you take your bilingual staff away from their primary responsibilities and ask them to translate, you’re distracting them from their actual job. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, employees can experience 50-60 interruptions each day. That’s an interruption every 8 minutes. After each interruption, it can take an employee 23 minutes to return to his or her original task, according to a study by the University of California, Irvine. The financial cost to these distractions is $10,375 per person, per year, according to Harmon.ie. Distractions also take their toll on your employees’ engagement and effectiveness. Harmon.ie’s research shows that 33% of employees had difficulty working and producing because of workplace distractions, and 25% had no time to think deeply or creatively as a result. One in five workers found that distractions caused information overload and 1 in 10 missed deadlines because of them. So, before you ask a bilingual employee to “just” translate that flyer “real fast,” ask yourself what unaccounted costs you may be incurring.

 

5. How about a quick review?

Sometimes, in-house staff are asked to review a translation completed by a professional. While your bilingual employees may have grown up speaking a language at home, that doesn’t mean they have the same linguistic expertise to understand specific grammar or cultural conventions. Therefore, their edits or suggestions may actually hurt the accuracy of the translation created by a professional linguist. Once again, you are wasting resources on something that’s neither their job, nor their priority.

 

6. Equal opportunities for all?

Additionally, you may be creating equal opportunity and equal pay issues in your organisation. You may have more than one employee with the same level of education, experience, base pay and performance, but only one receives a small bonus each month for translating documents. The other may feel treated unfairly if they didn’t receive the same opportunity.

 

So, what is stopping you from assigning the job to a professional translator? 

 

We are under pressure to keep the costs down

Because of financial constraints, some businesses or non-profits try to save money, often by asking bilingual employees to help translate various documents. By using bilingual employees to complete translation work, you expose your organisation to costly mistakes. Is it really worth the risk? I know this may sound biased, coming from someone who is a professional translator, but the data speaks for itself.

Cost of translation can vary, but on average it is between 0.07-0.15 euros per word. This means that a standard, 350-word page will cost around 50 euros.

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.

 

Outsourcers don’t understand our tech business

This is a common complaint, especially with large translation agencies. Their vendors can be scattered around the world and will not take time or have an opportunity to get to know your business. However, if you hire an independent translator directly, they should and will ask you for background information, existing documentation and glossaries. You can ask them directly for their credentials, quality processes and turnaround times. (Read about the essential questions to consider when hiring a professional translator here: https://edittranslations.com/what-makes-an-excellent-translator-5-traits-you-should-look-for/ .) Look for a specialist in your industry: e.g. I worked in software development teams, so I’m already up to speed with or can quickly grasp complex technical explanations of your products.

 

We need to focus on innovation

It’s good to keep everyone up to date in a fast-changing technology world, but do not neglect your brand. A professional translator will help you spread the word about your technology to foreign audiences and this in turn will help you increase your customer base and sales.

 

Long-term gains

If you hire the same translator repeatedly, they will with time become more productive and knowledgeable of your business. We use technologies, such as terminology databases, translation memories and glossaries, which speed up our work and make it consistent by recycling previous relevant content. Meanwhile, your employees can get on with their own work!

#HireaPro

 

How do I choose a financial translator?

And why do translators specialise anyway? These are just words, aren’t they? Well, not exactly. Financial and economic translations require a great degree of understanding.  Translators who understand the concepts will be able to translate much more accurately than those who don’t.

Within the world of finance there are many complex terms and concepts

On the asset management side, if you are looking for accurate translations, then it is important to choose a translator who can deal effectively with the content.  Do they know the difference between cyclical and defensive stocks? Is the term “bond proxy” translated or is the English version used in other languages? When the translation team understands such concepts and can combine their financial knowledge with their linguistic expertise, then you are certain to have a great financial translation.

The importance of accuracy

Apart from the sound technical knowledge required in translating financial statements or portfolio analyses, the accuracy and attention to detail matter as well.  This is not just about getting the language right, but about representing the numbers accurately as well. The translation may be perfect in terms of written fluency, but it will be no good to the client if they have not taken the required care to transcribe or transfer the numbers, symbols or abbreviations. What if assets of $1,000,000 become assets of $100,000 in the translated document? Correct localised conventions must be used, such as a digital point and comma.  A million (1,000,000) in the UK and US may in other countries look as follows: 1 000 000.  Simple details, obvious to many, but important to get them right.

You can get on with your core business

Using a competent translator will allow you to focus on your core business instead, on the activities that generate revenue for your company or organisation. You will avoid the gigantic headaches associated with the incorrect translation of documents and with re-working them so that they are acceptable.

The answer: work with an expert

At EdIT Translations we are experts in financial translation.  Before starting the company, its founder, Elzbieta Dubois, enjoyed a successful career in software houses building solutions for financial services, including major European banks in Paris and London, building societies, investment corporations and lenders. As a Business and Test Analyst she translated specifications and user guides and performed localisation testing, and so she is well-placed to deliver very high-quality translations of technical financial documents.  She combines this experience with solid linguistic skills. A master’s degree in Professional Translation at the University of Strasburg and 30+ years of residence in the UK and France allow her to address and convey each country’s specific locale and culture. With this background, she can produce translations that are true to their audience and culture. So, the next time you are looking for an expert financial translator with a focus on your specific needs as a client, look no further, we are here to help!