5 Effective Tools for Professional Interpretation

While the market is full of tools for translators which keep improving and expanding all the time, interpreters might be left wondering exactly what of all of these they can use for their own work. Some might say that the interpreting industry has a weird relationship with technology but there are many tools and technologies which are being created in order to help interpreters make their jobs a little easier.

If you’re one of those people who don’t really do well with adding tools and apps into their everyday work but wish to see if there is a way for them to use them to their advantage. Here are some of the simplest yet very effective tools which might just make a professional interpreter’s work just a little easier.

  1. Interplex lite

This simple app allows its users to view the Interplex glossary databases on their iPhones, iPads and even Mac and Windows computers and it offers the user a sample database which comes with Interplex. This app offers a fast and easy to use search feature which allows word searches in many different languages and can help you start learning how to use it fast and efficiently on your computer and then migrate to a mobile device, making it a lot easier to use on the go and in times of need.

  1. Sounds: The pronunciation app

This great tool was created based on the book “Sound Foundations” by pronunciation expert Adrian Underhill and was designed in order to help those who interpret in English. Not only will you be able to study the Phonemic Chart in both UK and US English but you will also be able to record your own pronunciations of words in order to make a comparison and keep improving. There are also plenty or activities like fun quizzes to help you further improve your pronunciation.

  1. Duolingo

No matter how well you know a language, there are always times where you need to practice your skills a little bit and can’t find the best way to do so. This great language app can truly help you learn any language through a plethora of fun activities. The best thing about it is that it will often ask you to pronounce a word or translate a sentence through the microphone, something that can be especially helpful for both translators and interpreters equally.

  1. Word Reference

One of the best and most valuable online databases of multilingual dictionaries definitely has to be Word Reference. Not only does this powerful dictionary provide quick translations of English, Spanish, and Italian words into European and Asian languages, it also offers the possibility for you to get involved in forums on translation and the English language and further expand your skills and knowledge.

  1. Listening Drill

Last but not least, if you’re looking for a foreign language practice drill which will allow you to import all sorts of files, from TED Talks to audio books and find the right subtitles in all sorts of languages and allow you to practice your language skills and listen to the ways certain native words and phrases are translated into other languages. There is a paid and a free version, so you can start slow and then upgrade to the paid version which will allow you to have bilingual subtitles on a video of your choice.

Finding the right tool for your needs

If you are just staring to use more tools and apps for your interpretation needs, or you are new to this industry, these apps and tools will be the best introduction for you and will definitely help you start to understand how you can use technology to your advantage. Translators usually always have both online and offline tools which they use in order to make their job a lot easier and themselves a lot more productive and that can be the case for interpreters too if they use the right tools.

The secret here is to start slow and learn how to use these simple tools in order to get the best results. Whether you need to freshen up your language skills or need to improve your pronunciation, these tools will definitely have your back at any time and help you make your work a lot more professional. Which one of these tools are you most excited to give a try?

Author bio:

Eliza Abbott is a freelancer whose passion lies in creative writing. She completed a degree in Computer Science and writes about ways to apply machine learning to deal with complex issues. Insights on education, helpful tools and valuable university experiences – she has got you covered;)

Tips for Surviving Your First Mistake in a Translation Agency

Nobody is perfect – and at some point, everyone will make a mistake. The only question is “when?” Even professionals are not safe – but the thing about mistakes is that they help you learn. It’s important that you accept these mistakes, take responsibility for them – and use them as a stepping stone towards being a more successful person.

Still, there’s more than saying “I’m sorry, moving on” behind such a mistake. In order to protect your job as a translator in a certain agency, there are certain steps that you need to follow. This guide will help you through your first mistake so that you can be safe, learn from it, and then move on.

  • Letting the Client Know Right Away

Some people prefer going by the “If I don’t say anything, maybe they won’t notice” method. If you’re lucky and no one notices, then you’ve lucked out; you just have to be careful that it never happens again.

However, this may also go the other way, with the client finding out by themselves – or from other sources – that there is an error in the text you have translated for them. The next step would be them coming at your agency, roaring thunders and lightning, threatening they are going to sue.

To prevent this from happening, you might want to take some initiative. If by any chance you realize the mistake before the client does, do not hope for a miracle and pretend the mistake does not exist. Instead, make sure that you contact the customer right away, giving them notice (hopefully) before they use those documents.

If you do this, the client will also hopefully see that you are an honest person – one who places the interests of the client over their own.

There’s no guarantee that you won’t have to suffer from this mistake – but taking this initiative might just soften the blow. This way, you might get away with just a warning instead of being fired.

  • Explain Yourself – Not Excuse Yourself

There’s a very big difference between explaining what happened and making excuses for yourself. People choose translation agencies over freelancers for this exact reason – simply because they expect transparency at all points.

A client is more willing to trust an honest translator that brings all cards to the table rather than one that seems picture perfect – but also seems to be hiding something. Most people have an eye for these kinds of people.

Start by explaining why this mistake happened – but don’t make it sound like you are looking for excuses. If you’re trying to put all the blame on external factors, this might not sit well with the customer.

Instead, put your hands up (in a manner of speaking), admit it was your mistake, but also make them see that you learned from it. Show them that you can move forward with this mistake and use it as a stepping stone.

How well this explanation will be accepted, it will all depend on the severity of the mistake. Obviously, if you compromised the work of your client, it’s clear that they might have a bone to pick with you afterward.

However, if you do manage to show them that you’ve learned from your mistake, they will obviously appreciate your honesty. This way, there’s a high chance that this client will use your agency again in the future.

  • Offer to Fix Things

You’re working for a translation agency now, so your mistake is the entire company’s mistake. Unless you “clean” the black spot on the image, it will stay dirty and compromise the reputation of the company.

Obviously, this does not only mean that you have to fix the text you messed up. You will actually be expected to do that, considering they paid your agency to get the correct text.

Instead of just fixing things on the spot, you might also want to fix them on the long run; fix the relationship, not just the text. If the customer is still not happy, offer them a discount for their next order – or even throw some freebies in the mix.

Offering your services completely free of charge might not be the ideal scenario for you; however, if you risk losing a potential customer, it might save you hassle and money in the long run.

Instead of thinking of it as wasted time, think of it as an investment for the future. If the client leaves unhappily, then there’s no way they’ll be using your agency again. Furthermore, there is also a high chance that word will spread, placing a big dirty spot on the company. You don’t want a mistake like this to hit the breaks on your career.

Final Thoughts

Mistakes are always bound to happen; that’s how we actually learn and become better about our job. But remember that every mistake you make will reflect on the agency that you are working for.

If you follow these tips, you may be able to prevent a small mistake from growing into a full-blown disaster.

Interview with a project manager

Launching this new category, we interviewed Izabel Arruda to get some insights into the role of an essential player in many translation projects. Izabel is a localization project manager and she kindly shared some of the experience she has gathered along her journey dealing with both clients and translators.

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TCZ – Izabel, as a project manager, you are the human component of the liaison between a translator and the end client. You (and your agency) are seen by translators as their client, but at the same time you work directly with end clients. How could you explain this position to those who are not familiar with this side of the translation industry?

Izabel Arruda – It’s an interesting position. We intermediate the process, but our job is a lot more complex than it seems. We send and receive files from translators, but that doesn’t represent the core of our profession. We are responsible for negotiating deadlines and budgets with our clients, developing the translation or localization project strategy, training translators, introducing them to our online translation platform, and making sure they are comfortable working on it. We also get feedback from reviewers on the work of new translators, so we can rate them in our database. We must check every file to make sure the job was done according to our client’s expectations. And, finally, we take care of many administrative tasks, such as issuing purchase orders and invoices, creating job numbers, and making sure all numbers match.

Translators and editors are the most important part of the process, without a doubt, but we are responsible for every step of that process. If a translator delivers a poor text, it could be because s/he is not good at the job, but our client doesn’t know the translators and didn’t choose the resources. We did. So it’s our responsibility.

TCZ – And if a client is happy with a project, can s/he request that the same team of translator and editor do the job every single time?

IA – Yes, that happens very often. It’s great if we can get good translators to commit with our important projects. I work with a particular client who likes to interview the translators himself and only works with the same three translators per language. This works very well for us if the translators agree.

Sometimes we have a good experience working with a translator and just keep assigning jobs from the same project to that person. It’s an informal way to engage them in a project. I think this happens more often than the first case.

TCZ – You worked as a translator before “changing sides,” I mean, becoming a PM, right?

IA – I did, yes.

TCZ – Could you share a few lessons you learned as a translator that you use at your new job (preferably those that might be relevant to translation buyers)?

IA – Most definitely. Many project managers are former translators, and a lot of them still work and consider themselves translators. This is key at a translation agency. I don’t think I would be as good at coordinating translation projects if I hadn’t been a translator myself. I know it’s impossible to deliver a high quality translation of a 20-page scanned contract in 24 hours. I understand there’s this thing called “time zones,” and I can’t expect an editor from Russia to respond to my urgent request at 3 PM Pacific time.

You might imagine these are obvious assumptions, but they are not. It’s important to know how the translator’s mind works!

TCZ – I see. An analogy just came to my mind: my sister is an orthodontist, and I just realized I have no idea of what’s feasible or what’s utopia in her area, or what results to expect from different braces or techniques… I can’t even predict how long it takes her to fix someone’s smile. It’s very common for clients to come to you (and to me, too) without basic knowledge about our field. Do you think it’s part of your job to educate them?

IA – Absolutely. Clients come to us looking for a service and we are happy to provide that service, but translation is not as straightforward as buying a product in a shop. Not all clients know what their needs are when they look for a translation company. That’s when we need to step in and develop a translation and/or localization plan.

Even though I don’t understand how my orthodontist fixed my teeth, I know what he did and why. Not all clients need to know the “how.” So there are basically different levels of understanding required by different clients. If I think clients need further understanding of the process (or if they ask for it), I’m happy to share that information with them.

TCZ – What quick tip could you give other PMs for improving their relationship with translators?

IA – Always provide very clear instructions to your translators. There is a lot of tension going on during a translation project, so communication must be clear.

TCZ – And what quick tip could you give other PMs for improving their relationship with clients?

IA – Be honest with your client from the very beginning. Clients are more flexible and understanding than people imagine, and they appreciate honesty. And try to go the extra mile. It pays off!

TCZ – Now, to wrap up, would you share a quick tip for clients when dealing with PMs?

IA – The more information, the better. Send reference materials along with the text to be translated. They will help PMs and translators do a better job. And try to send all instructions and requirements before the translation process starts. Changes along the way will cost more time and money.

TCZ – Thank you so much for helping me launch this interview section for the blog, Izabel!

IA – It was my pleasure!

Cost-based or accreditation-based procurement?

All that is related to public or civil service tends to be regarded in an extremely favorable light in Brazil. Civil servants are well paid, with salaries that are often higher than in the private sector, and they are always paid on time. There is even a new term in Brazilian Portuguese to refer to people who have turned the entire process of applying for a job with the government into an occupation. They are not merely candidates; they are concurseiros. This is not at all surprising in a country where a few “lucky” public officials are paid super-salaries of over R$300,000 per month – way more than a Supreme Court Justice.

Therefore, a contract with the government is coveted by all kinds of companies in a number of different industries, including the translation and interpretation industry. The thought of signing a huge contract that will keep a lot of people busy for a long time is indeed extremely appealing. Many translators work as freelancers and must tackle hunting for new jobs on a daily basis, but closing a deal with the government would make all that just go away. If translators found security in a government contract, they would not have to worry about marketing their services or prospecting clients. With the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup just around the corner, there are huge expectations for new business opportunities here and everyone is dying for a piece of that cake.

One of the major problems, as TNC explained, is that the lowest price is almost always the key factor that will define a government procurement process. Her post lists several reasons why this is a bad idea, and I can think of a few others to complement her thoughts. The red tape involved in the process is one of them reasons – and it’s not for the faint-hearted. It could take months for companies to be paid for services rendered, and they in turn take months to pay translators as well. No self-respecting translator would submit to such demeaning conditions, and many drop out of the project midway because they have found something better to do. In this situation many contractors will just shamelessly feed their material into free automatic translation software and deliver the sub-standard results to their client. Finally, since accountability seems to be a foreign concept to many people in this country, government agencies end up paying for a service they do not ultimately get.

I imagine quite a few of those government agencies had terrible experiences with language service providers in the past, because in the last couple of years a new category of government procurement seems to have been used more and more often: accreditation. Agencies that need to procure language services provide a list of requirements that contractors must fulfill in order to become an accredited provider. Those requirements usually involve minimum qualification standards for the provider, terms and conditions of service, and other relevant details. Individuals or companies are welcome to apply, but only those who meet the standards are accredited by the agency and included in their roster. The agency also sets the rates to be paid to translators/companies, thereby eliminating competition based on the lowest possible price. In my experience, rates have usually seemed reasonable, and I do hope that is true for accreditation-based procurement in general.

This could be an interesting procurement alternative, but whether it will yield better results than the others is yet to be determined. It basically comes down to which standards are set by the translation buyer for accreditation. Those who are not well informed about the language industry most likely do not know which requirements will make a difference in the product quality and will end up accrediting inadequate service providers.

As for language services for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, there is still not much information officially available, and translation and interpretation services seem to be handled mostly internally (something that can be worrisome, such as the disgraceful case described in another article by TCZ). However, given Brazilians’ penchant for procrastination, I would not be surprised to get a last-minute call desperately seeking a professional. Or am being I too hopeful?

Amateurs playing among the pros?

With the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Brazil, the country has been investing tons of money and effort to attract tourists and, hopefully, be prepared to welcome a huge number of non-Portuguese speakers. Needless to say, translation has been a key element in reaching out to the foreign sports lovers and tourists in general.

Last year, a website aiming to market the 2014 World Cup to foreigners was published by Embratur, a government body created in 1966 specifically to foster tourism in the country. We could only expect it to provide top-notch content to foreigners, which should naturally include appropriate translation and marketing copy in English, right?

Well, the reality proved to be different.

The poor material posted by Embratur in 2012 is no longer available, but I still wanted to write about it because this sort of problem is very common. This issue has been present for ages all over the world and, unfortunately, will keep happening as long as people use lame procurement processes.

If you haven’t read my previous post about the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court’s “trilingual glossary,” I suggest you check it out, since that case has a couple of elements in common with Embratur’s endeavor: (1) both are great initiatives and (2) both failed at their main goal because a huge part of the message couldn’t get across due to awkward or overly literal translations and poor terminology work.

Now, where do they differ? Unlike the trilingual glossary, which was put together with the collaboration of amateurs (i.e., non-translators), the amateurish English translation of Embratur’s website was indeed prepared by a genuine translation agency in Brazil.

My goal here is not to comment on the numerous mistranslations found on that website or to look for mistakes in the new one. It’s not about which English words are the best equivalents for such and such, or how much of a foreign accent pervaded the text, or how many translation and terminology inconsistencies could be found throughout the copy…

I’d rather focus on what I believe to be the most important lesson we can learn from this mishap, by looking into the reason, the root of the problem, and answering this question: why in the world would a respectable government agency spend loads of public money on extremely poor language services?

In a great text on language services procurement, Nataly Kelly describes what the general pattern looks like–which I summarize below, focusing on what I find to be the main points:

When procuring language services, government bodies often rely on employees who are inexperienced in working with this type of service, but rather are typically in charge of buying commodities. As a result, these procurement officers tend to treat language services as a commodity and include in public tenders only the basic requirements, such as languages and price, but overlook essential details: “experience actually providing the services, understanding of quality issues, and solid relationships with vendors.” On top of that, these contracts frequently impose unrealistic timelines (and I must add this: huge work volume). Even with no prior experience delivering this type of service (remember: experience is rarely a requirement in these contracts), language service providers apply for these public tenders, seeing them as great opportunities. Lacking a good understanding of the market, these service providers tend to overlook real costs and bid low, hoping to win the contract. The lowest bidder wins the contract, and, as expected, the winner is one of those providers with little or no experience in the type of services requested and doesn’t understand all the costs involved. Now it’s time to get the work done… In order to meet the impracticable deadlines and stay within the nonsensical budget, the winner asks subcontractors, who are usually freelancers, to lower their rates and work more than they typically do.

The piteous results come as no surprise, and you can find all sorts of explanations in Rafa Lombardino’s latest article, Doing it right the first time around, Christos Floros’ Beware of the translation industry “bottom-feeders,” and three texts of my own: Common scenarios, Food for thought, and Controversial approach: “penalties” for low rates?.

To wrap up, I’d like to complement Nataly’s explanation by raising a few points:

  • I believe there are indeed experienced service providers who, unfortunately, don’t have “quality” high on their priority list. For these, delivering massive texts in any language combination, within ridiculous deadlines, and earning peanuts (and paying “peanut fragments” to freelancers) is part of their daily chores. They want more and more volume, and that’s how they make money.
  • Chopping up a huge text and assigning bits and pieces to ten, twenty, or thirty translators, and never carrying out proper harmonization and review work is another capital sin these service providers often commit.
  • In Brazil, due to some cultural anomaly, service providers most often “impose” a low rate on freelancers–take it or leave it. And there’s always someone who takes it. And guess what? These are either inexperienced professionals or those who play on the who-cares-about-quality team.
  • Another disturbing fact (common in Brazil and most likely elsewhere) is that many freelancers think so highly of themselves–or care so little about quality–that they translate from their mother tongue into several foreign languages. I’m not saying that is NOT acceptable, but the margin for error in this scenario is much, much higher. (I’ll need a whole new post to properly explore this matter.)

Unfortunately, it’s common to see translation agencies coming to Brazilian online forums to ask Portuguese native speakers for quotes like this one:


Again, a dangerous combination of tight deadlines, huge volumes, translations into several foreign languages, and bidding for “dream” government contracts…

All that said, what I believe translation clients should take from this short case study is what not to do when procuring language services. There are other ways that actually make sense. A fellow translator, Beatriz Figueiredo, has just published a blog post about another method of hiring translation services in Brazil, recently adopted by a few government agencies. I’m excited she has agreed to write a guest post soon.

Localization and internationalization in a nutshell

In the globalization age, companies make efforts to offer their products and services to different markets all over the world. However, the same product that is a great hit in North Korea may be a total failure in Italy. To be successful, this process of reaching foreign markets should involve much more than just replacing words in language A for words in language B. Conveying meaning and ideas across different cultures may require all sorts of adaptation to make the product more appealing to the receiving culture and, consequently, boost sales and revenue.

Here’s our attempt to explain in simple words a few concepts related to this process.


The term “locale” indicates the combination of “language + country.” For example, “en_us” is English language for US users, and “en_gb” is English for Britain. First goes the language code and then the country code. There are, for example, Spanish language variants for Argentina (es-ar), Uruguay (es-uy), Spain (es-es), and so on.

“Localization” (commonly abbreviated as l10n, first and last characters of the word plus 10 characters in between) means not just translating software and web services, but making them look and feel as if they were originally developed for that particular target market. Apart from translation, the following issues should be taken into account in order to avoid user confusion:

  • Dates

October 5th, 1994 is commonly written as 10/05/94 in the USA, whereas in Spain, Canada, Brazil, Italy, and many other countries, it is traditionally conveyed as 05/10/94. That said, people in many cultures would automatically mark their calendars in May—not in October—for an event happening on 10/05 (without further context). When space is not a problem, writing the month is a good way to avoid misunderstandings.

  • Time

In North America, the AM/PM format is traditionally used, but most of European and Asian countries adopt the 24-hour format. Most Americans and Canadians, for instance, would probably need to read a sentence twice if it said a meeting would be held at 19:00 on Tuesday.

  • Numbers

In the US and Canada, the thousand separator is a comma (2,244), in Germany and Brazil, it’s a period (2.244), in Russia, a space (2 244).

  • Units of measurement, telephone numbers, addresses, currencies

The average Brazilian most likely needs to do some research and math (or use an online converter) to understand how tall a 6’3” person really is.

  • Cultural references, images, idioms, proverbs

Some colors or signs/symbols may have different meanings in different countries and cultures. White symbolizes death in Japan, whereas in Western cultures it is a symbol of purity, peace, etc. Therefore, an advertisement photo of someone wearing black might symbolize mourning in some Western countries, but this nuance would be lost in Eastern places where people wear white for this purpose.

  • Product names

In most cases, trademarked names are left in the source language, like Microsoft, Nikon, etc. However, service names may need to be translated. For instance, “Google Books” is translated into German as “Google Bücher”, and into Spanish as “Google Libros.”


“Internationalization” (or i18n) aims to make the product more general and ready for use in multiple languages and different cultural environments, i.e., ready for localization. In most cases, it’s highly recommended to carry out this step during the development phase. Otherwise, much extra time and effort might be needed at a later stage to prepare the material for localization.

Internationalization includes the following activities, among others:

  • Separating translatable text from the code (externalization)
  • Avoiding hard-coding translatable texts, otherwise you’ll have to make extra efforts during string externalizing and localization testing to spot all untranslated text
  • Enabling display of different character sets and support of local standards
  • Enabling usage of different regional settings like date and time formats, number formats, calendar formats, units of measurements, etc.
  • Attempting to write texts with the international community in mind, so that they will require less cultural adaptation to fit each culture at the localization stage (we say “attempt” here because we know this is not always possible)

You may come across the term “simship,” which refers to simultaneous shipment of all language versions to the global market so users don’t have to wait for a product to be localized to their locale. The advantage of this approach is that the buzz about your product release has the most effect globally, but you will most likely face challenges during this endeavor.

The localization of your product into major languages will not only increase sales and revenue, but also allow customers to understand the product more clearly and use it properly, decreasing the need for customer support, which can be rather costly.

Communicating in the web: spreading vs selling

First of all, I love the internet. I love its reach, its speed, its lack of boundaries. I love the interactivity it provides. I love the amount of knowledge it makes available for everyone.

Blogs, podcasts, webinars, online courses and social media are wonderful tools. We are getting more information than ever, kids are learning so much quicker, and ideas are being conceived, developed and deployed globally using web tools.

Language is the biggest obstacle to true globalization — even more than technology, I think. English is currently the world’s lingua franca, but this doesn’t mean that everyone can understand it. It only means that it’s the language that is most translated from and to.

Projects like TED are amazing. Sponsors cover the costs, the speakers waive their remuneration, and the videos are translated into dozens of languages by volunteers through their Open Translation Project. TED offers good support to translators; every translation is revised by another volunteer, and the result is quite good.

However, there are two main issues with crowd-sourcing and similar strategies.

First, crowd-sourcing requires an infrastructure, which is not very simple or free. TED or Facebook or Twitter can use crowd-sourcing for translation and achieve good results, but that’s very different from John Doe wanting to translate a promotional video to put it on the website of his small office supplies business so he can sell items in other countries. Fansubbers translate their favorite shows and movies for free, but I doubt they will be interested in subtitling John Doe’s promotional video. And this video won’t be launched on TED, either. So John Doe, like most other people in the planet, will need to find a translator.

Second and most important: “free,” “amateur,” or “dirt cheap” are concepts that more often than not don’t entail good quality. And by “good” I mean professional-standard good, not good enough.

TED spreads ideas in lots of languages for free. The videos can be understood in all of those languages — the translations are good enough for that. But TED is not selling a product or a subscription; it’s doing non-English speakers a favor. The same applies to the Facebook or Twitter interfaces.

But what about John Doe? He can choose to translate his website for free using a free machine-translation tool, or ask his niece who took Spanish lessons to do it cheaply. A tech-savvy neighbor might even put subtitles on the promotional video for him. The resulting quality would fall between embarrassingly bad and good enough.

What image would he convey to the outside world? We express ourselves through words; if these words suggest carelessness, why should our other products or services be trusted?

I’ve talked about this before and certainly will talk again. If you want to sell a professional service or product, you need to convey a professional image. This shouldn’t require any further explanation. A Geocities-style website and a Hotmail e-mail address can look suspicious and put people off, and the same applies to the way you communicate.

And, when dealing with multimedia, not only do you require a good professional translator, but a good professional translator with experience in the form of multimedia you have in mind. Translating a website is not the same as subtitling a video, which is not the same as dubbing a video. Trying to cut corners will very likely lead to amateurish-looking results.

This is why I was very happy, but not surprised, when I was hired by a client to translate and subtitle a TED Talk. They were going to use it to convey a professional image and so they hired a professional translator and paid what she asked for.

Recently I was also paid to translate videos on health which are freely available on YouTube. Same thing: my client wanted to put those videos on their website through which they provide health-related services, so they didn’t look for free translation.

The same applies to the publisher that hired me to subtitle some interviews with George R.R. Martin, as I described in this other post. They want to sell the translated books, so they didn’t go for fansubbing.

It’s very straight-forward, isn’t it?

The internet is an awesome universe where ideas can be shared and goods can be sold. But these two activities shouldn’t be confused when considering what type of language service works best for each.

Doing it right the first time around

In our earlier post, we talked about clients asking for discounts on “short” files, on “easy” projects, and on the promise of a long-term collaboration (the good old “volume” discount).

While each argument had its own counter-argument, the underlying notion was that professional translators―those who translate for a living, usually as their exclusive activity―invest in continuing education to offer an added value (their valuable specialized knowledge) and become truly accountable for their work, thus contributing to the success of their clients.

This time, let’s explore three additional topics that I often discuss with prospects.

  • “What’s your best rate?” ― My best rate is $1 per word. Oh, you meant my “lowest” rate? Sorry… You see, when I heard “best,” I immediately thought about what would be best for me.If I could earn $1 per word, I would be able to work fewer hours per week, take a longer vacation, spend more time with the kids, and maybe even retire sooner. I didn’t realize you meant the best rate for you…Why don’t we just do this: You send me the files you need translated, I’ll analyze the project, calculate how much time and effort it would take me to complete the job and then send you an estimate. I believe that would make everybody happy!
  • “I can find cheaper than that!” ― I’m sure you can, but does “cheaper” mean “better”? It usually only means you’ll pay less for a service, but there will most likely be consequences.What happens if you receive the translation and are extremely disappointed with the final result? Do you pay for the substandard translation service―fearing the wrath of a translator of questionable quality who will badmouth your company on-line―and then hire a proper translator to redo the whole thing? This way you’ll spend more than you had originally budgeted for and wait longer for the project to be completed.And that is assuming you can actually read the final result of the substandard translation. What if you hired a translator to work on your beautifully crafted message and have your words written in a language you cannot understand? Do you really want to wait and see whether your marketing materials, those important contracts, or the guidelines that your branches overseas need to follow have actually been translated correctly by the candidate who offered to work for the lowest possible rate?Why don’t you make an informed decision to go with the translator who is truly a great fit for your purposes? Don’t be carried away by the “average rate in the market” idea. Keep in mind that you’ll be getting what you pay for. And I’m sure you are looking for accurate translations that will help your product or service do well in foreign markets.
  • “We’re just a startup and…”  If you’re a small company that is trying to break into your own market, you should be in the best position to truly appreciate a good deal when you see one. Maybe you’ve just furnished your office and went with a reliable brand because you want your furniture to last. You sure had to buy computers and equipment to perform your activities, so you identified the state-of-the-art technology that will make your work easier, eliminate re-work, and increase productivity.When it comes to hiring translation services, please follow the same mentality. You know good deals don’t always come with a small price tag. Actually, if the offer sounds too good to be true, there may be a catch. The service turnaround is too fast? Quality may suffer. The price is very low? Odds are you’re talking to a beginner translator who may not have the necessary knowledge to convey your message accurately. So, why don’t you go with professional translation services and do it right the first time around?Actually, according to colleagues in the industry, including both translators and project managers, startups and small businesses are among their best clients in terms of communication and payment. Companies with this profile tend to appreciate the one-on-one exchange that is only possible when you’re working with your translator as a team in order to achieve a common goal. And, as a company working on a tight budget, you sure would appreciate when things are done accurately, within the agreed turnaround, and without any surprises along the way. Think of translation as an investment that will help your company grow and reach a whole new market. If you’ll make money out of it (even if the return on investment is not immediate), why shouldn’t the translator get his or her fair share for a service that was crucial for such growth?

As you can see, your decision-making process when hiring translation services isn’t limited to the price tag alone. What may seem like a great deal at first, with discounted rates and impossibly fast deliveries, will most likely be far from the results you wish for. Effective translations are produced by professionals who truly understand your needs. And you won’t find these above-average professionals charging the so-called average rates.