How to Save Time & Money on Your Next Translation Project

By Tanya Hoover

What is Translation?

Translation refers to communication in written form from one language (the source language) into another (the target language). Interpretation or Interpreting refers to communicating from one spoken or sign language into another. In this article, I explain how translation project management works and how to save money on your next project.

Translation Options

There are a few options to get translation work done. Although Google Translate or similar online translation tools can be useful in a pinch, they are not perfect and often cause embarrassing mistakes. (Just do a quick online search of funny machine translation errors.) Translation agencies should recommend TEP (translation, editing, and proofreading) by human translators for public-facing documents. PEMT (post-edited machine translation) may be recommended for large volumes of text that would be humanly impossible to translate in a short period of time or for when there is a limited budget. PEMT means that someone will check the machine output for any errors and make corrections.

Qualifications and Certified Translations

Someone who can speak two or more languages is not necessarily qualified to translate. Think of people you know who can speak English, but use poor grammar and spelling. Knowledge of specific subject matter is important for legal, scientific and other industry-specific documents. Schools and non-profits also have their own jargon. Professional translators who know your subject matter can help reduce errors and save time. In addition, even if you have someone on staff who is able to translate, is it the best use of that person’s time away from the tasks they were hired to do?

If you or your client are in need of a certified translation, the certification statement must specify whether the signer has translated or reviewed the translation.

A certification statement should include the following information at a minimum.

  • A statement of the translator's qualifications.
  • A statement affirming the completeness and accuracy of the document.
  • Identification of the translated document and language.
  • The translator's name, signature, and date.

Factors that Determine Costs

  • Language pair(s)
  • Volume of text (often measured by word count)
  • Complexity
  • Additions or changes to the original text
  • Urgency

Tips for Saving Time and Money on Translations

When a translation agency assigns a translator to your project, a subject matter expert is assigned whose native language matches the target language. This helps reduce errors and time used for proofreading and editing.

  • Prioritize what languages your text needs to be translated into.
  • Eliminate unnecessary text.
  • Specify what version of a language is needed. For example, is the information for someone from Spain or Mexico?
  • Specify what the translation is for, so the translator knows whether to use formal or casual word choices.
  • Send your original document as a Word file when possible.
  • If you have a website or script to be translated, request a bilingual file so that you can see both languages side by side.
  • Send the finalized text to your agency to avoid being charged for any changes and additional time to manage the project.
  • Hire a language services provider to manage your translation projects. Remember that the best translations are the ones that don’t seem like translations at all!

Tanya Hoover is the owner of Midwest Language Services, LLC. Midwest Language Services has provided English language training to international business people and their families in Indiana and Japan since 2006. Midwest Language Services also provides translations into multiple languages as well as in-person, video remote, and telephonic interpretation services in over 200 languages.

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