Things to consider while translating a website

If you are running an established business in your country, the next logical step is to expand to other markets which may not necessarily be English speaking. So if you have decided to provide your services or products to people who speak German, you would obviously need to translate your website into German. In today’s world, the first place where people are likely to contact you is online. There are couple of things to consider while translating your website into another language:

  1. The content that needs to be translated: You may have an extensive website running into several hundred pages. Do you want to translate everything or just few important pages? It may be a good idea to start with translation of key pages and expand as you go. Remember translation is an expensive activity and is like a long term investment which will certainly pay.
  2. What languages should you translate into? That of course depends on the market you are trying to target. If you are trying to sell to Latin America you will have to translate to Spanish (Latin American). If you are considering Japan you will want Japanese and so on. The most common languages to consider are Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and German and Russian.
  3. Website conversion: This part is tricky and you will need to talk to your website designer or developer. If you website is in plain html, most languages will be just copy pasted into the html source code and should work just fine. You may have to install some additional language support for languages that do not use Roman letters.
  4. How will you communicate if a buyer contacts you? Once your website is live and you start getting queries in let’s say Spanish. How will you understand or reply to them? You obviously need to have a bilingual staff ready to handle such queries. Or for a start you can just tie up with a translation company and ask them to translate the queries and replies into Spanish.
  5. It is important that you engage the right linguist for translation work. Then you can just focus on doing what you do best and leave the translation work to the service provider. Poor translation is more of a hindrance even if you product is great quality so ensure that you don’t go wrong in that!

Conference calls to Russia

Are you trying to do business with a Russian company?
Are you trying to order parts of a helicopter that was purchased from Russia and now needs spares?
But it is a nightmare when you try to reach a company in Russia and they don’t speak English!
Despair not! Now there are many companies that arrange such conference calls and charge by the minute! The parties to such calls will be you, the person you want to speak with and an interpreter who will translate what you and the other party speaks.
Some companies even offer to join you in a conference that you made and charge only for the interpretation service. You could call your party in Russia using a service such as skype or and have the interpreter join you. That way you will not have to pay ridiculously high charges per minute that some companies in the US and UK are charging.
Qconf even allows you to save your calls and receive a link later by email to download the recorded conversation.
If you are looking for a phone interpreter to join you on such a call you can contact to schedule an interpreter.

How to choose a translator for a legal document

When a legal document needs to be translated, choosing the right translator to handle this becomes really tricky due to the specialized need. The last thing you would want is to have a translation of the legal contract that is misunderstood by people due to errors in translation. To avoid such a situation you should consider few things while choosing a legal document translator.
Firstly, you should choose a translator who is translating into his/her native language. The reason for this is that in spite of many translators being comfortable with translating into both English as well their own native language, it is always better to work with a native translator to avoid the chance of translation being misinterpreted due to language issues. You will be better off with a native translator as language will be natural.
You should look for a translator who has a legal or technical qualification. It doesn’t really mean that you have to hire someone who studied law or is an engineer. Just that they should be able to demonstrate that they have had enough experience handling legal or technical documents. You could ask for sample translations that they have done in the past.
Check their credentials. Someone who is able to provide a client list and has a great proz profile with a PRO certificate is definitely active. Look for feedback from previous clients and try to judge how willing the older clients are to work again with this translator. A high score on that is definitely an indicator for you to hire this translator.
Choose a respected translation company if you are not still sure. Leave the hassle of quality control to the translation agency. It may cost you more but it pays in the long run!

Translation Vs Localization

These days there is a lot of stress on localization. What is the difference between simple translation and localization? Well, to start with Localization involves customising text / translation based on the local preferences of the region that is being targeted.

For example a Dutch man would not know his weight in pounds; an American woman would not know her weight in stones. While translating such text we need to take care of Numbers, currencies, weights and measurements. Depending on which country the text will be released, appropriate changes need to be made accordingly. This is done so that the target audience can easily associate and understand the amounts that you are referring to.

Acronyms: While using acronyms you need to be careful. Those acronyms may be pretty commonly used in your place but to an audience from another country, it may not be so clear. For example IRS is a pretty common acronym used in the USA, so much that it is not necessary to define it while using it in any text. However to someone who is not in the US, it would not be such a familiar word unless he follows US culture or TV shows regularly. Don’t lock out an audience- just pay attention to localization.

Cultural and Sports references: You should stay away from references to popular celebrities like soccer personalities or cartoon or TV show favourites. They may be common names in your country but people from other countries may not know them just by name.

Slang and colloquialism: Us this with great care. Slangs need to definitely be localized in a way that the message is delivered to the new audience in a way that was intended for the original audience.

Dialects: Even when translating into English, it makes sense to differentiate between UK and American English. The same is true for other old imperial languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, French as they may differ from country to country. For example Brazilian Portuguese is vastly different from that spoken in Portugal.

How to estimate word count?

Here are a few tips on how to estimate word count for billing your clients for translation. Billing by the word may not be applicable in all the cases but in scenarios where you want to bill per word here are few things to consider:

  • First thing to consider is whether you want to go by target or source word count. Why is that important? The reason is that these are different counts and can create a huge difference : Languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian etc which are called Romance languages use approximately 30% more words than English to express the same idea. Character-based languages such as Chinese, Japanese use one character to express an entire thought. So you really need to agree with your client on the method of counting words.
  • Billing based on the source word count is great. If it is an editable document such as Microsoft word file, you can tell your client the exact word count before you begin the job. In case of scanned or locked pdf files, the task becomes more challenging. You can take the help of OCR software such as Fine Reader.
  • Let’s say that the source document can be counted. You will now need to decide which tool you want to use to count words. Different tools will give you a different count. You can use Ms Word by selecting Review> Word count. Remember that footnotes, end notes are automatically omitted by Ms Word. You can use the word count generated by your Translation Memory tool if you use one.
  • You can use a dedicated word counting tool such asPractiCountAnyCount,Count Anything or Complete Word Count. If you are billing by the line, as is common in Germany and Switzerland, you normally take the document’s character count and divide by 55. Note that although MS Word has a line count statistic, it wildly different from the number you’ll get using the characters/55 method.
  • Clients, especially if they are not experienced translation buyers, may ask all sorts of word count-related questions. Be prepared for these questions even if they are very basic. You can prepare a hand out for your clients a sort of FAQ that you can email them answering their expected queries such as – will you charge for small words too? Any discounts for repeats etc?

Clients who are very fussy and want to save money or bargain hard or want to save USD 1.15 for the footnote – better not to work with such clients. They will never be happy no matter what they get. Once you build your long term clients just concentrate on delivering a consistent job without deviating from the set norms of word count and billing procedure. Meet your deadlines and retain your clients for long term!

How big is the translation industry?

What is the size of translation industry globally? Which languages are in great demand? According to Common sense advisory who had estimated the size of the translation industry in 2012, it was 33.5 billion USD and is projected to grow to 37 billion USD by 2018. With the use of technology, productivity is certainly increasing but will it completely automate the process of translation? The answer is a resounding “NO”. Translators can rest assured that technology as of now with its huge advancements cannot still be a replacement for human translation. It can only aid and assist but not replace the need for human translators.

The demand is high for professional translation services. Languages such as French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Asian languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean will remain in high demand. There is high demand for Arabic too in the Middle Eastern countries. In this global environment, companies and governments have the need to communicate with clients or counterparts in different countries on a regular basis. This need fuels the demand for the translation industry.

In spite of the economic downturn worldwide, the translation industry has been growing steadily over the last few years. Translation generally refers to both translations of documents as well as interpretation services. Interestingly, of the first 10 positions in terms of scale of operations, US firms occupy 5 of those with Mission Essential Personnel and Lionbridge Technologies leading the pack with position 1 and 2 respectively and a turnover of 725 million USD. From the UK,  SDL occupies the number 5 spot with a turnover of 282 million USD.

Among the areas where translation requirement is expected to grow rapidly are : Technical translations in the field of engineering, manufacturing, oil and gas and IT industry.

Pharma and Medical translations are also expected to grow as more and more pharma companies are going global and trying to sell their formulations to a wider market. In addition, Medical tourism is gaining momentum and medical industry from countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand , India etc are trying to offer high quality medical expertise to a global audience. In doing so, they have a requirement of engaging translators for catering to different nationalities. Asia Pacific region has the highest growth of translation industry exceeding 14% annually.

An exception to this growth rate is North America. The US has cut down on its spending in translation services. US military has reduced its military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan and thereby reducing its spending on translation requirements. By far Europe is the biggest market for translation services with 49.38% market share which America stands at 34.85%.



Launching your e-commerce site in a foreign country?


Managing content for your home country is easy. You are familiar with the culture and habit and tastes of people.

However when you decide to go global with your website, a lot of technicalities come up. Content no longer is a simple task and requires competent experienced and skilled people who help you in the transition process. There are few simple RULES you can follow to keep this transition smooth and reap rich results:

  1. Keep it simple. The very fact that you are launching in a new country that speaks other language is challenging enough. So where ever possible keep your approach simple. Maybe start with product line that is leaner and is more likely to have a good demand.
  2. Create your own content: Don’t outsource. These days content is king. Content marketing is the buzzword and Google ranks those websites where content is unique and updated regularly. Uniqueness can come only if you or your internal team sits and prepare content for their products. It is highly recommended as you know your product best!
  3. Don’t try to build your own translation tools. It is tempting to try to build and localize content yourself to keep costs low. However when the demand for your products will build up, your tools will not cope or scale up. It is best to leave such jobs to professionals who have the expertise.
  4. Don’t try to handle translations internally. Translation is a complex job and requires several years of experience and expertise. If you want to reduce costs look at optimizing your processes but not by cutting on translation costs. Yes it is expensive but it should be treated as an investment for future. If you communicate correctly with your target clients it goes a long way in growing your business.
  5. Choose your language translation agency carefully. It is always better to get your content translated by a professional agency. Try to work with an agency that works with Native translators who are in touch with their native country and know their mother tongue well. Make sure your documents are proof read by a second translator before you send the translated material for final use.
  6. Take into consideration the legal and cultural differences. While translating into a different language you may use words that are offensive or unacceptable legally in some countries. Therefore, this is another reason for hiring a Native of that country who will be aware of such cultural differences.

Managing financial risks as translators

Translation as an activity can be a very satisfying field if translators are passionate about their profession and are lucky to get work in subjects they like or specialize in. However, even with the most experienced translators, things could go wrong sometimes. With careful planning and prudent approach the chances of this happening can be minimized.

  1. To avoid ambiguity have a step by step approach. The first thing to do when you get a job is to estimate the time that the project will take. This cannot be a standalone decision. If you are working alone then you can talk for yourself. But if you are working with a team of translators and the client also has a deadline to meet, then you must discuss with him the way you can split the file and a realistic deadline for the job. Again, time taken for the job really depends on what kind of file you are getting. If it is just a simple word file – that’s great. But what if it is hand written scanned text or scanned pdfs which are not editable? Also check with the client if he expects the entire format to be recreated. It might take double the usual time! You can revise your charges accordingly too.
  2. If it is a new client- do your research. Don’t assume that there won’t be any payment issues later and try to demand some kind of advance amount to cover yourself partially from any risk of non-payment. You can also do a basic search and ask them to issue you Purchase orders which have details of the job and terms of payment clearly mentioned. You can also check their physical addresses, website. All legitimate businesses have official websites and will not mind sending you official communication from their official mail ids. Avoid accepting jobs from new clients who use free email services such as Hotmail or Gmail.
  3. If the client is Proz registered you can definitely check his payment history and any negative comments he may have received in Blueboard available at
  4. Agree on the rate for the project and also include any pre and post translation work. Ask the client to send all the files and do not quote a standard rate after looking at a 1 page sample. Discuss his expectations and ask questions before you arrive at an agreement for time needed. Give quote based on per word and not per page. You will be safer as a single page could have more words that what you quoted for. So it is always safer to charge per word.
  5. If the document has figures or repeats, discuss clearly with the client if he expects any discounts for the same. Establish with him the exact terms of payment- bank transfer, paypal or cheque after 30 days or 60 days or any other term that you and your client are comfortable with. If there are any taxes or VAT applicable inform your client about it. It should not come as a surprise extra later.

With these few things in mind, translators can avoid getting into situations which might lead to non-payment of their hard work!

Modern technology: Is it helping translators?

These days it is common to hear of the word globalization.  Economists keep explaining currency or stock market fluctuation in the local economy being interconnected with the global economy. If something goes wrong in China its impact is felt outside China too! With increasing use of technology and with increased global interconnectivity, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to speak more than one language. With the advent of new age software tools such as Google Translate and Translation memory tools like Trados, translation is becoming much easier to manage. These tools do not pose a threat to translators and interpreters. They are merely tools and assist translators to do their job better.

Earlier Europe was mostly about French, Italian, German and Spanish. However, now, Asian languages are increasingly finding their place in the translation industry as world becomes more globalised. Businesses are fuelling the growth of translation industry and that in turn is supporting the growth of technologies to support multiple language translations. There are softwares to manage a big translation job and where a manager can break parts of it to assign to several translators and keep track of who is doing what with just a few clicks. Of course not to forget about the great tool called Wordfast which allows a translator to translate online in real-time and the database gets updated and the agency can compile the translator’s work in real time also keeping a track of their productivity. Trados also helps to automate translation to a great degree and helps save time, effort and money by replacing already translated material from past into a new job. Only what is left after Trados is to be translated. Of course it gives you the flexibility to select whether you want to choose 100 per cent matches or lower to replace with already translated text from a previous project.

But all this technology is only a means to help the translator not a replacement for them. So when you are considering getting your company brochures or other material translated always follow the basics and do your research to find an appropriate translator with relevant experience. Even ask them to do a small sample for you before you assign them the whole job. You can also consider hiring an editor or proof-reader to cross check what has been translated. It raises the cost of translation but high quality is almost certain!

Which is the best language to learn?

If you are thinking of choosing translation or interpretation as your profession and want to take up language studies but are confused which language you want to learn- this article might help you. Though there is demand for most languages but some languages fare better than others.  The reasons may be as simple as – number of speakers is high as in the case of Spanish and Chinese. There are 50 million Latinos in United States alone!  Spanish is spoken by 405 million people worldwide. Chinese commands the number 1 position at 955 million speakers and growing fast. Read more Which is the best language to learn?