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Professional Translation FAQ

What is Professional Translation?
Professional translation, also known as "human translation", is a process involving an actual bilingual person or group of bilingual people translating written documents from one language to another. Some translators use Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools like TRADOS, others rely solely on a multilingual word processor and their own experience. Since professional translators are always native speakers in the language they translate into, results are expected to approach perfection. Prices for raw human translation normally range from as low as 17 cents per word up to 75 cents per word for highly technical or poetic translations.

What sort of documents are best suited for professional translation?
Documents in which your company name, credibility, or reputation is on the line are suitable for professional translation. Incoming foreign documents of dubious value are generally good fodder for machine translation programs like SYSTRAN. This way you can scan a document to see if it is worthy for professional translation before you spend the money. For example, you wouldn't want to use professional translation for a piece of Japanese spam. In short, all outgoing documents are particularly well suited for professional translation. Why? Because a poorly translated document can mean the difference between an international success and a complete failure.

How can I get a quote for my translation project?
Most companies and organizations outsource their translation projects. Many agencies require a complicated procedure in order to get a quote. We use a simple web form. No matter how large or small the project, make sure you get multiple quotes until you grow familiar with a company and their offerings. No single agency is best for all translation jobs.

Why can't a bilingual staff member translate our documents?
When a business or organization translates an important document, they are literally at the mercy of their translator. Perhaps you are lucky and the employee is gifted linguistically in both languages and has agreeable writing, editing, and proofreading skills; or perhaps not. You are assured of quality with professional translation. Here is a good test to determine if your employee is up to the task. First, they must be native speakers of the language into which they are translating. Second, have them write a marketing piece or business letter in English. If they can pass these two tests, they will probably suffice. Otherwise, hire a professional. All of's translators are approved by regulating bodies such as the American Translators Association (ATA).

Why is there so much difference in pricing for professional translation?
Different translation agencies have various strengths and weaknesses and work on different scales. Some questions to consider are: How educated and experienced are the translators? What country do they live in? Is the translator aware of available technology to improve accuracy and consistency throughout the document? Is proofreading included? Do you need professional or technical expertise? Is there a project manager? Is there a team of translators or just one? The more questions you ask before you accept a bid, the less surprises you will have when the project comes back.

How can I maximize costs / benefits from a translation agency?
When you consider a translation agency, specify the project in as much detail as possible. Make a list of things important to you and e-mail or fax them to the translation team. Explain the nature of your document. Is it a scientific translation? Is it marketing or legal terminology? Make sure to ask your important questions up front. Be aware that time constraints may affect the price and accuracy of a translation.Plan ahead!

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