If you are not a linguist, ordering translations can be a frustrating task. With the information provided in this guide, I aim to help make this task easier.

Did you know that a translator works with written documents? The interpreter, on the other hand, works with oral translations in conferences, round tables, meetings, etc. 

Translator or interpreter?

There are some professionals who work as both translators and interpreters. In everyday language, these professionals are both called “translators,” which is where the confusion stems from. 

Define what you really need

Determining whether your text is for publication or is an internal draft is important for deciding on the degree of translation quality needed. 

Estimate how many people will read your text or press release (e.g., is it a national press release, an internal memo for a group of 30 people, a corporate video that thousands of people will see?).

How would a faulty translation affect your corporate image or, worse, your legal responsibility?

Translation is a sector that is fragmented into niches. Even the most demanding “for publication” niche comprises a broad spectrum of services and suppliers, with an equally wide range of prices. The translator who has done a perfect job translating your software manuals is not necessarily the best one to translate your corporate video.

Take extra care with any specialized topics

The more technical your subject is, the more important it is for your translators to have mastered it completely. A text on pharmacology will be translated a thousand times better by a professional who has developed an understanding of this branch of science through academic study and experience than a generalist or legal translator, for example. In addition to their qualifications and experience, many translators have other highly valuable skillsets. In my case, I am a dental hygienist in practice and have other relevant qualifications for my role as a dental translator (please see my curriculum vitae).

Reduce the number of words that need to be translated as much as possible

Instead of blindly translating the documents in their entirety, decide together with the recipient of the text (the subsidiary or its sales team) what information is really needed.

Furthermore, check if you already have parts of the text, or similar documents, translated. If you do, send them as a reference to the translator, who will tell you if it is feasible to adapt or revise the existing text. Doing this, could end up saving time and money.

Translators bill by the hour for their work on adapted texts, corrections, and even terminological compilations. They will normally provide you with an estimate without commitment. I, too, will be happy to study your case and consult with you without commitment. 

What language do your readers speak?

Spanish for clients from Spain or Mexico? Contact your foreign partners to find out exactly what is needed.

The profile of the reader is very important. It will determine the register of the translation required, whether colloquial, formal, etc. Is the text intended for doctors or health care personnel, or for patients? This information should be conveyed to the translator so that she/he will be able to craft a translation appropriate for the intended audience. I always ask who the readers are if this is not immediately clear.

Finding a translator

Having dazzling brochures and sales pitches are one thing, but real skills are quite another.

Ask your potential translation service providers for samples of their work, not only general information about their experience and testimonials from their clients. Ask for some texts that they have translated themselves. Here you can find some of my published translations from German to Spanish.

Show these translation samples to a trusted native speaker and subject matter expert (maybe a subsidiary or foreign partner) and ask for their opinions of them.

Professional translators write texts that are well written in the target language. In general, they are also fluent in their native languages. The translation must be natural; the best translation is one that is unnoticeable.

Whenever possible, get to know your translators personally, not only the project managers but the people who actually translate your texts.

I am proud of maintaining close and trusting relationships with my clients.  See what they think..

You will get the best results if you develop a continuous relationship with a translator or a team of translators. The more time you work with them—and the better they understand your business philosophy, strategy, and products—the more effective your texts will be.

How important is style?

We often see texts generated by machine translation programs or by inexperienced non-native speakers. They are good for a laugh.

Other times the translations are accurate, technically speaking, but the phrases do not flow as they should. The structures of words and phrases are closer to the original language than to Spanish; the word-for-word approach is all too apparent.

Style is vital, especially in promotional texts for clients. Professional translators are distinguished by having an elegant and impeccable style that is adapted to the culture of the target language. The work they do will not be noticed as being a translation.

Orthotypography varies from one language to another

Orthotypography defines de correct uses of typographical signs, punctuation marks and different elements of layout. Many people are not aware of this variation or take it seriously, but it is important. In German, all nouns are capitalized. French includes a space between a word and the two points that follow and uses the Latin quotation marks: «». In Spanish and French, neither the months nor the days of the week are capitalized. Spanish uses inverted question marks (¿) and exclamation marks (¡). Just to mention a few examples.

Professional translators work towards their native language

If you want your catalog translated into German and Japanese, then the work will be done by two professionals: a native German speaker and a native Japanese speaker.

Professional translators work, almost without exception, into their mother tongue. This means, for example, that native English speakers translate from foreign languages into English. This is very important.

As a customer you may not know it, but a translator who does not respect this basic rule is likely to ignore other important quality issues. I always translate into my native language, Spanish.

There are exceptions but very few. A translator might be bilingual; in that case, ask for an example of their work. If the quality of the text is guaranteed, why not? In other occasions, a linguist with experience in a specific subject, such as dental implantology, might accept a translation into a foreign language. But keep in mind that such translations should be carefully checked—not just skimmed—by a native speaker before they are used, especially if they are to be published.

The famous repetitions

For many years now, professional translators, especially those who do not dedicate themselves to literary translation—for its enormous variability—use software programs for translation assistance: the famous CAT (Computer Aided Translation) tools. This is not to be confused with current MT (Machine Translation) tools, which I will deal with on another occasion. 

When talking about CAT tools, I am not describing software programs capable of doing translations on their own—indeed, the translations are still very much undertaken by humans. Rather, CAT tools are able to divide the original text into segments. Once translated, they store each original segment along with its translation in their memory. When the translator receives a similar text from the same client months later, she or he is then able to compare it with the data stored in the CAT program. If there are repeated parts, the translator is able to charge a reduced rate for the overlap. The standard price in the sector is to only charge 30% of the rate.

In addition to the cost-saving advantage for the client and the considerable amount of time saved for the translator, the translation industry unanimously agrees that CAT tools contribute to the terminological uniformity and quality of translations. They lighten the translator’s load of cumbersome work, enabling them to concentrate on what is most important.

Why do translators charge for repetitions and 100% matches? Because a revision and possible adaptation of these segments are always required. Languages ​​are not the same as mathematics. The same sentence is not always translated in the exact same way, and much depends on its location in the text (e.g., whether it is in a header, a caption, a table, or an image).

The translator translates the entire text. One sentence must fit in with the previous and subsequent ones and with the paragraph as a whole. There is an internal rhythm in each language, and this can mean that the same sentence that was stored in the CAT memory must be changed slightly in the new translation to create a natural end result.

How do translators bill a client?

Professional translators charge for each translated word or standard line (55 characters with spaces) of the original text. In this way, the client has a set price from the beginning. Send the text or a draft that you want translated for an estimate.

For a free estimate with no obligation, please contact me.

Other linguistic services (such as revisions, corrections, adaptations, introduction of changes, terminological works) are usually charged per hour. I will be happy to provide an estimate of the number of hours needed for these services as well as an estimated date of delivery. 

If the text is in a non-editable or non-Word format and you cannot count the words easily, send it to me. I have specific tools that can calculate them and will be able to offer a set quote and a turnaround time. 

The translator will normally bill you after delivering the translation. There are some exceptions, such as very large projects. In these cases, deliveries and partial invoicing can be arranged.

How much will the translation cost?

In translation services, high prices are not necessarily a guarantee of high quality. But below a certain level, it is unlikely that you will receive a text that honors your company and your products.

If translators earn little more than a babysitter, it’s unlikely that they are going give the translation the attention it needs. Nor will they have money for additional training or the time to increase their vocabulary. Be realistic. This professional niche is based on daily volume, not on quality.

How long do you expect a poorly paid translator to work on a text aimed at promoting your product or service? How much time did your team spend on writing the original?

Call me now for a free estimate with no obligation or email me at 

Terminology and terminological work

What is terminology? It is a set of terms and designations for a specific thematic area. Therefore, terminology can be equated with technical vocabulary.

Terminological work is the development, editing, storage, and use of technical terms, and there are computer tools for managing terminology rationally. It is important to have the right methods, procedures, and tools from the beginning. Information cannot be efficiently managed without the use of systematic terminological methods.

Terminological work ensures a correct conceptual translation, and a systematically maintained terminology database reduces costs considerably. A well-prepared glossary alone saves the translator around 20% of the time needed to finish the translation.

Terminological work results in the elaboration of a company’s own standardized language terminology, which can influence every department, especially in regards to technical documentation and translation. Terminological consistency favors internal standardization, the maintenance of corporate identity, and even the correct management of storage items, preventing confusion and duplication of inventory.

Human or machine translation?

“Traditional translation” has long since ceased to exist. Professional translators (with the exception of literary translators) have been using computer-aided solutions for many years to increase their efficiency. CAT tools and the Internet have already significantly changed and partially automated the translation process. MT is only the logical next development step.

The increasing quality of machine translation is unmistakable. And both the client and the translator want an increase in productivity. But can MT really replace the professional human translator?

Machine-translated texts have to be “checked for accuracy and comprehensibility, legibility improved and errors corrected”, according to the wording in point 4.1 of the new ISO 18587 standard…

Although MT is suitable for a few types of text (for marketing texts, for example, the use of MT is not recommended), it will not be able to completely replace the art of human translation for the time being. Machine translations are therefore a good tool when a text does not have to be perfect or when post-editing is commissioned to a human translator.

I can check the suitability of your content for MT and send you an offer for pre-editing (if necessary) and post-editing (light or full post-editing). Call me now.