When you think about it, adjectives are amazing things.

A word that changes the meaning of another word.

If you read the words “a cat” you immediately create a mental image of a cat, however if we add in an adjective, it can completely change that mental picture.

A stuffed cat.

I’d be willing to put money on the fact that first time round your mind’s eye didn’t picture a stuffed cat, but now it does, and when you go back to the first example, the cat by itself, you still see an example of the taxidermist’s art.

So when adjectives are so powerful, and can so completely change the way we perceive the written words they relate to, it’s probably fair to say that it is important that we get them right.

If we’re looking to translate a phrase from one language to another and we get the adjective even slightly wrong it can have fairly big consequences.

It’s probably not lifechanging for you not to know that my imaginary cat is long dead and stuffed, but it could be if you were given the wrong information about the inbuilt safety systems of your new car.

So now we’re all in agreement about how important adjectives are, let’s look at a few ways people can be caught out.

translating adjectives well matters

Articles as Adjectives

Technically articles are adjectives. “Cat” is less specific than “A cat”, or “The cat”. You’re probably fully aware that different languages have different rules for articles. In English we only have three articles, ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’.

‘A’, and ‘an’ are both derived from the Old English “An” meaning one. A thousand years ago we had “se” (masc.), “seo” (fem.), and “þæt” (neuter), but they were all eventually superseded by “þe” which gave us “the”. However other languages retained a lot of the variation that we in English have lost.

Some languages have two forms of definite article (masculine and feminine), some three (masculine, feminine, and neuter). Sometimes these change according to whether the noun is singular or plural, and sometimes based on whether the noun refers to an animate, or inanimate object.

For example in the Algonkian language of Ojibwe the word “mitig” has several different meanings. When animate the word means tree, but when inanimate it means twig. Similarly in Kurmaji, “dar” used as feminine means tree, but the same word with a masculine article means wood – the sort of mistake a non-native speaker makes all the time.

But there is way more to adjectives than just articles.

Adjective Placement

The way different languages use adjectives can vary massively. Where is the adjective placed in relation to the noun it belongs to? What order are your adjectives written in? These things matter, are often not particularly intuitive to the non-native speaker.

In French, most adjectives are placed directly after the noun they relate to. For example “une robe rouge” translates as “a red dress” despite literally saying “a dress red”. Most French speakers will forgive a mistake like this, but when it comes to commercial translation ‘good enough’ is not actually good enough. It has to be right.

However, we mentioned that not all adjectives are placed after the noun in French. Some are commonly placed before. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the English phrase “A new dress” would translate to “une robe nouvelle”, but you’d be wrong. In the case of that particular adjective, it should be positioned before the noun, and not after it.

In some cases the meaning of the adjective even changes depending on its placement.

Une robe chère” is an expensive dress. But “chère Céline” is not expensive Celine, but dear Celine.

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, there are some French phrases that look very much as if they are simple adjective noun combinations, but actually have specific meanings in English.

Mon petit ami” does not refer to my small friend, but to my boyfriend.

Every language has its own special use cases and subtle nuances that may not be familiar to a non-native speaker.

However, even when translating to and from English we shouldn’t be blasé.

Adjectives in English

Our use of adjectives is not as simple as you might think. While we usually place adjectives before the noun they relate to, that is not always the case. When using linking verbs (commonly the verb ‘to be’) the adjective goes after the noun.

“The red dress” becomes “The dress is red”.

But also when utilising set phrases such as “heir apparent” or “poet laureate”.

Indefinite pronouns are another example of postpositive adjectives. We wouldn’t refer to “strong somebody”, but “somebody strong”.

There are even examples where changing the position of the adjective from before to after the noun actually changes the meaning of the sentence in English.

“Are you a responsible person?” does not have the same meaning as “Are you the person responsible?”

The difference is subtle, but it is clear to a native speaker.

Now let’s take a quick look at adjective order.

Order of Adjectives

You may or may not know that we have set rules in English that we all follow, albeit unknowingly, when it comes to the order of adjectives.

It goes like this.

Opinion, Size, Physical quality, Shape, Age, Colour, Origin, Material, Type, Purpose.

I could say “He drives a strange, old, green car” and it would make perfect sense. But if I were to swap the adjectives around and say “He drives a green, strange, old car” it would sound a little jarring to any native speaker.

“A long, thin, Japanese, cooking knife” makes a lot more sense than “A cooking, thin, Japanese, long knife.” Which, let’s be honest, makes me sound insane.

The only real point here is that every language has many varied, and subtle rules that govern the use of adjectives. And non-native speakers are likely to get at least some wrong from time to time, however well they know the language.

That is why at STAR we always ensure that our team of translators always work into their native languages.

If you’ve got something to translate, why not get in touch and we’ll make sure it’s done properly.

A good translator needs to be knowledgeable and experienced in their profession. But, more than that, the qualities of a good translator include great attention to detail, research skills, and a good emotional and technical understanding of language. Good translators often work independently, so they should have no trouble doing this, and possess a good deal of common sense.

The Key to Good Translation

A qualified and experienced translator is the key to good translation. Without a good translator, there’s no guarantee that your content is conveying the same tone or intent as it originally did. In extreme cases, there is also no guarantee that it even has the same meaning as it did in its original form! And when your business services depend on accurate translations, this isn’t a risk you can take. So knowing what qualities to look for in a good translator is important.

Are qualifications a quality of a good translator?

Do Qualifications Matter?

One of the easiest ways of finding a good translator is to look at what qualifications, programs, or certifications they have. But, qualifications don’t necessarily always tell you everything about a person, including what personal and professional skills and qualities they possess. Additionally, not all countries offer programs to prove your worth as a translator.

For instance, translators in some countries can earn the status of ‘certified translator’ or ‘sworn translator’. Certified translators are often needed to translate identity documents for government bodies. But, unfortunately, unlike these countries, the UK does not have an official system of certified translators. So businesses have to rely on other methods to find out whether an individual is a good translator.

Does Personality Matter?

There is no one type of personality that suits being a good translator. This is both a blessing and a curse. It means that there are lots of people who have the abilities and skills necessary to be a great translator. But, it can be hard to narrow down your search when you have so many options.

The Most Important Qualities of a Good Translator?

A good translator should have good research skills, and the ability to write creatively in their target language. They should also have a good attention to detail. Without a good attention to detail, there’s more room for mistakes in their translations. Tiny changes to content can completely change its meaning, including moving and changing punctuation. It’s less likely that a translator will miss any small details like this if they have good attention to detail.

Good translation isn’t just about accurately interpreting words. It is also about interpreting and conveying the correct tone and intent of your original content.The ability to write creatively will mean that your translator is able to accurately recreate the tone and spirit of your content, especially if this requires slight changes. If your translator has a flair for creativity, they will be able to do this with no problem.

Other Qualities of a Good Translator

Most translators work independently when translating work. So, a good translator will have to be able to easily work and motivate themselves when working alone. Research skills tie into this. When someone works independently, they won’t necessarily be able to rely on others to find information and answers. This also requires a level of initiative. If a translator struggles to motivate themselves when working alone, they may struggle to accurately translate content.

Paired with these qualities, it’s important for good translators to have common sense. If something has been translated but doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t have the same spirit and intention as the original content, it’s important that they pick up on this. It goes hand in hand with attention to detail. But rather than translating something word for word, they must have the common sense to make adjustments for the flow and benefit of the content as a whole.

Is Experience Important?

The more experience translators have, the more opportunities they get to develop these qualities. Experience will also naturally help any translator to develop their understanding of the languages they speak. Plenty of experience in translating services will demonstrate that someone has the theory and the knowledge of the languages necessary for accurate translation. It also means they are likely to be aware that translation is more than just a word for word rendering. They’ll be capable of recreating the spirit, tone, and intention of the original piece as though it was originally written in the target language.

So, although there’s no particular personality that makes a good translator, there are a few key qualities that will help. A good translator needs the ability to research terminology and concepts in depth. But they also need a great attention to detail, and a flair for creativity. The best translators will often have the right qualifications and experience. But they will also be able to work independently, with great attention to detail and emotional intelligence.

In simple terms, translation is the process of rendering written content from one language to another language. But, not every translation will be as good, or as accurate as another. Good translation relies on having a qualified and experienced translator who is capable of achieving the following.

The translated content must be accurate, with the same meaning and intent as the original, with no errors or omissions.

But, it must also replicate the correct tone and spirit as the original content.

The Most Important Aspect of Translation 

Perhaps the most important part of a good translation is to have the same meaning and effect as the original content.

In any language, small changes can completely alter the meaning of content. In a business setting this can be detrimental, especially if you are translating important information or statistics.

So, before anything else, a good translation must have the same meaning as the original content.

Without this, you could unconsciously be saying something completely different once your work has been translated.

Technical accuracies are inevitably linked to the accurate meaning of a text. These are another key part of a good translation.

This applies to even the smallest detail in your content.

Not only do each of the words need to have the correct, accurate meaning, but all of the grammar needs to be correct and in the right places. Missing out small things like this can completely change the meaning of your content.

So, a good translation requires attention to detail as well as a complete and in-depth knowledge of both languages.

Hand in hand, technical accuracies and an accurate meaning will result in a good translation. But, there’s even more that goes into the process.

Tone of Voice

A good translation will capture the same tone and spirit as the original content.

This is especially true in content that is being translated to be published. Tone is just as important as meaning in many ways.

A translation that has the same tone as the original content will ensure that your words have the exact same effect on any of your readers. You don’t want original content to be inspiring and moving but translated content to be dull and unmotivating.

Plus, a translator is almost never the author of the original content. So, a good translation will replicate the tone and voice of the author that is being translated.

This can take a degree of skill. So, you’ll need to invest in a good translator.

The Translator

To achieve a good translation, you need a good translator.

The best translators will be able to do everything we have mentioned here.

Choosing a translator with plenty of experience and qualifications means that you are more likely to get a good translation. Some businesses may consider using just anyone that can speak the target language. But, doing this can result in inaccurate translations. Or worse, ones that are technically accurate but that don’t reflect the original intent and tone of your content.

A professional translator will have the experience and ability to replicate your content exactly as it should be.

In some situations, it could be hard for a translator to get a technically accurate translation whilst keeping the exact same tone and meaning. But, a good translator will know just how to strike the right balance.

Good translation, if all of these factors are achieved, does not seem like a translation at all. In fact, it will seem as if the content was originally written in your target language.

A good translation could be read by a native speaker with no indication to them that the content has been translated. Communication with readers in the target language should feel natural and easy with a good translation.

A good translation doesn't feel like a translation at all

Why you Need Good Translation

Good translation matters. Especially when global interconnectivity is an important part of your business.

As different parts of the world become more interconnected, it’s important that communication is as easy as possible. And the most successful businesses will be the ones that have the best translations.

So, in summary, achieving a good translation requires a number of layers.

It needs to convey the same meaning, tone, and spirit as the original content. This is important both to preserve the mark of the author. It is also important to serve the same purpose as was originally intended.

Your reader, ideally, will not be able to tell that they are reading a translation. A good translation is imperceptible to its audience. And a good translator can guarantee that.

Most people use idioms in their daily conversations without thinking. But these expressions can seem like utter nonsense if you aren’t a native speaker of that language, so translating idioms can be tricky.

A lot of idioms don’t translate easily across languages. And trying to translate them can have some hilarious results.

You usually need to know the meaning behind the idiom before you can truly understand what it means. But this can pose some interesting problems for people who are working in a different language.

What is an idiom?

Idioms are sayings or expressions with a meaning that differs from the literal meaning of the individual words [definition].

For instance, the English idiom ‘speak of the Devil’ means ‘the person we were talking about just showed up’, rather than to literally speak of the Devil.

You can see why this would be confusing for someone who doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase.

This is because you can’t get the meaning of an idiom from the expression alone – you need to know the context surrounding it.

Generally idioms offer advice or reflections that can be applied to the situations they’re used in. So, not only are they interesting linguistically, but they offer some great insights to the culture and societies in which they are used.

English idioms

These expressions can be applied to pretty much every area of life. But the best way to see that is to look at some of the best idioms from our own language.

Here are some common English idioms and their real meanings.

  • ‘Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it’ – we will deal with that problem when it happens
  • ‘The ball is in your court’ – it’s up to you to decide
  • ‘To bite off more than you can chew’ – to take on more than you can handle
  • ‘Hit the sack/hay’ – to go to bed or to sleep
  • ‘The cat’s out of the bag’ – to reveal or find out a secret.

It’s pretty likely you’ve heard someone use these idioms if you’re a native English speaker. But, when you stop to take the phrases literally, it’s easy to see why non-natives could get confused.

Are idioms universal?

Just because people speak different languages doesn’t mean their experiences are entirely unique.

Idioms can describe universal experiences. So, are there any universal idioms that are used in every language?

The answer is yes and no.

Some idioms can be applied globally, and have versions of one another. But they don’t use the exact same words.

Others will only make sense in their own culture, and will sound like complete nonsense to any non-native.

Let’s take a look at a few of those ‘universal’ idioms that can be applied to the same situations.

Idioms in different languages

One universal situation that is described by idioms in most languages is a job that is easily done.

In English, you might hear someone say “that’s child’s play”, “that’s a piece of cake”, or “as easy as ABC”. So, even within one language there are multiple idioms to describe this situation.

A French version of this idiom is: ‘c’est un jeu d’enfant’. Literally, this means ‘it is a child’s game’, so is really similar to the first English idiom above.

In Chinese, we have 举手之劳 or jŭs hŏu zhī láo. This can be translated to mean ‘the effort of raising a hand’.

The Germans also use hands in their idiom – ‘das schaffe ich mit links’, meaning ‘I can do that with my left hand’.

The words are not that important when translating idioms such as these. It is the meaning that matters. One can often be substituted with another.

Let’s take another example

Another situation that has idioms in a lot of different languages is bad weather.

In English, we might say ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ if we see a storm outside. This means it’s horrible weather, or raining heavily.

French has a similar saying: ‘il fait un temps de chien’. This roughly translates to ‘it’s dog weather’, but means the same as the English idiom above – the weather is foul. However the French are as likely to say ‘il pleut de cordes’, literally, it’s raining ropes.

The Welsh also have an idiom for this situation, but they move away from dogs and cats. ‘Bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn’ translates to mean ‘raining old ladies and walking sticks’ and is commonly used to describe heavy rain.

Even though these idioms are all different, it’s easy to understand the situation they refer to. Most countries have their own versions of similar idioms.

But, translating idioms is harder if you don’t know the surrounding context. Let’s take a closer look at some idioms that don’t translate across linguistic borders quite as easily.

Translating Idioms - Raining Ropes?

French idioms

One great French idiom is perfect for describing anger or losing your temper is ‘avoir la moutarde qui monte au nez’. This literally translates to ‘to have mustard up your nose’. It’s easy to see how this could be confusing to a non-native.

Another pretty strange sounding French idiom is: ‘avoir un poil dans la main’. This literally means ‘to have a hair in one’s hand’, but is used to mean someone is being lazy.

A more romantic choice is ‘un coup de foudre’. This literally translates to mean ‘a lightning bolt’, but is actually used to mean love at first sight.

German idioms

Another language that has some great idioms to consider is German. ‘Eine Extrawurst bekommen’ roughly translates to mean ‘get an extra sausage’. But this idiom means that someone is asking for or getting special treatment.

A fun German idiom is: ‘da steppt der Bär’, which translates to ‘the bear dances there’. This is used if you want to say a party will be great fun.

And ‘Tomaten auf den Augen haben’, literally means to have tomatoes on your eyes. But this is used to describe someone who is being blind to their surroundings.

Chinese idioms

China is well known for its idioms and wise sayings. They are known as ‘chengyu’ in Mandarin. Translating idioms, or chengyu into other languages is particularly tricky.

‘马马虎虎’ (mǎ mǎ hū hū) literally translates to ‘horse horse tiger tiger’. But this phrase as a whole is used to describe something that is average, or in English “run of the mill”.

Another great Chinese idiom is ‘骑虎难下’ (qí hŭ nán xià) which translates to mean ‘riding a tiger is difficult’. This idiom is used to describe hard situations that cannot be stopped halfway through.

‘民以食为天’ (mín yǐ shí wéi tiān) is another Chinese idiom that can be used in many situations. This literally means ‘people regard food as heaven’, and is used to emphasize the importance of food.

Welsh Idioms

Although Wales is just next door to England, they still have plenty of idioms that don’t translate well to non-natives.

For instance, ‘Rhoi’r ffidil yn y tô’ literally means ‘putting the violin in the roof’, but is an idiom used to describe giving up.

Fel cynffon buwch’ translates to mean ‘like a cow’s tail’. This idiom is used when someone is later than everyone else.

And ‘A’i wynt yn ei ddwrn’ translates to mean ‘with the wind in his fist’. You can use this saying to describe someone who is out of breath.

Russian Idioms

Russian is another great language for fascinating idioms. Let’s start with ‘Остаться с носом’ (astat’sya s nosam). This translates to mean ‘stay/be left with the nose’, but is used to describe someone who was tricked or duped into something.

‘Когда рак на горе свистнет’ (kagda rak na gare svisnit) can be translated to mean ‘when the crawfish on the mountain whistles’. This essentially means something is never going to happen.

Another great one is ‘Дать зуб’ (dat zub) translates to ‘give a tooth’. This idiom means that you are 100% certain about something. You are so sure that you would give your tooth.

Spanish Idioms

Finally, let’s look at some Spanish idioms that sound pretty strange when translated into English.

One great Spanish idiom is ‘Estar en la edad del pavo’, which means ‘being in the turkey age’. This sounds like complete nonsense if you don’t know what it means. But it actually refers to being in your awkward teenage years.

Another Spanish idiom related to age is ‘ser del año de la pera’. This translates to mean ‘being from the year of the pear’, and means to be very old.

Estar sin blanca’ literally translates to ‘to be without white’, but this common phrase actually means to be broke or poor.

Translating idioms

The trick to translating idioms, of course, is knowing when there is one in front of you. Translate an unknown idiom literally and there’s a good chance you’ll be barking up the wrong tree. But any translator worth his salt will not only be able to recognise these neat little expressions but seamlessly work their meaning into the target language too.

To be able to accurately convey the sense of the idiom is one thing; finding an equivalent phrase in the target language which also reflects the original tone and sentiment presents more of a challenge.

At STAR, our teams work into their native language so that each and every translation benefits from the translator’s inherent understanding of their language and its idiomatic nature. We pride ourselves on finding linguistically elegant solutions to these types of issues

and, as a result, providing translations which hit the nail on the head, every single time.

Today’s topic is a slightly unusual one as it’s all  technical authoring for maximum translation benefit, or more simply, writing for translation.

You might already be looking at me with a puzzled expression. Surely, translation happens AFTER you’ve written the text, not before or during?! Well, yes and no.

I’ve touched on this before in my blogs about reducing translation costs and understanding translation memory software, as well as the blog about optimising your content for translation.

Today I’d like to look at it in slightly more detail, as well as introducing a STAR Group tool that could just simplify your technical writing process.

Writing clearly and concisely

This should be an obvious one.

In any technical authoring task, your number one objective should be to write clearly and concisely. Keep your sentences short. Avoid jargon and overcomplicating your subject.

This does not change when you are writing your document for translation.

It just becomes more important.

Looking at potential fuzzy match percentages

I discuss fuzzy matches a lot in these posts, and I always try to avoid jargon. However, I appreciate that the whole concept of a fuzzy match might feel like an alien language.

Today, I’m going to try and give you an example.

Translation memory software works on the basis of analysing similarity between two units of language; usually a sentence.

Using a fuzzy logic algorithm, it breaks down the sentence into its component parts, i.e. words, punctuation marks and numbers.

It looks at each one of these component parts, checks whether it has moved or disappeared from the sentence and combines the results from each component analysis to create a fuzzy match percentage.

That’s about all the explanation I can give you. No, seriously, don’t ask me any further questions on this. Computer science is not my strong point! Plus, every company uses different weightings in the algorithm so they will all get slightly different numbers.

So let’s look at an example.

Loki the cat


I have a cat; his name is Loki.

I have a dog; his name is Rover.

My dog’s name is Rover.

If we consider the first sentence to be already translated, what do the two examples tell us about potential fuzzy matches?

Factually, both subsequent sentences have the same meaning. You possess a dog; you call him Rover.

There are two changes between sentence 1 and sentences 2/3:

  • Dog not cat
  • Rover not Loki

Comparison of sentence 1 and 2: 75% (classed as a fuzzy match)

technical authoring fuzzy match

Comparison of sentence 1 and 3: Less than 30% match (this will be classed as new words)

technical authoring no fuzzy match

Every agency will have a different breakdown of costs between fuzzy matches and new words, but the principle is the same. New words cost more.

If your entire document contains similar issues, costs will be significantly higher than they need to be.

Avoiding errors

We’re all aware that texts that contain errors are more difficult for the reader. Either grammatical errors in long, tangled sentences, or perhaps a sentence that is littered with typing errors.

Both of these also cause issues for the translator. Potentially it is an issue that is amplified by the fact that they are not native speakers of your language and might find it harder to untangle or decipher the mistakes.

It might take the translator longer to complete your translation project and they may be less willing to work on your texts in the future. As well as there being a risk that they will misunderstand part of your text.

So, how does this affect your costs?

I’ve not come across any agency that imposes cost penalties for texts that contain multiple errors, though they may suggest carrying out an additional proofreading step before translation.

The costs come from misunderstandings that lead to further proofreading steps and incur additional costs to correct errors.

Another concern is for subsequent projects where errors have been corrected. Instead of being able to reuse material as pretranslation, your latest project will be considered as fuzzy matches only. This will add a sizeable percentage increase to your technical translation quotation.

Introducing MindReader

This blog is not really about selling, so I’ll keep this section brief. Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult to write consistently. It’s more likely that consistency issues will only be found at a proofreading stage or that they might slip through the net completely.

For this reason, the STAR Group has developed authoring tools to help; MindReader and MindReader for Outlook.

Like any tool from STAR, the principle is that you only work on content that is new. Think of it a little bit like autocomplete on your mobile. Just start typing your sentence, and the tool will provide suggestions from elsewhere in your document.

If you want to reuse them, you can. If you don’t, you can ignore them.

It can help with consistency in your technical writing, which will improve clarity as well as bringing down potential translation costs.

If it sounds like something you could be interested in, contact one of our team today.

I hope this blog has been useful in giving you some tips for improving your technical writing and lowering your translation costs.

If you want any further information about this, or to discuss a potential project with one of the team, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

If you know anything about the STAR Group and its history, you’ll know that one of our earliest customer partnerships was formed with the car giant BMW for automotive translation, way back in the 1980s.

Our first Asian subsidiary was formed in Japan in order to support BMW and Mercedes with automotive translations into Japanese.

Now, I don’t say any of these to brag, though I think they are impressive. I say this because I want to highlight that these translations are a key part of the work we do here at STAR.

Our Middle East office based in Cairo works almost exclusively on automotive translations for customers such as Renault and Daimler.

It’s in our DNA, if you will.

Today I wanted to look at the range of automotive translation projects that we work on for various clients and highlight some areas that you might not have thought about.

automotive translations of car manuals

The obvious one – technical manuals

Automotive translation = car manuals, right?!

In a way, yes. Automotive translation and car manuals are an obvious pairing. It is a legal requirement that car manufacturers provide translations of car manuals and other safety information to protect drivers and third parties.

Today, many large car manufacturers use machine translation engines and human post-editing to for these automotive translations. Car manuals often use simpler language and are highly similar to previous versions.  Because of this they are the ideal material for machine translation.

automotive translations for car mechanics

Slightly less obvious – training materials for mechanics

Hopefully this is not completely out of left field when it comes to automotive translations. Anyone that works on cars in any capacity will need to be familiar with the systems that they use.

As an example, in recent years, the rise in popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles has led to a corresponding increase in training manuals.

Christiani, a technical vocational training specialist based in Germany, chose STAR to work on the translations for their training materials on the subject of alternative drive systems and high-voltage batteries.

Similarly, if you are launching your brand into a new geographical area, you need to make sure that the workshops that support your dealerships are familiar with your cars and their workings.

Rolls-Royce, who really need to no other introduction, chose STAR for their automotive translation project to localise materials for new markets in Russia, China and Japan.

automotive translations for OEMs

Sometimes over looked – Original Equipment Manufacturers

It’s easy to rattle off a list of car manufacturers. Their logos are actually everywhere and we can’t escape from their marketing efforts. They are on billboards, on the television and even on the roads as we drive past others.

Yet, these names do not manufacture every component in their cars. This is where the OE manufacturers come in.

Components like spark plugs, shock absorbers, batteries and brake pads are often supplied by other manufacturers. And unsurprisingly, they also need automotive translations.

STAR has worked with TRW aftermarket and ZF on automotive translations for their website and marketing campaigns.

automotive translations for marketing

Not super obvious, yet hugely visible – marketing translations

Marketing materials that require automotive translations are a large part of the work that we carry out for our customers.

Content creation is a buzzword in marketing nowadays and the automotive industry is no different.

Translation suppliers often offer marketing translations in a separate category. However, in my opinion, there are few cases where marketing translations do not require some kind of specialist knowledge.

Yes, marketing translations require creative flair but they also require accurate terminology and an understanding of the technologies involved.

STAR has a long-standing partnership with several digital agencies who outsource translations to us for their automotive customers.

We have worked on the automotive translations for regular press releases. Also point-of-sale collateral, Google adverts and YouTube videos among other things.

automotive translations for HMI

The one you might not have considered – HMI

HMI stands for Human Machine Interface, and I have to confess, this is my favourite one of the five.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ll know that I have a thing for engineering and technology. I love the fact that this job gives me an insight into how certain things work.

STAR has been working with VW for over 8 years on their in-car and app texts.

These automotive translations are slightly unusual as they usually take the form of software strings.

If you have a newer car, you are probably familiar with on-board sat nav systems. Also interactive sound systems, or you might even be able to sync your phone and your car.

Our translators have had to consider which voice commands you might use to interact with your car. They also need to consider all of the other options that you might use. It’s an automotive translation task that takes two translators several hours a week. It has also resulted in a few informal office polls for what we might say in a similar situation!

looking for automotive translations

Have you ever spotted an automotive translation?

As the end user, you probably haven’t noticed automotive translations, and that’s how it should be. If you notice that a text is a translation, something has gone wrong somewhere.

Companies spend billions worldwide on automotive translations. One of the main aims is that every text sounds like it was created in that language. Aside from the cost of poor translations that cause delays, there are safety implications to documents containing terminology or factual mistakes.

Companies in the automotive industry need a translation supplier that they can trust. They need one that has the global expertise to support wherever and whenever you need it.

If you have an upcoming automotive translation project, speak to one of our team about how one of our bespoke translation workflows can help you. Alternatively, fill in the form below and we’ll be in touch.

For those outside the industry, a quotation for translation services can be a tricky business.

I can well remember my first week on the job here at STAR. I went home mentally exhausted every night from the sheer scale of new things I needed to learn. One of which was the lingo.

Fuzzy match, internal repetition, translation import: my head was spinning from the new information.

Years later, these terms are now a part of my personal lexicon. It’s easy to forget that I didn’t always understand exactly what they meant.

So, today’s blog will take an in-depth look at quotations for translation services. That way you, a potential translation purchaser, can be sure that you know what you are buying. Also more importantly, that you are getting what you asked for and what you needed.

How do quotations get priced?

It’s not unheard of to receive a quotation for translation services that breaks its prices down per page. Even sometimes a flat fee per project. However, the industry standard is to calculate prices on a per-word basis.

Just to catch you out, these can be listed as a per-word price, such as 0.25GBP or as a price per thousand words, such as 250 GBP. Both mean exactly the same thing. It largely comes down to personal preference on dealing with zeros or decimal delimiters.

The quotation for translation services will work on the number of source words, i.e. the number of words in your document before it is translated.

There’s a simple reason for this: transparency.

A quotation for translation services bases its costs on the word price because this is the most transparent way of calculating the cost of a document.

The translation services supplier can use the word count to estimate how much time the project will take to complete. This way you will know the cost of the translation before it is started.

It is for this reason that the translation supplier will ask you to provide an editable file.

Although it is possible to estimate word counts, in PDF format for example, it can only ever be an estimate, not a fixed quotation.

In this case, your supplier may suggest that your quotation for translation services be based on target words, i.e. the amount of words in your document after translation. Again, they will be able to provide an estimated cost for the project, but not the exact number.

confused face

What are the different categories listed?

Although every translation supplier will treat quotations and word breakdowns in different ways, there are four main categories of “word types” that you might see on a quotation for translation services.

Before I go into the explanations of each category, I need to add that translation memory software analyses text in sense units, usually sentences. This means that each sentence will be categorised and the word count will be created based on how many words appear in the sentences in each category.

New words: sentences that the supplier has never translated for you before.

Fuzzy words: sentences that are similar to something the supplier has translated for you before.

Internal repetitions: sentences that appear multiple times within the document for translation. (The first occurrence of these sentences is counted as either new or fuzzy).

Pretranslated words: sentences that the supplier has already translated for you in a previous project.

For a first translation request to a new supplier, you will not receive any fuzzy matches, because the supplier has no reference material to use for your quotation for translation services.

Over time, particularly if you send similar material for each request, you should see your quotations for translation services rapidly decrease as the amount of translation memory leveraged increases.

How long might it take to complete the translation?

Again, every translation supplier will come up with a slightly different answer to this question. Broadly speaking however, it is possible for a translation supplier to suggest an accurate turnaround time when they send you the quotation for translation services.

Some companies will suggest a specific delivery date, some will suggest a turnaround time given in working days.

At STAR, we fall into the latter camp. We know that your translation project might not be ready to start immediately, so by giving you an estimated turnaround in working days, you can be sure that this will still be valid in two days, two weeks, or even two months.

We base our turnaround times on two factors. The time required to complete the project, and when our best translators can start working on the project.

For every translation project, you want to be sure that the translator working on the project has experience with the subject matter and ideally, with the customer’s previous projects. It is not always possible for the supplier to start on your project straight away, and we factor this in to our quotation for translation services.

For this reason, we might not always be the fastest, but we believe that if a job is worth doing, it should be done right.

waiting for a translation delivery

But what if you need it by a certain time?

If you need your translations delivered by a certain time or on a certain day, please let the translation supplier know in advance.

We can factor this into our quotation for translation services, and will plan accordingly. Equally, please tell us if the project is less urgent. (We love it when you say that). But seriously, we want the best people to work on your texts and sometimes a day or two extra makes all the difference.

Why are different languages more expensive?

There are a few factors that can influence your quotation for translation services. Language combination is one of them.

Put simply, it comes down to supply and demand.

Certain languages have greater numbers of speakers. This means that there are greater numbers of translators (often there’s also a greater demand for translations into those languages).

Translations between Western European languages, usually with English in the pair, are far cheaper than translations into Asian languages.

Another factor to consider is the cost of living in the country where your supplier is. Translations into Scandinavian languages are usually more expensive. This is because the cost of living there is so much higher than in the UK.

Both of these things can affect the price listed on your quotation for translation services.

additional charges

Why are there extra charges?

Extra charges and how to avoid them appearing on your quotation for translation services is definitely the topic of another blog post, as I’ve got lots to say on the matter. But for now, I’ll restrict myself to looking at what sort of charges might appear and why.

The most likely charge to see on a quotation for translation services is for DTP (Desktop Publishing). In plain English, it’s work on the formatting and design of the document.

If you are unable to provide an editable version of your file, the translation supplier might add an additional charge to recreate the formatting so that your translation exactly matches the original text.

Additionally, if your document has a very complicated layout and the target language will take up a lot more space than the source language (expansion), you might see a charge on your quotation for translation services to work on the formatting after translation.

For identity documents, certificates and in certain legal contexts, you might see additional charges for legalisation. We recently looked at legalisation following new advice from the ATC, essentially, it provides a sworn statement that the translation is a true and accurate version of the original and ensures that it will be accepted by official bodies around the world.

The final additional charge to mention is the rush or express charge. These are admittedly pretty rare, but not unheard of. If you require a longer translation to be done by the next day or over the weekend, some translation suppliers will charge a rush fee (usually a percentage levy).

A bit more clarity?

Hopefully by the end of this blog on understanding your quotation for translation services, you feel a little bit like me at the end of a couple of weeks at STAR…

Like the mists are clearing and that all this jargon is not quite so impossible after all.

Hopefully… Maybe?

If you’ve still got questions, you can always contact one of our team – they’re happy to help and can discuss your potential translation projects in greater depth.


When it comes to buying translations, a key consideration is your choice of supplier.

Should you entrust your project to a freelancer? Should you choose a larger agency with locations all over the world, or a smaller company that has very narrow specialisms?

There’s no correct answer to this.

In the same way that I can’t give a translation quote over the phone because I haven’t fully analysed the source texts, I can’t give a definitive answer to that question.

The only thing I can say? It depends!

What do our customers need from us?

Aside from blog writing, my role at STAR UK is varied. Lots of it relates to supporting colleagues, but my main focus is on our customers.

I’ve been pondering this question a lot recently, and my answer is not as simple as “words in another language”.

Our customers need us to help them communicate. We’re not selling words on a page; we’re selling a means of sharing information.

Helping our customers define what result they want from their translated content is the first step in delivering top-quality translations.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a translation supplier. Freelancers, small agencies and global corporations all have different benefits and each one will be the correct choice for certain types of customers and projects.

Let’s look at each of the options and what they offer the translation buyer.

freelance translator in office

Why choose a freelancer?

For many businesses, working with a freelancer is the perfect way to source your translations. In many ways, they offer the best of both worlds.

You are working closely with one supplier who learns all about your company, becoming almost as familiar with your product offering as your other employees, but is not salaried and therefore only invoices for the work they complete.

Freelancers are usually a cheaper option because they have smaller overheads and are often able to be flexible and offer evening or weekend work to accommodate urgent requests.

However, one freelancer can only deliver a certain volume of translation, and in one, perhaps two, language combinations. In addition, you have to find the freelancer yourself, and it can be difficult to judge quality when you don’t speak the language.

If you find that your translation requirements are growing, working with an agency might be the next logical step.

small translation agency

Why choose a small agency?

With a small agency, you still retain the ability to develop personal relationships. Most agencies will offer you a dedicated project manager who will become familiar with your translation orders and any specific requirements that you have.

Smaller agencies are often specialised in a certain industry or language area so have become experts in their field. They also develop close relationships with their freelancers and will try to ensure that the same resources work on your projects.

However, smaller agencies are simply not equipped to deal with very large scope projects, such as those that require localisation to many, many world languages, or those that include millions of words a year.

global translation agency

Why choose a global corporation?

Global corporations can offer scalability for projects – they already have solutions in place for customers ordering millions of words of translation, and they often have a network of locations around the globe, allowing them to offer the majority of world languages.

They are able to offer a 24/7 service and can more easily deal with tight turnarounds or unusual requests.

However, in such companies, the volumes involved with certain translation projects can require increased levels of automation leading to that personal touch being diminished or lost. In some cases, corporate processes can get in the way of flexibility.

Which is right for you?

Each one of the three options listed above is the perfect choice for a different kind of customer and hopefully this article will be useful to help in making this decision.

Here at STAR UK, we fit somewhere between small agency and global corporation. We have a team of 4 full-time project managers and we pride ourselves on the personal relationships that we develop with our customers.

Yet as part of the STAR Group, we belong to a network of over 40 offices with nearly 1000 employees. We work with some of the biggest names and can handle your project, whether it is one tagline for a new product, or a technical manual to be translated into 20 languages.

If you have a potential translation project and you’d like to see if we’re the supplier for you, please chat to one of our team.

Once again, STAR UK is proud to announce that we have been successfully audited and retain our ISO 17100 certification.

Well done them, you might think. But what does it have to do with you as a translation buyer?

We know that it can be difficult to choose a translation partner. An initial Google search gives a multitude of translation companies, all of whom offer similar services.

How can you choose between them?

Many translation buyers are not linguists and have no means of judging the quality of the translations that they provide.

So, how do you judge?

Do you choose the cheapest? Do you choose the supplier with the most convincing website? Friendliest project manager?

I’m sure there will be people out there who have chosen based on these criteria. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. Each one is a valid consideration.

However, I would suggest that first on your list should be whether they possess the ISO 17100 certification. Then you can move on to other factors.

Why is ISO 17100 important?

Translation companies that are certified as conforming to the ISO 17100 standard are able to effectively demonstrate that they have processes in place to ensure that they deliver a quality translation service that meets the client’s specifications.

ISO 17100 supersedes the now-withdrawn EN 15038 standard that was published by CEN, the European Committee for Standardisation in 2006.

Previously, translation companies that wanted to demonstrate their commitment to quality management sought certification to ISO 9001 (Quality Management) which did not address certain issues that were specific to the translation industry.

What does the ISO 17100 standard apply to?

The ISO 17100 standard applies to translations, i.e. written content. It is worth noting that it excludes interpreting services, as well as post-editing of text from machine translation. Both of these are covered under other standards, some of which are still in development.

What are the key concepts of ISO 17100?

The ISO 17100 international standard has two key concepts: to define a standard process for translation service providers to follow, and to define requirements for the resources they use.

I try to avoid jargon in this blog, so I’ll simplify it further.

Translation companies must follow a standard process and they must make sure that the translators they use are capable of delivering a good translation.

What are the required skills and qualifications?

The full ISO 17100 specification document can be found here. It lists all of the core competences that a translator should have.

It comes down to having knowledge of the source and target language, of translation theory and of any translation tools such as glossaries and translation memory software.

The translation company must ensure that every employee or third-party supplier who works on projects that comply with the ISO 17100 standard has the relevant qualifications.

There are three options:

  1. A Masters degree in translation, linguistics or language studies
  2. A Bachelors degree in translation, linguistics or language studies and has the equivalent of two years’ full-time professional experience in translation.
  3. The equivalent of five years’ full-time professional experience in translation.

Possessing one of the above ensures that the supplier has the skills needed to deliver a translation that meets the customer’s requirements.

What is the process for projects?

A project manager who is responsible for ensuring that the process is followed coordinates each project .

A separate reviser will translate and check the project. Optional further steps include a monolingual review of the target language content, proofreading of the target language content and finally a check against any project specifications to ensure that it complies with the client’s project brief.

The reviser must also comply with the qualification requirements listed in ISO 17100.

What the translation agencies responsibilities?

When you buy translation services from an agency that complies with the requirements of ISO 17100, you know that they have processes in place to deal with recruitment of qualified staff, they have project workflows in place to deal with various customer requirements, as well as any terminology or correction requests, and that the translations they deliver have been worked on by at least two qualified and experienced translators.

And once you’ve established that, then you can pick the quotation from the nicest project manager, if you so choose.

It might seem like we are constantly banging on about this – but it really is important. When it comes to specialised technical translation, you need to make sure you’re working with the experts.

Specialised technical translation is one of the key areas of our business. Although our team are familiar with other specialist areas, the majority of what we do falls under the heading of specialised technical translation.

So, I hope I can be allowed to say that we know what we are talking about.

But what does it really mean in practise?

You know the drill by now, I hate jargon and buzzwords. Specialised technical translation feels like exactly one of those phrases.

All that it really means is the translation of the really nitty gritty technical stuff where the person on the street goes glassy eyed and starts shaking their head. It’s all relative, of course, but most of us could confidently pick a screwdriver out of a toolbox, though we might struggle a bit more to find the stork beak pliers from a bag that contains only pliers.

As translators, we’ve all accepted that if we work on specialised technical translation, we’ve filled our heads with knowledge that we may never put into practise. Example: I can confidently explain the inner workings of a concrete pump, and yes, I am fun at parties…

machinery directive - eu flag

The EU Machinery Directive

A lot of the work that we do for our clients falls under the requirements of the EU Machinery Directive. (Directive 2006/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006).

We’ve actually written an entire blog post dedicated to the directive, seeing as it is linked to so many of the projects that we do day-to-day.

The aim of the directive is to ensure that machinery placed into the EU market or put in service in EU states has a common safety level. A key part of this is ensuring that documentation for the machine is available in the correct languages.

In fact, it is a requirement that machine documentation is translated into the official language of each country in which the machine will be used or sold. You can see why it therefore has such an effect on the number of translations that are commissioned.

Yet, regulations aside, specialised technical translations can be a sound business investment as it enables you to place your product in front of new audiences.

specialised technical translation of textbooks

Not just technical manuals

On initial consideration, specialised technical translation may lead you to think of technical manuals. However there are many other document types that will also require a technical translation specialist to work on them.

Regardless of whether the text is a product specification or a sales-focused marketing piece for the company website, the technical details in the translation must still be correctly translated. We’ve listed some common document types below that require specialised technical translation.

  • Articles/journals
  • Brochures
  • Feasibility studies
  • Internal communications
  • Manufacturing and engineering articles
  • Marketing communications
  • Material safety data sheets
  • Patents and patent applications
  • Product labelling, packaging and catalogues
  • Product specifications
  • Regulatory documentation
  • Service, maintenance and policy manuals
  • Site surveys
  • Software strings
  • Technical reports
  • Textbooks
  • Training materials
  • User and operating instructions
  • Website translation

heavy plant machinery toy

Not just about heavy plant machinery

Specialised technical translation relates to any documentation concerning machinery or tools in the engineering field. This could be heavy plant machinery such as a concrete pump. It could be something small like a cordless screwdriver.

In the last year or so, we’ve worked on many specialised technical translation projects. Some of them may be for machines you didn’t realise existed:

  • A machine for peeling potatoes
  • A machine to print, fold and glue cardboard boxes for packaging
  • A 3D laser scanner to detect concrete thickness during tunnel construction
  • High-end coffee machines
  • Injection-moulding machines
  • Tool-dispensing vending machine that can automatically reorder stock as it gets low
  • Central lubrication systems for use in extreme manufacturing conditions

Smaller isn’t always simpler

As you can see, we work with many clients who work on a far smaller scale than agricultural machinery, for example, but this does not make the translations any simpler.

In recent years, there has been increased use of computers and robots in production lines. This has enabled technology to make significant jumps forward. However the documentation linked to these machines is increasingly complex and it all requires specialised technical translation.

How do we make sure that we deliver top quality?

To quote another recurring theme of the blog, quality comes from using qualified, native-speaker translators working in pairs to deliver translation and review. When it comes to specialised technical translation, however, a key element is specialist knowledge.

Our translators all work on their CPD to develop their personal knowledge bases. Some of have even completed Open University courses in engineering topics that are relevant to their translation work.

So, if you have a specialised technical translation project in the pipeline, and you’d like to discuss it with us, talk to a member of our team.

Alternatively, fill in the form below and we’ll be in touch.