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.

False friends, or why the French don’t use preservatives in their food, and why Germans don’t give each other gifts.

When translating one language to another, there are certain traps that professional translators will likely be aware of that others may not be. These linguistic traps are known as “false friends”.

A “false friend” is a word in a language that has a correspondingly similar word in a different language. However, those words do not have the same, or even vaguely similar, meanings. When translating one language to another they feel as if they are an easy substitution, but they are not. They are a trap, and one that can end up with you writing something very different than what you originally intended.

Similar words in different languages

There are huge numbers of words in different languages that both sound the same and have the same meaning. In English more so than ever, as the language has adopted words from many different languages over the centuries.

The German word “Freund” is obvious to an English speaker. As is the French word “hôtel”, but this obvious familiarity is what causes the problems.

When an inexperienced translator works with a language that they are not fluent in and comes across a word that seems to have an obvious synonym in the target language, it is easy to assume they must therefore have the same meaning.

This can lead to some fairly spectacular mistakes in translation.

Let’s look at a few of these false friends:

Mistakes in Translation

In the UK, when one person likes another, they may decide to give them a “gift”. As you almost certainly know a gift is an item or service given without expectation of payment. Often given as a sign of affection.

In German, however, if one person were to give another a “gift” then it would certainly not be a sign of affection! The word “Gift” in German means “poison”. The actual word you would be looking for is “Geschenk”.

In the UK, “preservatives” are often added to food in order to ensure it can be safely stored. Things like sugar, salt, alcohol, or vinegar can act as preservatives for food and have been used for as long as we have been recording such things.

In France, however, the word for an additive that helps prolong the life of food is “conservateur”.

The French word “préservatif” translates directly into English as “condom”. Definitely not something to add to your food!

In England, a “gem” is a precious stone, however in Sweden “gem” can be a humble paperclip. The correct word in Swedish is “pärla”.

In England, embarrassment is a short-lived thing. It is a feeling of self-consciousness or shame, usually caused by something that has happened to you in public.

However, the Spanish word “embarazada” means something very different. It translates into English as “pregnant”.

In Italy the word “morbido” means pleasantly smooth and soft, certainly not the obviously English equivalent.

The list of false friends is extensive and there is no way we could cover them all here. Words like “fart” and “slut” in Danish, “barf” in Farsi, and “pasta” in Portuguese have all caused problems in translation for many people.

But while it is amusing to look at false friends, there is a more serious side to it.

Costly fails in global branding

Some global brands have had serious problems when they have been caught out by inadvertently using poor translations. I’m not talking about the well-known Chevy Nova story, as that appears to be nothing more than an urban myth, but genuine examples.

When Ford released the Pinto worldwide, they had no idea the name had a very different meaning in Brazil. There, “pinto” is an insult that roughly translates as “small penis”.

Ford also failed to notice that their campaign describing the precision bodywork of their cars was telling Flemish speakers that all of their vehicles came with a high-quality corpse.

The Mitsubishi Pajero did very badly in Spanish-speaking countries. “Pajero” is a pejorative used to describe someone who masturbates frequently. The car was renamed the Montero.

And it’s not just cars that have suffered.

When Coors translated its slogan “Turn it loose” into Spanish they failed to notice it was a common term for having diarrhoea.

The fact is, all translators make mistakes from time to time. Which is why here at STAR UK we have systems in place to ensure that these types of errors won’t be made by us. Our translators, whether in-house or freelance, all have higher education qualifications in languages and translation, they work into their native language and most importantly, everything we do is checked by multiple people before it goes out the door.

If you have something important to translate, why not give us a shout?

That way we can hopefully save you the embarrassment of companies like the now bankrupt American airline Brannif International who spent a fortune inadvertently instructing their Spanish-speaking customers to fly naked.

In December 2019, the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) released new guidance for the usage of their stamp when producing a certified translation.

It was quickly followed by a press release highlighting new research that was initiated by the ATC. This looked at the lack of standardisation in how UK public sector organisations accept certified translations. It also looked at what the ATC calls the “diverging practices” followed by producers of certified translations in the UK.

The research in question is a dissertation written by David Gray as part of his Masters Degree from Leeds University. The full paper can be read here:

This blog aims to lay out all the information a translation buyer might need in order to make an informed decision. We’ve read the research and pulled out the key points. Along with information about how we offer certified translations, we have compiled a short guide that hopefully gives you all the information you need. This article mainly focuses on the requirements for certified translations into English.

What is a certified translation?

Official documents that are needed in a different language require the translation to be certified. The official documents have a certain legal status – for example, as a proof of identity.

Why does my translation need to be certified?

The translation of an official document obtains the same legal authority as the original document; therefore, the translation must be a true and accurate rendering of the original text.


When might I need a certified translation?

Legal identity documents such as birth, marriage or death certificates require tranlsations to be certified. In some cases, qualification certificates also require a certified translation.

Documents submitted as evidence in a court case also require certified translation

A muddled situation

The published research into certified translations in the UK spoke with government bodies, in order to find out their requirements for documentation. The also spoke with translation agencies and freelance translators in order to ascertain how they usually deal with these situations.

Of the seven government bodies surveyed, none had published any guidance on their own websites, but did refer to other pages with guidance on this issue. Although, the two other pages that can be found on the website issue conflicting instructions on obtaining a certified translation.

Some translators and translation agencies differed in how they dealt with certified translations. Though all agreed on the need to use qualified translators. They also agreed on including a statement or stamp asserting the quality of the translation.

What is the process for producing a certified translation?

When you contact a translator or translation agency about a certified translation, they should first ask you what you need the translation for.

The responsibility for meeting the requirements for documentation and obtaining the correct level of certification lies with the translation purchaser, not the agency. However the agency or translator should be able to advise on the best course of action.

If the translation is from English to another language for submission at a foreign government body, you will need to check the requirements stipulated by this official body. Every country has its own set of rules relating to certified translation and failure to comply with these could lead to your translation being rejected.

Once you have discussed your project and agreed exactly what you need as part of the certified translation, the translator or translation agency will take a copy of your original document for their records and so that they can carry out the translation.

The translator or translation agency will complete the translation work and will provide the translations in hard copy format. The certified translation should include a copy of the source text, the translated document in a format that mirrors the original layout as well as a certification statement.

What does the certification statement need to say?

As the ATC-commissioned research indicates, different governmental bodies in the UK request different things. However, in order to cover as many of the requirements as possible, the statement should mention that the translation is a “true and accurate translation of the original document”. It should include the date as well as the name and contact details of the translator or translation agency who carried out the translation.


Do you need an affidavit/notary statement or apostille?

In certain cases this is not enough. Certain documents may require greater levels of certification. This may be the case when your certified translation relates to documentation for a court case. Or for certain official foreign bodies.

Legalised translation

If you require an affidavit or statutory declaration for your translation, the translator must swear an affidavit in front of a magistrate or solicitor. This will state that they carried out the translation. They are qualified to do so, and that it is an accurate rendering of the original text.

Notarised translation

If you require notarised translation services, the translator must visit a Notary Public. Similarly to an affidavit, they make a statement attesting to their qualifications and their ability to carry out the translations. The Notary Public checks their identity and attaches a notarial certificate to the certified translation. It is important that the notarial certificate does not endorse the quality of the translation itself. It can only confirm that the translator’s identity and qualifications were verified by them.

Translation with apostille

An Apostille is a document in the UK issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). It verifies the authenticity of the signature on an official document. It ensures that it will be recognised as an official document in all States that have signed the Hague Convention of 1961.

Usually it is the original document that bears the Apostille. Translations cannot be sealed with an Apostille stamp unless they carry a declaration endorsed by a Notary Public. In which case the Apostille refers to the notarial certificate, not the translation itself.

I hope that by the end of this post, things are slightly clearer for you. There is a lot of information to digest, however, the principle of a certified translation is simple. Only qualified, experienced translators should carry out certified translations.. They should be accompanied by some kind of statement attesting to the translation quality.


References: (accessed 21 Jan 2020). (accessed 21 Jan 2020)

Translation is a service which changes words or text from one language to another language. A deep understanding of both languages used is vital for this to be accurate.

Thanks to the global connectedness of the internet, this process is popular on websites, search engines, and even social media.

But, translation systems and services vary from country to country. So finding out exactly what translation is, and how it works, can be more complicated than you would first think.

dictionary definition

How to Define Translation 

The first step to answering the question “what is translation?” is to define the service itself.

Translation is the process of rendering written content from one language into another language.

Correctly translated text or words will convey the same meaning, emotion, and intent as the original message. It will also take into account any potential differences in culture and phrasing between the two languages.

People sometimes use the terms translation and interpretation synonymously. But, a translator will work with written text, and an interpreter will work orally.

Who Translates Written Language?

Many companies now offer automated services that will do the work for you.

But, the quality of translations can vary. Different companies will perform this service to different standards, and prices will vary depending on this.

For instance, documents being translated and sent to governmental bodies can require certified translation.

Written work that is translated to be published will potentially need a higher standard of translation than work that is used for information only. So let’s take a closer look at translation in writing.

written translation - korean

What is Translation in Writing?

Translation in writing is important, as this text is often written with the intention of publication.

When translating in writing, the original language is called the source language. But, the language text is being translated to, is called the target language.

When translating writing, especially that which is to be published, the result needs to convey the same intent and meaning as the original text. So, this requires a translator with a solid knowledge of both languages.

To achieve this high standard, ISO 17100 provides an internationally recognised standard to measure translation services against.

This standard suggests translation services and suppliers are qualified when they have an MA (or similar qualification) in translation. Alternatively, when they have a BA in translation paired with 3 years of experience translating full time.

What is Translation Exposure?

Translation is centred around global connections. The exchange of information, products, and services between different places will need at least an element of translation at some point.

So, what about translation exposure? What is that and is it related? In short, no, it is not related to written translation, though it shares the name.

This term is also known as translation risk, or accounting exposure. But each of these names share the same definition.

Translation exposure relates to a company’s income, liabilities, assets, and equities. It is the risk that these elements will change in value as a consequence of exchange rates.

Multinational companies with subsidiaries in other countries are those most at risk of translation exposure.

How Does This Affect Companies?

The main way in which translation exposure affects a company is in financial reporting.

When carrying out financial reporting, any assets and liabilities abroad will need to be translated into the parent company’s home currency.

So, changes in foreign exchange rates will actually cause a change in value for the company itself, in its foreign-based assets and liabilities.

Types of Translation

We’ve looked at one major type of translation in a bit of detail: translation in writing. But what other types are there?

Translation services often vary in price depending on the type of translation they are doing.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the options out there.

Information Only Translations

We’ve taken a brief look at translation in writing, where the text is likely to be published following translation.

However, some written work will be translated for information only. So, people intend to use the information provided, but aren’t going to be professionally publishing the work for a target audience.

This type of translation is a little less high-pressured than other types. But, it is still important that the information is correct with the same content and voice.

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Legal Translations

What is translation in a legal sense?

There are plenty of legal documents that need to be translated. These include contracts, company policies, and terms and conditions.

However, legal translations often require certain qualifications. It might need a certified translator in order to achieve the right standard.

Because of this, legal translation services may cost a lot more than other types of translation.

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Technical Translations

Another type of translation that often costs a little more is technical translations.

This usually involves translating documents such as manuals, safety information, specifications, and technical sheets.

These topics usually involve in depth research skilled, or a high level of technical knowledge on top of the knowledge of the two languages involved.

This huge amount of knowledge brings with it a higher cost.


So, let’s recap what we’ve looked at.

Translation is the process of rendering text from one language to another. This can be for legal documents, technical documents, or even just for interactions on social media.

Whatever the purpose, it requires an in-depth knowledge of the source language and the target language. Accurate translations often also need translators with a good knowledge about the subject of the text.

Global interaction and increased levels of connection over the world have prompted a rise in these services and their importance.

But, various translation services will vary in cost and potentially in quality depending on the certifications of the translator. Prices are often based on the material being translated, and the purpose for which it will be used.

All professional translators and translation agencies will, or at least should, set great store by the quality of their work. After all, translations are not just words on a page; they are a means of spreading a message.

Whether the translation contains important safety information or will be used for the marketing launch of a new product, mistakes can be costly.

Translation feedback is therefore vitally important for professionals in the industry, both from their customers and from translation colleagues.

The importance of this translation feedback has been enshrined in the ISO 17100 translation quality standard.

The ISO 17100 standard stipulates that all translations should receive a review by a separate translator, with translation feedback being shared with the original translator. It also lays out a requirement for language service providers to handle client feedback in a defined process.

The 4-eye principle

The translation philosophy across the STAR Group is built on the 4-eye principle.

It might sound strange, but this basically means that four eyes take a look over every project. Two belonging to a translator, and two belonging to a reviewer.

In other words, every project is reviewed and there is the opportunity for translation feedback on every piece of work that a translator submits.

In practise, this works in one of two ways. Either two translators either work in conjunction on a project, such as display texts, or translation projects undergo a separate review by a second translator before being delivered to the client.

Where a separate review step is carried out, the reviewer (or reviser to use the ISO 17100 terminology) completes a translation feedback sheet to list all changes made to the text.

What are we actually checking when we review a translation?

In essence, we are checking that the translation is fit for its intended purpose. That means that it must contain no errors, either of spelling or grammar, but also that it should be suited to its intended audience. The translation of a medical report shouldn’t use any slang words for body parts, for example.

As part of our standard workflow at STAR, we also include a string of quality checks into every project. Therefore, in addition to reading through the translations and checking for misunderstandings, the reviewer also checks terminology, spelling and formatting to ensure that the end text is fit for purpose.

The translation feedback sheet is a form detailing the type of error found in the project and provides examples of each. We have 20 categories ranging from mistranslations and terminology errors through to grammar and punctuation mistakes.

This might be overkill, but we don’t think so. It can be really useful to the translator to see if they make the same type of error over and over again.

Every translation feedback sheet is automatically made available to the translator, whether part of our in-house team or a freelancer.

Our translation feedback process aims to share a list of changes made due to errors being made, but also changes that were made for other reasons, such as to comply with terminology preferences or an in-house style guide.

By sharing the feedback sheets, we ensure that key customer knowledge is shared across the team and that each translator is able to see any errors that they make frequently, allowing them to fix this.

January can be a strange month. The new year brings a metaphorical clean slate. We feel that now is our chance to change anything we choose.

Yet, at the same time, we spend a lot of our time musing on the previous year. Did we achieve everything we set out to do? Is there anything we should do differently going forward?

With all this in mind, January seems to be a great time to look at your translation purchasing and look for ways to reduce translation costs. It might be easier than you think to save money on translation.

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Cheap is not necessarily cheapest

Before you start scouring the internet for a new translation supplier in an effort to reduce translation costs, I’m here to tell you that it’s not necessary.

Sure, some translators are cheaper than others, but this doesn’t give the whole picture.

At the same time as looking at the invoice costs, consider the value provided by your translation supplier.

In many cases, a professional translation agency offers additional services, such as proofreading and quality checks.

Using a non-professional translator or a freelancer might be a way to reduce translation costs, but this could have a negative impact on the translation quality.

Instead, this blog article will look at ways to reduce translation costs by optimising your text and your processes.

Write less

Professional translations are usually priced on a per-word basis. We touched on this in our Translation 101 and looked at it in more detail in an earlier blog post.

If you are looking to reduce translation costs, reducing the number of words in your project is a simple place to start.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that you omit important information in your quest to reduce translation costs. However, there are two things to look at here:

  1. Is your text repetitive or very wordy?
    You can reduce translation costs by removing repetitive warnings, ensuring that you use direct language wherever possible, and by using bullet point lists rather than long paragraphs of explanation.
  2. Is all of your content relevant to all markets?
    If you are localising your website for a new audience, you can easily reduce translation costs by being discerning about which content you choose to translate.

You could choose to only translate information about certain product lines, or to be selective with case studies or blog articles.

Reuse more

A simple way to reduce translation costs is to increase translation memory reuse.

Translation memory software stores “segments” of text so that they can be reused by translators in future projects. It looks for exact matches and partial matches from your content.

Increasing the amount of pretranslated matches and reducing the amount of completely new content is a sure-fire way to reduce your translation costs.

This will not be possible for every project. Information about a brand-new product is likely to be mainly new content, however, technical manuals, safety information and even marketing campaigns can include similar content.

For example, every technical manual contains warnings and safety information. Any warnings or safety information that are common to multiple products can be directly copied. When it comes to translation, they will be pretranslated matches and will cost less. A simple way to reduce translation costs!

To give another example, if a marketing campaign comprises web banners, print ads and point of sale collateral, the same slogan and taglines will appear on each item.

Another facet of increasing leverage from translation memory in order to reduce translation costs is to restrict editing.

It can be tempting to make a few tweaks to existing content to “freshen it up”. Or even to “improve” on a colleague’s work. Yet these small changes can quickly lead to considerable cost increases.

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Look after the pennies

Changing one word in a ten-word sentence will cause the whole sentence to be considered as a partial match, rather than a complete match. Depending on the pricing structure, this could cause the cost for that one sentence to double or even triple.

Although we are talking about “mere pennies” for each sentence, the costs quickly spiral if that one sentence is translated to multiple languages and similar edits appear throughout your document.

Over a year, the additional (and potentially unnecessary) costs could reach hundreds of pounds.

My last point in this section is to create “translation-friendly content”. My internal jargon alarm just sounded as I typed that, so I’ll explain further.

You are looking to write content that is easy to translate and that is more likely to deliver translation memory matches in future projects:

  • Shorter sentences
  • Consistent grammatical structure
  • Make sure there are no typos or grammar errors
  • Use the same terminology throughout

Fail to plan, plan to fail?

It might not be immediately obvious how planning can help reduce translation costs. For me, there are three points to consider here.

It is not always possible to avoid projects with short turnarounds. Life happens and sometimes, delays are inevitable. When you have a fixed publish deadline and limited time for translation, it is common practise for agencies to charge a rush fee for the project.

Sometimes these are a flat fee, but more often, they are a percentage charge on top of the translation cost.

Sending a quick heads-up to your translation agency partner to let them know about the project might help you to avoid these and thereby reduce your translation costs. Simply tell them how big the project is and when you need it for.

They should be able to tell you how long they would need for translation so you can factor this into your schedule. If you already know that the turnarounds will be short, they may be able to suggest ways of working that will help you to meet these tight deadlines.

Incur a minimum number of minimum fees

Generally speaking, a minimum fee is incurred when the total number of chargeable words within a project is below a certain threshold. Your translator will always do a certain amount of project admin, regardless of whether the project contains 10 or 10,000 words. The minimum fee is used to cover their time for this admin work.

If you send 10 words every day, then it’s possible that you will be charged a minimum fee every day. These can quickly add up, and for anyone looking to reduce translation costs, reducing minimum fees should be a priority.

Planning ahead is key in this regard.

If your recurring minimum fees are short social media posts, then collecting every post that you intend to publish within a month can be a simple way to avoid multiple minimum fees and reduce translation costs.

Or, perhaps your recurring minimum fees are additional buttons or labels from a larger project. It is easy to overlook text, or to have additional requirements appear at last minute. At STAR UK, we’re happy to gather all of these labels into one minimum fee over a period of time. All you need to do is give us a little bit of prior warning.

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Use white space wisely

My final point in this section is that you can reduce your translation costs by planning your document layouts carefully.

What?! I hear you say. How does that work?

I have touched on this in a few previous blog posts; text expands and contracts depending on the language combination. For example, a paragraph in German will take up more space than the same paragraph translated into English.

By allowing space for your translations to expand into, you reduce the DTP requirement for your documents, thereby reducing your translation costs.

Just one translation supplier

Working with just one agency partner is a simple way to reduce your translation costs.

Every translation agency builds up their own store of translation memory for their customers and they use it for each project that they receive from them. Although you might think that it is beneficial to you to use one agency for technical texts and another for marketing texts, there can be a surprising amount of overlap between the two.

This feeds into my point about reusing as much as possible – agency A cannot reuse material that is stored by agency B; they don’t know it exists!

Working with one agency can also reduce your translation costs over time. Long-term partnerships lead to better knowledge of your projects and your material. Your agency partner will be familiar with how you work and they might be able to suggest process improvements that you have not previously considered.

Use technology to your advantage

Again, I touched on this one already. Translation technology was designed with the aim of reducing translation costs by speeding up translation and aiding reuse of existing material.

Using editable files allows this translation memory software to be used. You can easily build up stores of reference material for future projects that will help to reduce your translation costs in the future.

It’s important when looking at your editable files to make sure that all of the text is editable. Picture labels might be embedded in images and therefore not recognised by the translation software. In these cases, there may be additional charges for DTP work, or minimum fees to deal with the missed text.

representation of complicated workflow

Streamlined workflow

My last point for this post actually relates to your own workflow as a customer, rather than ours as a supplier. Making workflow changes internally will obviously not reduce translation costs directly, yet you might be surprised at how much time you can free up with just a few small amends.

So, is your internal workflow as streamlined as it could be?

One key tip that I could offer at this point is to make sure that you are working in the final file type. Rather than copying your InDesign or web copy into an MS Word file for translation, try asking your agency partner to work directly in the INDD or XML files.

You could save yourself many long hours of copy-pasting!

The same applies for using your own multilingual staff to work on translation tasks. In many cases, they were not originally hired as a translator so they already have a full schedule of tasks to complete. If your employee is working on translation work, they are not working on their main tasks.

The above points are only a few examples of cost-saving measures, but I hope they prove that your first step should not be to change supplier. In my experience, most customers can see immediate cost savings by implementing one or several of these tips.

Reduce yur translation costs without changing supplier