Purchasing translations can be confusing and sometimes intimidating. There are many suppliers out there and it can seem like a whole language of its own to decode the quotation. In this blog post, we aim to give you an overview of the key considerations and to help you make an informed choice of supplier.

How is it priced? Source/Target? Word/Line?

When it comes to pricing for any service, the key is transparency. Everyone involved in the transaction wants to be sure that they know what work is required and how much money will be charged. For this reason, the majority of translation services are based on an analysis of the source text.

For Western languages, analysis is usually carried out per source word, though other units include per line or per page. It’s easy to see why – words are easily countable, so both purchaser and supplier can be certain what the cost of a project will be with no nasty surprises. For Asian languages, characters is the preferred unit. One glyph in Chinese is equivalent to a word (roughly), so again transparency of effort vs. cost can be achieved.

>> Check out this article for a more in-depth look at per word prices.

An alternative to source analysis is the target count price. The basic principle behind this pricing strategy is based on the “work” done by a translator, and again it provides an unequivocal measure of work completed, leading to a transparent cost. However, when translating from one language to another, the amount of words used will change, sometimes dramatically. French to English word counts often decrease; whereas German to English increases in word count. This adds complexity to a quotation – target analysis quotations can only ever give you an estimate of how many words might be in your target text so the final price will be different.

When comparing quotations that use these different means of analyses, it is worth bearing in mind that rates are usually adapted to account for word count increases or decreases, thus leading to a roughly equivalent end cost. To give an example: For a German source text, a translator may have to type significantly more words when translating to English, and a target word price will be adapted accordingly.

The main situation where a target count is agreed upon is in the case of a non-editable file. If the only copy of a source text is a PDF scan, it is a long and arduous task to count each word. Yet if a target price is agreed upon, billing is based upon the end result and both client and translator can be sure of a transparent price.

Fuzzy matches? Internal Repetitions? Pretranslated words?

Now we start to arrive at the jargon part of your quotation! What do these even mean?!

Fuzzy matches are suggested by the translation memory tool using a fuzzy logic algorithm. It compares new sentences with existing translations to give a percentage similarity. Companies use bands of percentage similarities to offer discounts on these translations. It is important to note that fuzzy matches are calculated per sentence, and the fuzzy match count is achieved by counting the words within each fuzzy sentence.

Internal repetitions are the subsequent occurrence of a sentence within your document. The first time a sentence appears it is considered as a new or fuzzy sentence, but for second (third, fourth, etc.) occurrences, the sentence is considered an internal repetition and is offered at a low rate. Although the sentence is identical, we still recommend that these are checked each time in context. Automatically confirming internal repetitions could lead to mistranslations in the case of single words that can be translated multiple ways depending on their context, or even sentences that may need to have the grammar adapted based on the content of the previous sentence. In English, this can be difficult for us to wrap our heads around, but many European languages use different versions of the word “it”, depending on the gender of the noun that is being replaced. Hence, the repeated sentence may actually need to be different in context.

The concept of pretranslated words is perhaps simpler to understand, as they are sentences where the entire translation already exists in the translation reference pool. Sometimes it is recommended that these are checked in context, but they can often be accepted without change and therefore without charge. It is also important to note however, that number-only segments are also considered as a pretranslated segments. We recommend that these are always checked. Number formats often differ between languages, such as the use of a decimal comma or dot, and the use or omission of a thousand delimiter.

Additional costs

Occasionally a supplier will add additional costs to their quotation. So, what are they and why might they be added?

DTP costs can sometimes be added to a project when a non-editable file is provided, such as a PDF. DTP costs are usually charged per hour or per page to recreate the layout of a source file. In certain circumstances a full source text recreation is not necessary, such as in the case of a document where translation is needed for understanding only. In this case, the supplier might offer you a text-only translation and will omit the additional DTP cost.

In some cases, post-translation amends may be charged at an hourly rate. Where a supplier has made an error, these should not be charged back to the customer, but if preferential changes are made that require files to be updated, these costs are sometimes passed back to the customer.

Terminology management?

Terminology management refers to the creation and maintenance of terminology lists for a client’s documents. Use of a terminology list when translating has several benefits, including consistency and accuracy. Modern translation tools contain a function for checking translations against a terminology list, thereby guarding against mistranslations or inconsistent translations. They also allow a customer to specify preferred or disallowed terms, enabling you to maintain a brand voice or writing style.

Terminology management can be carried out by the translation supplier, the customer or a combination of both and can sometimes incur charges.

Reference management?

Reference management refers to the creation and maintenance of reference material for a client’s documents. Translation memory tools used previously translated documents as reference material that provides the basis for fuzzy match translations. Management of reference material is usually carried out by the translation supplier as part of their standard service and would include storage and organisation, as well as updating files in the case of amends or terminology changes.

What do you need to provide?

A translation company will ask you for an editable version of your file. As we saw above, this allows them to carry out a source analysis for their quotation. An additional benefit of starting with an editable file is that Translation Memory software can be used.

Translation memory tools bring many advantages in improving the quality and reducing cost, as we will see in the next section.

TM or MT?

The choice between Translation Memory and Machine Translation is something that we look at in other blog posts, but we can give you the basic overview here.

A Translation Memory tool uses reference material to provide similar translations, but the main work of translation is carried out by a human.

A Machine Translation tool, also known as an MT engine, uses existing translations and artificial intelligence algorithms to translate the entire text. These translations can then be “post-edited” by a human to fix any errors made by the MT.

Relevant standards?

The main applicable standard when purchasing translation services is ISO 17100:2015. It sets out requirements for core processes, resources and supplier qualifications necessary for the delivery of a quality translation service that meets applicable specifications. In a nutshell, the ISO standard demands that translations are carried out by a qualified native speaker with relevant experience, and that they are reviewed by a qualified native speaker with relevant experience.

Qualifications?

The ISO standard requires all translators to be qualified – but what does that really mean? What do they need to be qualified in? In order to be ISO compliant, a translator needs to have a higher education qualification in a language or in translation, and in some cases some relevant work experience. Translators who only have a BA (or equivalent) degree in Translation or their source language must also have 3 years’ experience in the industry in order to be considered as compliant with the standard.

Industry bodies?

There are two main industry bodies for translation in the UK, the ITI (Institute for Translation and Interpreting) and the CIOL (Chartered Institute of Linguists).

The ITI is a UK-based, independent professional membership association for practising translators, interpreters and language services businesses. It aims to promote high standards in the language services industry with the ITI Code of Professional Conduct, and its ITI Qualified Membership status.

The CIOL is also UK-based, and is a professional membership body for language practitioners, therefore has a wider focus than the ITI. It offers professional qualifications through its Diploma in Translation and several Diplomas in Interpreting.

Certified translation?

Certified translations can appear a minefield, and we will be looking at these in more depth in a future blog post. A certified translation can be needed where a document is required by an official body, such as a birth certificate being required during a passport application. It can also be needed for translations of company accounts or legal documents to verify that the translation is accurate and no information has been deliberately or accidentally changed during translation.


Author: Bethanie Melly, Senior Project Manager

Here at STAR UK, we have two teams of translators working from various languages into English, and a team of project managers looking after the project details and smoothing the path to translation brilliance. As a part of that PM team, I’m biased about the positive impact that we have on our day-to-day running, but recently, this was reinforced when we started introducing two of our newer PMs to the art of scheduling translations

To clarify, there are two very important schedules here at our Guildford office, keeping track of what everyone is working on and what’s coming up imminently. We have a team working mainly from French into English and a team that works primarily from German into English. On first consideration, scheduling a translation could be reduced to: Give it to someone with the ability and capacity to deliver by the deadline. However, defining ability and capacity is key. We’ll start with looking at whether someone has the capacity to deliver a translation by the requested deadline.

Timing is paramount

There’s no getting away from it, we all experience time pressure in our jobs and the translation industry is no different. Deadlines are set in stone and project schedules are planned to the minute. We know that, sometimes, a customer’s latest request really did need to be done yesterday. Often, we need to find a supplier who has some free space to complete a project on the very same day. Other times, we need to find someone with a big enough gap in their schedule to take on two weeks’ work at short notice. Being aware of resource capacity is instrumental in us delivering the best service and sometimes working a small miracle to have tricky translations delivered in no time at all while not compromising on quality.

 Experience is everything

Next, let’s look at finding someone with the ability to translate our text. At a basic level, this means someone who is confident working in that language pair. But for us, it goes deeper than that. Every single one of our translators is a highly qualified linguist with extensive training in our TM tool, TransitNXT, but as individuals, they all bring something unique to the team, whether through personal interests or thanks to their on-the-job experience. We have our resident technical translation gurus, of course, but among our number, we can also count on horse riders, cycling enthusiasts and domestic goddesses. This knowledge can be invaluable for certain of our customers who know that we go the extra mile to ensure that their translation uses appropriate language and terminology.

Consistency is crucial

Don’t get me wrong, a speedy service is important, but our main focus is the quality that we deliver. Our customers spend a long time crafting the perfect marketing slogan, or creating a brand identity to maximise product sales. We have extensive translation style guides to ensure that this work is not in vain when it comes to your multi-lingual presence.

When scheduling a translation project, it is important to balance these three aspects. The schedule becomes an interlinking web of decisions that guarantee that we always deliver the best possible translations to our customers. When training my colleagues on the various considerations of translation planning, I was struck by the number of factors we take into account, some of which I didn’t list here. Translation projects are not assigned to the first available resource – we craft our translations with the same care our customers used to write the original content, and this means that only the best will do.

In fact, the Project Managers are often in the background, much like support crew at an event or the runners on a TV show, but this doesn’t negate our importance. Next time you send us a translation request, you can be sure that at least part of the success of your translation is due to a Project Manager working tirelessly behind the scenes.


Author: Bethanie Melly, Senior Project Manager

China is a huge potential market for exports from the UK and many businesses are looking at taking the first steps towards selling their products to Chinese consumers, particularly in a post-Brexit world where we are told that the world is our oyster. For many, one of their first tasks will be to look at localising their marketing content and buying a website translation to Chinese.

What is the potential market for exporting to China?

According to the Department for International Trade, the UK exported over £23 billion of goods and services to China in 2018[1], providing a huge market for the UK. There is a huge focus on importing goods and services in order to support the domestic market – the growing Chinese middle class are on the lookout for safe, high-quality international products. With Chinese GDP growing at roughly 6% in the first half of 2019, and retail sales increasing at a rate of 8%[2], the numbers only serve to strengthen the case for making a move towards exporting to China.

So, you’ve decided to attempt to break into the Chinese market – what do you need to know? Here at STAR, I’ll admit that we’re not specialists in the business side of exporting, but we can provide support in a fairly key area: Translation.

Although admittedly an old statistic now, with the report having been initially published in 2014, the Common Sense Advisory Committee surveyed over 3000 consumers in ten countries testing the hypothesis that companies can increase sales by translating products and websites. The findings were conclusive, “the more local-language content throughout the customer experience leads to a greater likelihood of purchase.”[3]

Which variant of Chinese do you need?

There are many dialects spoken across mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, but the most common Chinese languages are Mandarin and Cantonese. To further complicate matters, Chinese can be written down using one of two scripts; either Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese. The STAR Group has offices in Taiwan, Beijing and Shanghai so we’re perfectly placed to advise on the variant needed for your target market. However, in most cases, the language needed is Mandarin Chinese, using Simplified Chinese script.

What do you need to consider before translation?

There is one main consideration for businesses looking to buy a website translation to Chinese: The Advertisement Law of the People’s Republic of China. It came into force on 1st September 2015, and a full English translation by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) can be found here https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/legislation/details/15654

What is the Advertisement Law and does it affect me?

In summary, the law aims to protect consumers and standardise advertising activities in China. Stiff penalties can be imposed for non-compliance with the new law (up to 2,000,000 RMB), and the minimum fine is 100,000 RMB. In terms of content, the most important thing to be aware of is the stipulation that advertisements “should be truthful and lawful” and “should not contain false or misleading content, or cheat or mislead consumers”. Generally, this is in line with many other advertising guidelines in the UK that we follow without realising; however, there are a few other clauses that you may need to be aware of:

  • The overt or covert use of national flag, anthem or emblem of People’s Republic of China or military flag, anthem or emblem is forbidden in advertisements.
  • The Chinese characters for “national-level” or “State-level”, “the most” or “highest-grade”, and “the best” (among others) must not be used in advertisements.

This last point has been understood as “no exaggerations allowed”, but you should be aware that there is no list of banned expressions, and that it falls to Chinese judges to rule on expressions which violate the Advertisement Law.

What does it mean for you?

The Advertisement Law states that it is the advertiser’s responsibility to check their content for compliance with this law.

Our translation team in China are aware of this Advertisement Law and all of its stipulations and can provide guidance on checking for compliance; however, we cannot assume any responsibility for the compliance of advertisements.

We advise that the best way to ensure the compliance of your advertisements in China is to make sure that your content creators are aware of the requirements. Avoiding exaggerations and forbidden expressions in your source text is a huge help for translators trying to create a compliant advertisement.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss a potential website translation to Chinese, please send us a message.


Author: Bethanie Melly, Senior Project Manager


References:

[1] “Exporting to China”, Department for International Trade, https://www.great.gov.uk/markets/china/, accessed 13th August 2019

[2] “Economic and Trade Information on China, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, http://china-trade-research.hktdc.com/business-news/article/Facts-and-Figures/Economic-and-Trade-Information-on-China/ff/en/1/1X000000/1X09PHBA.htm, accessed 13th August 2019

[3] “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy”, CSA Research, https://insights.csa-research.com/reportaction/8057/Marketing, accessed 13th August 2019

I think we’ve all been there – you receive a request from a new customer and the project is more complicated than just file A translated from language X to language Y. It’s human nature that we want to show off our best sides and demonstrate our competence from day one. We understand that our customers are busy people, and that translation is our job, not theirs. They want to pass the translation request to their chosen supplier and receive back their requested translations.

Should we ask questions at all?

For this reason, we sometimes feel uncomfortable asking questions in case they give the customer a negative impression. Maybe the customer will think that we don’t have the expertise, or maybe they will think that we’re too much hassle to deal with. However, I come at this from a different angle – maybe the customer will see our questions as confirmation of our commitment to delivering the best service. We are demonstrating that we are paying close attention to their material and are invested in delivering high-quality translations first time. I would even go so far as to say that a sensible question will never reflect badly on the person that asked it.

We are often contacted by potential customers with requests. Some come from our colleagues across the global network of STAR offices. Some are based in the UK and deal directly with us in Guildford. Regardless of which office they contact first, they receive the same service from us, and part of this involves being asked questions.

Saving time and money

In some cases, our questions allow the customer to simplify their workflow. By working in the files in a different format, we might save DTP time. Or, by offering an extra service, they reduce the need for multiple suppliers. In other cases, our questions relate to the translations themselves, whether it is a terminology point, relating to the writing style, or even clarifying some unclear text.

Working with existing documentation

One new customer came to STAR via a recommendation from a colleague in a different department. They had previously been translating training documentation using in-house staff, but were finding that the increased volumes were putting them under too much pressure. Thanks to their in-house team and their existing bank of multilingual documentation, re-use of translation memory was an important consideration. It was important from a financial point of view to keep costs low, but also in order to maintain the tone of voice and preferred terminology. With this in mind, the team were diligent in using the concordance function and checking fuzzy matches. We were also asked to check the existing material for consistency and any errors. So far, so good.

In the case of this customer, it was inevitable that questions would arise. Some related to minor terminology points; such as the difference between a participant handbook or notebook, while some related to the writing style and the use of the active or passive voice. Liaising with our colleagues in Switzerland, we sent these questions to the customer and found that they appreciated our efforts.

These initial questions and answers formed the basis of an updated terminology list and a comprehensive style guide. We know that our customers appreciate our collaborative approach. They are the experts in the material they send us but might not be experts in the translation process. They know that they can trust STAR to ask the right questions.

Trust me on this one, questions don’t make you a nuisance – they show that you care about what you do.

If you’ve ever purchased translation services from a translation agency or a freelancer, the chances are you were charged by the word.  There are other charging models out there – hourly, by the page, by the hour – but word rates are by far the most common. It’s easy to see why – words are easily countable, so both purchaser and supplier can be certain what the cost of a project will be with no nasty surprises.

However, the word rate method of charging often leads to complaint on the supplier side of the “commodification” of the translation services industry, turning a highly-skilled profession which adds significant value into McJob where price is the only consideration. That might be slightly overstating the case but it’s certainly very easy for a purchaser to ask for a penny or a cent off a word price, and in a very competitive market, it’s often difficult for the translation supplier to refuse. Hey, what’s a penny? And if you’ve come down from 12p per word to 11p, surely there’s not much more pain in going down to 10p…

But let’s consider what you are buying for that 12p. Is it really just a word in a foreign language?

NB In all these, we’ll assume you’ve purchased from either a reputable translation agency or qualified freelance translator.

Highly qualified professionals

Most professional translators will have a post-graduate qualification in translation and possibly experience in working in their chosen industry sector – legal, medical, engineering etc. A good translation is not necessarily something that can be achieved by someone who “speaks a bit of French” or even someone who is genuinely bilingual. Translation is a skill that needs to be learned and practised.

Your word price may also include proofreading by a second professional translator – so that’s two highly-trained language experts working on your document.

Local market expertise

Ideally the translator will be a native speaker of the language they translate into and working in the relevant country. They’ll have a good understanding of their industry sector as it operates in their country and will adapt their translation accordingly. Wording that works well in the UK, the US or Europe may be completely inappropriate for the Middle East or Asia. Think of the value this adds to your content, and the trouble it could save you – you’ve not only gone to the trouble of communicating in your customer’s language but you’ve gone the extra mile to ensure you’ve done it as well as possible.

Project management

It’s easy to imagine a project manager at a translation agency is simply there to send and receive emails, answer a few phone calls. The reality, of course, is very different. A good project manager adds considerable value to every project they work on – preparing source files so they’re in the best condition for translation, working with multiple file types, sourcing the best translator for the job (or translators on a multilingual job), answering queries from both translator and client, ensuring delivery is timely and fault-free. The list could be endless but perhaps the most value is added through the relationship a project manager builds with a client. Over a period of time, she will suggest improvements to your processes that will help you get the most out of your translated content, saving you time and money, bringing expertise to your business that you’re unlikely to have.

And all for the price of a word!

As part of the languages industry, we can sometimes forget that a vast proportion of our expertise is not common knowledge. When we talk about translation memory, it’s easy to forget that a lot of the terminology is not obvious to an outsider. To help with this, we’ve provided a handy guide to TM with a bit of jargon-busting thrown in.

What is translation memory

A translation memory system (or TMS) manages translations and translated documents. Files are split into “segments” (sentences or sense units) and are saved in a database with their corresponding translations. Using algorithms, these translations can be reused for future texts, delivering cost and time savings to the customer.

Different tools manage this process in different ways, but the principles are the same. It is important to differentiate between the use of a translation memory and machine translation, however. Translation memory provides partial and 100% matches to a human translator who can adapt them accordingly. Machine translation uses yet more algorithms to translate your entire document without needing human intervention.

Below, we’ve listed a few common terms that you might hear in conjunction with translation memory tools.

Fuzzy match

Every sentence in a translation project is given a fuzzy match percentage. These match percentages are calculated using an algorithm and take into account differences in numbers, words, spacing and punctuation. 100% matches are identical and companies typically offer a fuzzy match discount for matches that are 70% and above.

Import/Export

For every project carried out in a TMS, the file must be imported at the start and exported at the end. The import process separates the text in the document from its design and layout. The translator focuses on the words and the formatting information is protected. On export, the original document layout is recreated, but with your new translations pushed into place.

Internal repetition

In some cases and for certain files, the same sentence is repeated more than once in the text. Using TM can ensure that these are translated identically each time. Translation suppliers will usually charge for the first time they translate the phrase, and offer a discount for every subsequent instance.

Segment

During the import process, a file is split into multiple segments. Each segment is a sense unit, usually a sentence. It can also be a bullet point, image caption or title.

These are very basic explanations, but we hope they are useful!

Here are some simple tips to help you save time and possibly even money on translation. It’s not just about translation though, these top tips can be could considered best practice whenever you’re writing in Word.

When it comes to preparing a document for your company – be it an important contract or an exciting marketing piece – you could be forgiven for thinking that the words are all that matter. For a translator, however, there are other factors that come into play – most importantly, the layout.

For a translator, it can make quite a difference to the translation if that set of words is a title or a command; if words are dotted around the page, is the translator to understand them as a ‘unit’ or as individual words which could yield an entirely different result if they are translated literally?

For customers, too, the benefits of well-formatted documentation are clear. The use of translation memory (TM) software relies on finding similar or identical matches. If the document is laid out in an inconsistent manner, the TM yield may be less than expected, meaning that customers cannot benefit fully from all that TM can offer.

Here are my top tips for improving your document:

Spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck

This may seem like a really simplistic first point to make, but it’s amazing how many people entirely forget to do this, even though they may have spent hours working very hard on producing an otherwise exceptional text.

By simply pressing F7 on your keyboard, you can check for any silly oversights that could potentially cause confusion for the translator, and potentially require reprinting costs for the original text, if the errors are caught too late.

Switch on the “Show/Hide” button

This little button may have entirely escaped your notice, but it can be a life-saver for well-formatted documentation. You will find it on the Home ribbon in Word, in the Paragraph group:

It will show little markers for each of the formatting characters in the document – so spaces will appear as a little dot, so you can see at a glance if you’ve put a double space in between words. It will also show you if you have inadvertently broken a line in two which should actually be one sentence.

It can make the page look rather “busy” when you’re not used to it, but you will soon appreciate the benefits.

Make use of automatic tables of contents

Using the formatting styles on the Home ribbon can be a life-saver. For translators, there isn’t much that fills them with dread quite like fixing a manually created table of contents – languages normally vary in length, sometimes quite dramatically. So chapter 4 in the original document may have been on page 6, but after translation it could be all the way down on page 8 because the translated language is so much longer!

It then will take an age to correct this at the end. But using the different Styles options on the Home ribbon will make this very simple.

Simply apply a Heading style to your chapter title. Word will recognise this and will pick it up automatically when you create a table of contents using the Table of Contents function on the References ribbon.

The Update feature for the table of contents will kill two birds with one stone: firstly, if you ever update your document and add extra chapters, you only have to press Update to rearrange the list and have a perfect table of contents; secondly, for the translation, it will take care of any changes to page numbers, without having to laboriously check to see which page each and every chapter now appears on.

OK, so three very simple things that will make a big difference to your Word document, and will make life much easier for your translation agency (I know, it’s all about us us us!).

If you have any questions about formatting a Word document for translation, let us know at email hidden; JavaScript is required

 

 

When you say you’re a translator, the next question you almost always get is “Ohhh, which language?”. It’s what springs to mind when most people think of translation (apart from booths and microphones and thinking on your feet, but that’s for another post). And of course, languages are an obvious core aptitude for a translator.

However, a less evident though equally crucial skill is the ability to research effectively. A significant slice of your time (unless you’re an absolute expert in the field in question) is spent browsing specialist websites, glossaries, dictionaries and terminology databases (in addition to a healthy dose of general Googling) to locate either the meaning of a term, a date, a name or the contextual or historical information necessary to produce an accurate translation. It’s one of the lovely aspects of the job and it can be really quite illuminating – sometimes inadvertently. With experience, a translator becomes adept at quickly pinpointing the needle of necessary information in the haystack of available data and, as a bonus, such research often leads to the acquisition of much weird and wonderful knowledge that can add a real element of fun and fascination to the translator’s job (or at least make them go “ooh, well I never!”).

To find out more, I conducted a quick “Top 10” survey to find out what gems or surprising nuggets of information some of our in-house translators had unearthed in the last week, and they provided some great examples. For instance, did you know…?

  • An 18th century Italian glass blower created a new material called aventurine when he accidentally dropped a sliver of copper into some melted glass
  • There’s something called Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) which is caused by excessive use of power tools and can make your fingers turn white
  • Astronomers believe that all meteorites originate from a single celestial body that exploded hundreds of millions of years ago
  • There’s a musical light show in the park grounds of the Museum of Watchmaking in Switzerland that bursts into colour and sound every quarter of an hour
  • There’s an on-board vehicle system that automatically contacts the emergency services in the event of an accident
  • Over the course of the English football season, 380 Premiership matches are watched in 185 countries, in more than 730 million homes
  • In 1967, Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted into the US Army in protest at the Vietnam war
  • There’s a cooking appliance that alerts you when it’s the perfect moment to flip your steak
  • There’s a charity event called the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in which men in around 90 countries dress up in dapper clothing and ride classic motorcycles to raise awareness of prostate cancer and men’s health

plus a very long (some might say “heated”) office discussion recently about what to call the things that come out of a volcano…

Naturally, not all jobs are packed with fascinating facts, which makes it all the more lovely when you happen upon them during your work. And there’s a certain satisfaction, when you switch off your computer at the end of a long day’s translation, in knowing that you’ve expanded your general knowledge in the process.

Just try and resist the urge to run home and shout “Guess what I found out today…!”.

It’s a translator thing.

 

I’ve worked in Translation Project Management for just over five years now, and I have learnt a lot in that time. Some of it is random; just trivia knowledge about languages. Some of it is the kind of specialist terminology that you’ll need if you have to perform emergency maintenance on a concrete pump while in Germany, but most of it relates to the main part of my job – managing and scheduling translation projects.

As I write this, it’s a beautiful May day when it’s just warm enough, but not too hot, and I can see late-afternoon sunshine through my office window. It feels like the perfect time to share with you my top tip for ensuring that your translation requests can be carried out with a minimum of delay. You see, if you’ve ever had dealings with western European countries in May, you know that it can be harder than you’d think to arrange a translation. Every few years, the planets align in their favour (or to your disadvantage, depending on your viewpoint) and our European counterparts have at least 4 national holidays in the same month. For our Project Management team in the UK, this results in a rollercoaster workload – peaks that coincide with deliveries needed before the next national holiday, followed by a lull while everyone eases gradually back into work after a long weekend. This can be frustrating when trying to organise translations for our customers, so my top tip would be to always plan ahead when it comes to translation. There are multiple factors that affect our ability to deliver a translation, but they can often be countered with some forward-planning.

National holidays

I touched on this one already. In May, the UK has two bank holidays, both on a Monday. This year, my colleagues in Germany had a holiday on the 1st, 10th, 21st, and 31st May. Where these fall on a Tuesday or Thursday, many staff take advantage of the potential for a four-day weekend. And who can blame them?! It does have a negative effect on translation deadlines however, as it reduces the amount of working days available in which we can work on the texts.

Busy periods

Busy periods and holidays seem to go hand in hand in the translation industry – partly for supply and demand reasons. Christmas, Easter and the summer months are all busy periods when there are more requests and fewer available translators. When we hear that customers are planning a large website or catalogue translation project, we try to advise that this is carried out away from these times to avoid this lack of availability having an impact on quality.

Shorter turnaround times

I’ll admit it, this is not a factor that affects our ability to deliver, but it is always a consideration for us and it does relate to planning ahead. When a translation is planned in advance, we can offer far shorter turnaround times. It will never be possible for 10,000 words to be translated in a day, but we can avoid the additional days that need to be factored in while we wait for resources to be available to start work on the text.

Availability of key resources

Wherever possible, we build a team of translators who always work on requests for a certain customer. For urgent translation projects, it is not always possible to arrange for this team to work on the text, and our customers must choose between their urgent deadline and the risk of using resources who are less familiar with their texts.

In summary, with a bit of advance warning, the STAR UK PM team can pull off some incredible feats. We’re used to factoring this in to our schedules and are also able to keep you updated as to any upcoming dates that may affect timings.

 

 

As observant visitors to our website will have noticed, we have an in-house team of translators of which we are very proud.

Why?

So why do we keep adding to our team of human translators while the rest of the industry is shedding them and moving towards greater automation and increased use of subcontractors? Simple: we’re convinced that it is the best way to provide our customers with the quality translations they want and deserve.

We believe close collaboration among a team of translators is the best way to do our job. A single translator can be experienced and knowledgeable, but how about ten translators?

For a customer, it’s great to have a translator who really knows their product and the style they want. But what if that translator is sick or takes a holiday right when they’re needed? With an in-house team, knowledge is pooled and resources shared, so there is no downtime. And when you have a really urgent translation, or a very large one, it’s comforting to know that there’s a dedicated team ready to pitch in.

Two pairs of eyes

At STAR we work to the Vier-Augen-Prinzip – the four-eye principle – which basically means our translations are reviewed by a second translator. This is so much easier to do when the reviewer is sitting right next to the translator, and they both know the customer equally well. It leads to some lively, not to say heated, discussions, but also to excellent translations.

By increasing the number of people in our team, we can also increase the number of languages we can handle in-house. German and French are the languages we get most call for, but these days we’re as comfortable working with Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.

Using freelance translators

Naturally, we can’t cover everything in-house. Sometimes there’s too much work to do in-house, the text is of a specialist nature or it’s a language we don’t cover. We train our translators well and trust them, but we also know their limits. If your translation requires specialist knowledge that we don’t have, then we’ll place it with one of our carefully selected freelance translators.

Finally, we love having an in-house team because it makes for a vibrant, energetic workplace. Our translators are passionate about what they do and highly qualified, and it shows in their attitude to work. Professional pride makes them dedicated to getting translations right and back on time, and working in a team means there’s always someone there to help in a crisis.