The following FAQs should help to give you a better understanding of the translation industry and of how our business operates.
How can I be sure that a translation agency is reliable?
This is something you can never know beforehand unless somebody recommends an agency to you. The translation industry is still relatively new and unregulated. There are good agencies and bad agencies - and the same applies to translators as well. Access to the profession is uncontrolled and anybody can market him or herself as a translator without having any training at all. On the other hand, this degree of freedom also keeps the profession exciting and dynamic. Although membership of a professional association does give some assurance of quality, it is by no means a mark of excellence. The best way to decide whether an agency is reliable is to examine its list of clients and to ask colleagues, acquaintances and others about their experiences.
Should I submit my text in a particular format?
Translators generally prefer to work on screen rather than on paper. If you submit the source text digitally, the translator can view it in a separate window on his/her computer screen, thereby speeding up the translation process considerably.
Another benefit of submitting the document digitally is that it can be read by the translation program. Although the program itself does not produce the translation, it does help the translator to use terminology consistently throughout the text. In this sense, the document type and format do affect the quality of the translation.
Do you accept draft versions of documents?
This can be a difficult issue. As a time saving measure, many clients ask us to start translating unfinished texts that they plan to revise later. Sometimes there is no other option, but as a rule it is best to try to finalise your text before submitting it to us. Incorporating changes takes a lot of time and can therefore increase costs unnecessarily, particularly in multilingual projects involving complex version management issues. It also increases the risk of errors creeping into the text.
Why is there a difference between delivery time and production time?
Production time simply means the time it takes the translator to produce the translation, assuming that he/she is available to start immediately and to complete it without interruption. However, at The Language Lab we place great emphasis on the quality of the documents that we produce, and therefore subject each text to an extensive revision process. Given the additional attention required to ensure the quality of the finished product, the delivery time inevitably exceeds the production time.
How do you calculate the price of a translation?
There are all kinds of ways to do this. In some countries agencies charge by the line or page. In the Netherlands agencies generally charge by the word, applying surcharges or discounts depending on the type of document involved. However, at The Language Lab our approach is different: we charge by the hour. The reason is simple: no two documents are the same. Translating an annual report or an advertisement requires a great deal more time and attention than translating an internal company memo. That is why, when quoting a price, we estimate the time that a translation will take. However, for larger projects and regular clients, we are happy to quote a price per word upon request.
Why do jobs in some languages cost more?
In the first place, the price of the translation is a matter of supply and demand: the rarer the language and the fewer translators working in that language, the higher the price will be. Rarity is a relative concept, of course; a Dutch translator living in Uzbekistan will be much more of a rarity than a Dutch translator in the Netherlands and will therefore be able to charge a higher rate.
Moreover, some languages, such as Asian languages, are simply more labour-intensive than others. For instance, producing a text in Japanese, a language with more than 8,000 characters, is considerably more time-consuming than producing a text in English. Furthermore, the structure of a text written in a Western language will need to be adapted to Japanese cultural norms as well. The differences involved can be extremely subtle and difficult to grasp, which makes translating into Japanese a highly complex undertaking and entails additional expense.
Do you charge extra for urgent assignments?
Urgent assignments almost always cost more than regular translations. One reason is that other projects frequently have to be put on hold in order to free up the necessary capacity. Moreover, translators often have to work faster in order to complete assignments of this nature - and, naturally, this comes at a price. The surcharge for urgent translations can range from 10 to 100%, depending in part on whether the translator has to work during the evening or into the night to complete the job on time.
When is my translation considered an 'urgent' assignment?
The average translator translates about 2,000 to 3,000 words a day, including revision and correction time. If a 4,000 word translation needs to be completed within a single day, the translator will have to work into the evening and possibly even into the night. As a rule, jobs like this are classed as 'urgent' assignments.
Do words like 'the' and 'a/an' count towards the price?
Believe it or not, this is a question that regularly crops up. The answer is: yes, these words count too. Translators generally base their rates on the word count and use the word-count function in their word processing software to calculate their prices. Naturally, the word count function draws no distinction and counts every single word. If we had to take the time to filter out these simple words, we would of course be forced to raise our own rates accordingly. Furthermore, the inclusion of the definite or indefinite article is an issue in itself, given the differences between Dutch and English, not to mention those between British and US English. So even little words like these often require a great deal of thought.
Should I submit my text in a particular format?
Essentially, no. We can handle a very wide variety of file formats, ranging from MS Word to InDesign and from HTML to XLIFF. Obviously, some formats require more work than others. Many clients deliver source files in PDF format, but since these generally cannot be edited, we extract the text from the files and convert it into a word-processing format such as MS Word. This requires additional formatting.
Another benefit of submitting the document electronically is that it can be read by a translation program. Although the program itself does not produce the translation, it does help the translator to use terminology consistently throughout the text. In this sense, the document type and format do affect the quality of the translation.
Why do some languages use more words to say the same thing?
Some languages are simply more 'verbose'. For instance, a French translation will often be much longer than the original Dutch text. On the other hand, English can be far more economical than Dutch in its use of words.
What is a certified translation? When is it necessary?
A certified translation is a translation produced by a certified translator. This means a translator with a certain level of training or experience who has taken an oath in court, entitling him/her to translate certain official documents. The authorities in some countries require certified translations for particular purposes. Strictly speaking, certification gives no guarantee concerning the quality of the translator. In fact, many excellent translators never bother to become certified.
Why do you prefer to work with translators who are native speakers and based in their native countries?
Our policy is to have all of our translations done by native speakers, by which we mean translators who have grown up speaking the language into which they translate. We also consider it important to use translators who live and work in a country where that native language is spoken as an official language. This is because native speakers who move abroad often find that their command of their own language becomes 'contaminated' if they hear a foreign language around them everyday. Living and working in an environment where the relevant language is actually spoken is the best way to ensure that the language and terminology in a translation are correct.
Does your agency have speakers of every language?
Unfortunately, this would not be humanly possible! Just like any other agency that offers to produce translations in every language, we have access to our own network of carefully selected expert translators.
For example, although none of our in-house staff speak Japanese, we are still able to supply clients with Japanese translations. We do this by outsourcing the entire process, from translation to final editing and proofreading, to the Japanese-speaking translators in our network. Thanks to our sophisticated revision system, we can always guarantee our clients the very best quality at a reasonable price.
Translation tools are computer programs that support translators in their work. These tools save individual words, sentences and paragraphs of the source document and the corresponding translation in structured databases, helping the translator to keep the document consistent by offering suggestions on how to translate repeated segments in the text.
Generally speaking, localisation is the conversion and adaptation of a document to suit local circumstances. For example, it is often not enough simply to translate a contract - the translation also needs to be checked against the local laws and procedures, a task that will often require the assistance of a lawyer. The conversion of weights and measurements also falls under the term localisation. When people in the translation industry refer to localisation, they usually mean software localisation, which involves making software suitable for use in another country. This process entails more than just translation, since it also applies to converting layout, graphics, plug-ins, program codes, units, etc.
Are computers taking over the work of translators?
For some time now, linguists and computer experts have been predicting an imminent breakthrough in computer translation software, rendering translation a mere matter of data processing. However, this remains a pipe dream. Translation is a profession in which a good feel for language and creative ability remain essential. Nevertheless, more and more translators are using computer translation tools, for instance to isolate repeated passages of text so that they don't have to translate them twice.