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Translation Service

How to choose the right translation service and your translation budget

If you do business across different markets and languages, it’s vital to get your translation right. Every project is different however and the costs can vary quite widely. Preparing a website or marketing materials that will be viewed by the public in a new market will require a different approach to bulk material intended for internal use only, or the translation of a technical manual.

It’s important to define your specific goals and requirements and balance this against the options available in order to set a realistic translation budget.

Translation or transcreation?

When most people think about the process of adapting their message and materials for use in another language, they tend to think of the whole thing as ‘translation’. Within the industry there’s a distinct difference between translation and transcreation.

Translation in this sense refers to a literal ‘word for word’ translation of materials. This tends to be most suitable for texts that do not require any creative or cultural input and could include contracts, product documentation, manuals and other technical and legal documents.

Transcreation involves adapting material for use in another market. In general you will want to retain your core brand message and identity while adapting specific content to be culturally engaging and appropriate. Transcreation can be useful in areas such as advertising or marketing campaigns. It could involve simply tweaking existing source material but will generally require more extensive reworking.

You might also want to commission native copywriting in some areas. This involves new content being developed in the local language in order to meet specific marketing or other business objectives. An example could be a series of blogs that deal with local or culturally relevant issues.

In budgeting terms, the type of translation service you require could be charged in different ways. Straight translation might be charged by the word while transcreation or copywriting is more likely to be charged by the hour. Many projects will also involve a combination of different approaches.

Using machine translation

It might be tempting to throw all your content through a free service like Google Translate. This can be great for getting the gist of a text but it can also result in jerky or stilted copy and sometimes in hilarious/disastrous errors. Don’t believe us? Try copying a chunk of copy into one of these translation apps, translating into a random language then back again.

That isn’t to say that machine translation cannot be useful however, or that it can’t be used to keep costs down. For large or ongoing projects, a professional translation provider will be able to train their engines for specific customers, setting up translation memories to ensure you retain a sense of consistency, especially for technical terms and jargon. Machine translation can also be combined with post-editing, which involves a skilled translator casting a human eye over the resultant copy.

Advances in API technology can also allow clients to easily integrate with their translation providers’ systems. This can be great for translating regular content such as news or blog posts.

Everyone’s translation needs are different but by carefully defining your requirements and discussing the options with your provider, you should be able to find a solution to match your budget.

*Photo credits: lculig /

Christian Arno, Founder and President, Lingo24

Christian Arno is Founder and President of Lingo24. He started the company in 2001 after graduating from Oxford University with a degree in languages. He has won numerous awards including HSBC Business Thinking and International Trade Awards (2010), and TAUS Excellence Award (2012) for innovative technology. He contributes to leading industry publications and has been featured on the BBC, in the Financial Times and other media around the world.

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