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Dear translation buyers, what results are you expecting from your translation project?

This post is meant for those people and businesses that need translation services.
Before you hire a translator, please first think about your priorities concerning the translation project. What's most important for you? Often people ask for these three things: high speed, low rate and premium quality. But is it possible to get all three of them at once? Let's have a look at all these points and then you decide what's more important for you, ok?
1. High speed
'Sometimes only fast food will do' photo (c) 2010, Helen T - license: We all want everything fast these days. Fast-food restaurants are everywhere; people often shop in the Internet because they want to save their time etc. And I see clients often approaching translation with the same attitude. Well, let me ask you one thing: how long did it take you to create the document in the source language? Or, if you want a website translated, do you remember how long it took for you or your content writers to come up with the great content for your website in the source language? Now, what makes you think a translation can be done lightning-fast? If you just want to get the gist of what the text in the foreign language is about (or you want the readers of your document to just understand the overall idea of it in their native language), that's one thing. But that translation will be far from being a masterpiece. For all those who want speed, machine translation would probably be their first choice. But we all know what kind of results we get when we use it, otherwise there wouldn't be so many jokes going around social networks saying "translate this text with Google translate and then have it translated back and see what happens!" So if you really want a text that is accurate and reads well, please choose your translator very carefully. 2,000 - 2,500 words are generally considered as average daily output for translators. But if your project is very specific and involves a lot of research and/or creativity please make sure you give your translator enough time to ensure the best possible result. Corinne McKay wrote a very thoughtful post about translation speed, and there are also quite a few insightful comments there, so you might want to check it out.
2. Cheap price
'Monkey Work in Progress' photo (c) 2011, DanaK~WaterPenny - license:
Only monkeys work for peanuts!
Well, let me share my thoughts. There are a lot of cheap translators in the market now. Vendors may be cheap because:
a. they are not experienced enough;
b. they don't think that their work is worth good money;
c. they are not full-time freelancers and don't have to pay taxes and other business-related expenses from their translation income;
d. they are professional translators but love helping other people for (almost) no money (but in that case, they have to have other sources of income);
e. they live in a country where life is cheaper (though that is a disputable point).
There are countless other explanations and it's up to you to decide which option is closer to reality ;-) Sometimes cheap translations end up being pretty good, but you are really running into a high risk of finding a wrong person for your project; consequently you might end up spending twice as much money on editing or re-translating the whole thing. Hope you know the saying "the stingy always has to pay twice". In Russia we also say "free cheese is only found in the mousetrap".
3. Premium quality
'Cheeses' photo (c) 2010, Smabs Sputzer - license:
Free cheese is only found
 in the mousetrap!
All clients love getting great services. Well, you know what? We, translators, also love rendering great services. In fact, we are obsessed with quality! That's why we ask you to give us time for research and for editing. That's why we specialize and don't take just any project coming our way. That's why we may ask questions in the process and we need you to be available to answer them! Some projects can be done faster than others, but there are limits to everything. Machine translation works fast and is free (in most cases), but it doesn't provide quality. You can hire a student or a bilingual neighbour to do your project because their work is cheap, but you can't be sure in the result you get unless your neighbour is a professional translator. You can't be sure they will do a research for the unknown terms, concepts and cultural phenomena. You can't be sure they will make their translation sound good in the target language because normally bilingual people who are not professional translators don't care about getting the details right; they often think it's enough to get the main idea. But if you want excellent results you need to remember two things:
  • serious work takes time
  • serious work costs serious money. 
Translating project can be a great experience both for translators and their clients... if you approach it right.


  1. It's a question of value.

    Do you want your carefully crafted Italian marketing materials reduced to comic gibberish in English by your marketing manager's neighbour's daughter who spent a month in London as an au pair?

    Or do you want a translation that portrays your business positively, reinforces your brand, and engages potential clients?

    The former is a false economy; the latter, a wise investment.

  2. Oliver, I found myself looking for the "like" button near your comment! You are absolutely right (and not just about Italian ro English translations ;)!


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