9 Tips for Saving Money on Translation

1. Decide whether you really need a translation

• Would an oral summary be enough?
• Perhaps a machine translation would do if you just need to understand the gist.

2. Take out anything that doesn’t need translating

• Parts of the text may not concern French speakers.
• Other parts may concern people only in a specific geographic area.

3. Reduce the number of words
  • Eliminate unnecessary sentences or paragraphs.
  • Remove repetitive copy. (Do whole paragraphs repeat verbatim?)
  • Create the table of contents yourself.
  • Use maps, pictograms, photos, drawings, etc. instead of text.
4. Think “multilingual” from the start
  • Make sure your concept or slogan works in other languages (we say “Lucky 7” in English, but it’s “Lucky 8” in Chinese).
5. Finalize your copy before having it translated
  • The more versions you have, the more chance of errors slipping in.
  • Every extra version increases your costs.
6. Decide how “good” the translation has to be
  • A machine translation is unusable in a business context, but can give you a general idea of the subject at hand.
  • If you’re translating a letter or the minutes of a meeting for information purposes, you may not need to spend as much time polishing the style.
  • If your corporate image is at stake or you need to give people a compelling reason to buy your product or take action, you require publication-ready quality.
7. Choose your translator with care
  • A bilingual person: People who speak two languages don’t necessarily know how to translate—or even how to write.
  • A language student or teacher: Studying or teaching a language is not a guarantee of translation ability. Be very cautious.
  • Yourself: Chances are that if you are translating into a language that is not your mother tongue, readers will be able to sense it, even if you are very good. That may not matter, but maybe it will. It’s up to you to decide. But if you’re translating for your company, best to seek out the services of a professional.
  • A freelancer: Freelancers can be a very good choice if they have specialized knowledge in your subject area. They may, however, have limited availability or production capacity. Questions to ask: Are they certified? Are they revised by other qualified translators so that a second set of eyes sees your work? How many words can they translate per day?
  • An agency: Serious agencies can provide very high quality and high production capacity. They coordinate all aspects of the job for you—selecting the best translator, tracking progress, performing quality assurance, converting files, editing for standardization, etc.
8. Equip the translator for the job
  • What’s the context? Is the text for customers? For your sales reps? Will it be read on radio? Printed in a magazine? Is it related to some other text?
  • Who’s the audience? Is your text for Quebec or France? For specialists or the general public? Your answers will guide the translator in selecting the best style and wording.
  • Have any pictures or drawings? They can help the translator understand. They may even be a key part of the message.
  • Are there any space limitations?
  • Do you have a lexicon? You’ll save time and money by providing the translator with the terms you already know and use.
  • Have any style preferences? The translator can make style choices for you, but you may have preferences (e.g., old or new spelling in French? U.S. or British spelling in English?)
9. Remember these facts
  • Translation is a profession taught in university. It’s not something that just anybody can do.
  • Translators always work into their mother tongues. Going the opposite way will put you at real risk.
  • Some types of text require additional training in a second field, such as law or engineering.
  • Seasoned translators translate between 1,500 and 2,000 words a day, and sometimes more depending on subject familiarity or the repetitive nature of the work.

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