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Our “Hall of Fame” – A Top 10 of Enquiries to a Translation Business

As last year came to an end, the media did what it always does. It inundated us with hit lists. These included the Top 10 Christmas jingles, a league table of the most jaw-dropping moments, a list of the most memorable malapropisms, others including ones for the most Goldies of Oldies, the most outrageous items of fake news, the Most Ugly Christmas Sweater, the best recipes and a host of other entertaining rankings. Reason enough for us here at eurolanguage Fachübersetzungen to join in this year! We take pleasure in presenting you with our very own Top 10 in the Hall of Fame category: in our case, the priceless utterances that we hear time and again on the phone, or the gems that we discover among our e-mail enquiries, prompting us to provide something of an educational service – after all, despite the existence of high-quality translations, the world is still brimming with misunderstandings. Now sit back and enjoy a bit of a smile with us :-)

1. We have a huge number of pages to translate. Surely that entitles us to a healthy discount?

Oh dear, what a misapprehension! Translations are not mass products. A word does not become less expensive simply by appearing 400 times in a text. Translation involves capturing the sense of every single word in the overall context of the source text and then rendering it proficiently in the target language. Discounts for large orders do exist in cases where blocks of text genuinely constitute 100% matches and we can identify those blocks with the help of our software.

2. We just want to know what this is about. We don’t need a ‘proper‘ translation. Surely that isn’t going to cost as much?

To set about reproducing the content of a text accurately and meaningfully, that text needs to be read and understood as a whole. It would require analytical thinking and more time to transform the contents into a list of bullet points! Capturing the essence of a text in summary form, succinctly reporting the content, are tasks that extend far beyond the remit of a translation and requires commensurate remuneration.

You are sure to recall this from your school days when you were called upon to produce a three-page summary of the entire content of a work akin to the towering stature of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain :-).

3. Actually, I’ve already done this translation myself. Could you please just notarise it for me?

No, we are not allowed to notarise translations by third parties. Our sworn translators  vouch for the accuracy and completeness of their translations by applying their own certification formula, to which they then append their signature. A knowledge of the regulations of local authorities is only half the story. Meticulous checking of legal terms on the basis of legal expertise being the other essential requirement. As you can well imagine, nobody signs a document that they have not checked thoroughly themselves.

4. What does a 30-page translation cost? We can’t send the text because it isn’t ready yet. And we’ll tell you what it’s about a bit later.

The prices for a translation depend on the content, the subject matter and, last but not least, on the volume of research work required. A general business text costs less than a technical study that involves time-consuming research. Also, the format in which we receive the text that needs to be translated also has a bearing on the price. For example, if a text only exists in PDF format, we have to know if it contains tables, and if so, whether we are required to ‘recreate’ them? Are there illustrations that need us to provide nomenclature? All of these and other factors have an impact on pricing. Then of course, there is the simple fact that a page is not simply a page: no two pages are ever exactly alike!

5. We have already translated our text in-house. All we need from you is for it to be proofread.

In so many cases, the imaginary in-house employee goes by the name of Deepl or Google Translate. And you should be under no illusions here – we are all too familiar with this ’highly qualified and well-educated’ colleague. Our native speakers can identify very rapidly whether they are looking at an example of machine translation output, which in turn means that they are looking at an MTPE assignment – Machine Translation Post-Editing – under the guise of one claiming to be a simple proofreading task. There is therefore no scope for pulling the wool over our eyes and it would also be pointless to try given that any cost-saving would at best be minimal.

6. The text is not quite ready yet, but you are welcome to get started on the translation.

A couturier never sews in the sleeves without having the finished dress in mind. If the sleeve length alters the proportions, then surely this calls for a centimetre or two be shortened to make the silhouette of the finished article articulate and define refined excellence? Translators feel much the same way about their craft: a good translation is a bespoke item. Each and every detail, down to the smallest and most subtle, needs to fit together perfectly. Something that can only be achieved by retaining an image of The Big Picture from beginning to end.

7. Here is the PDF file – please paste in the translation in the form of handwritten notes.

At first glance, this might look easy enough, but beware of the boomerang effect! Pasting translations into a PDF file in notelet form, or using the Comments function, is not just a nightmare for the translator. The customer is then faced with some very time-consuming cutting and pasting. All entirely unnecessary because each of the translated blocks of text also needs to be moved into position in this process. And the simple alternative to all of that simply could not be simpler! Just send the original file to the translation agency, in IDML format, then we shall send you a ‘plug & play’ version, in which all of the text elements fit together perfectly.

8. Why does a translation into Japanese cost more than one into English?

All of our translators are native speakers and most of them live in their respective home countries. Japan is an expensive country to live in, and the same is true of Scandinavian countries. Which explains why translations into some languages are more expensive than others.

9. We would like to get our website translated. What will that cost? Here is the weblink.

If you are planning to create a multilingual website, you should build in this aspect from the ground up, which means while you are producing your texts. You should then save the final versions of each text and create a separate folder for each language, grouping together all the relevant texts. It is possible that you may have a fair number of sub-pages for which you do not need multiple language versions, so you should select your texts judiciously. Also, please bear in mind that a cost in time is involved in copying the contents of individual links from a website once it is already up and running online. So it makes good sense, before reaching that stage, to save individual files separately.

10. Just get it translated for me and then I’ll let you know whether or not it needs to have official certification.

Goodness me, this is a bad one! It is essential to decide in advance whether a notarised translation is required, or if a ’normal’ translation will do the job instead. This is not to say that a translation that ’does the job’ is somehow less good than a sworn and certified one. However, sworn translations are tackled by a different category of translator. They are registered with a court of law and have been issued with an official stamp which comes with a level of responsibility! This is why notarised or ’sworn and certified’ translations tend as a general rule to be more expensive. Accordingly, if you wish to save money, you should first enquire whether a non-certified translation will be deemed acceptable.

Now for the stellar ’Out of Competition’ winning entry, the Oscar in our all-time ranking. Which is being awarded to this gleaming gem:

“I am on my way to your office for you to do it for me right away. May I sit and wait for my translation?”

No! In the day-to-day business of our translation agency, all orders are scheduled to achieve on-time delivery. We have no slack periods but what we can do is to let you know precisely when you can expect completion of your order, and you can be confident that we always stick to what we have promised. Be assured that we shall most definitely propose a prompt solution to you, aiming to delight rather than simply satisfy you as a customer.

Article by Martina Schmid