23 Things to Consider When Preparing an InDesign File for Translation

You may already be familiar with how to create localization-ready templates in MS Word from our previous post.

A lot of the same principles apply to InDesign files, but InDesign files are more complex and require additional preparation to be translation-ready.

InDesign is capable of a higher level of design than MS Word, and you may have an on-staff or contracted graphic designer who has designed the publication for you.

Similarly, it is important to have experienced, professional multilingual desktop publishing (DTP) specialists work on your translations so your carefully curated design is maintained in the translated versions.

Here are 23 things to consider when preparing an InDesign file for translation.

Getting Started

1. Files

Keep your InDesign package all in one location for easy transfer to your Language Service Provider (LSP).

An InDesign package includes:

  • InDesign file (.indd format and/or .idml format)
  • Fonts used in your project
  • Links (Images used in the InDesign file)
  • PDF proof of the final publication

Here is some helpful information on how to prepare and export an InDesign package.

2. Versioning

Create an organized system for tracking versions of your files. Use it consistently across all languages, including English.

Do not delete old versions! Your LSP may need to refer to a past version of the file when making updates to translations in the future.


3. Font Selection

One of the most appealing features of InDesign is its seemingly limitless options for fonts. It is a designer’s dream!

But don’t get too invested in a particular font, because many fonts are made with English in mind, and do not support other languages.

Use basic Unicode fonts to increase compatibility across languages.

4. Font Size

Oftentimes, translated text takes up more physical space than its English equivalent.

Use a font size which is 1-2 points larger than the minimum size you can accept.

This will enable the DTP team to decrease the size in the translation to allow for text expansion without making the text too small to read.

This is especially important in footers, where font sizes are often at their smallest.

5. Outlines

Do not convert text to outline format. This makes the text uneditable and difficult to work with.

Links (AKA images used in your InDesign file)

6. Text

Instead of embedding text into your images, making it uneditable, incorporate text in your images as layers on top of the image.

Uneditable text in an image is difficult (and more expensive!) to translate + format.

Don’t forget to allow space for text expansion!

7. PDFs

If your publication includes links to PDFs, don’t forget to provide the source files for those too.

Otherwise, they behave like uneditable images.

8. Culturally appropriate images

Give some thought to your target audience which you’re trying to reach with your translations.

You may want to prepare images to swap out in order to be culturally appropriate for your target audience, or you can carefully pick images that are universally acceptable across cultures.

9. Image quality

Make sure that the images (links) you use are of the desired resolution.

If you plan to print, high resolution images are key to good quality.

10. Rights

Whether your images are proprietary, stock photos, or other, make sure you have the rights to use them in your publication.


11. Clean files

Do not leave extra text in the gray space outside of the main document space.

Clean up your file before sending to your LSP so those extra words don’t sneak into your billable word count when you don’t need them translated.

12. White space

Leave enough blank space around text to allow for text expansion in the translated text, as well as leaving ample room between lines for accents above and below the characters.

13. Right-to-left languages

If translating into a right-to-left language, consider that your text and formatting will be flipped in the translations.

If your translation is a printed book, for example, you need to have enough margin space on both sides of the text for binding so it works in left-to-right and right-to-left texts.

14. Color palettes

Use color palettes so the DTP team can easily find your preferred colors.

Also, keep in mind that RBG palettes are recommended for online use only, while CMYK colors can be used for online and printing.

When in doubt, use CMYK!

15. Arrows

If possible, avoid arrows pointing to/from text.

During translation, due to text expansion, words/paragraphs will move, which will impact the placement of the arrow, making DTP more difficult.

16. Style sheets

Using style sheets may be beneficial for creating similar future content in English, but it is great for translation, too, because it ensures that formatting is consistent and manual formatting overrides are not lost.

17. Table packages

If your publication requires tables to impart information, you should consider using the InDesign tables package to create your tables, instead of using individual text frames to manually create the appearance of a table.

If you use the tables package, the cells in your table will automatically adjust to allow for text expansion in the translated text, leading to decreased DTP time and saved costs!


18. Threading

Use the threading feature to create a flowing text segment even when parts of the phrase end up on different lines. This often happens in headings, slogans, or titles.

Leaving them separate will mean that the translation memory tool will treat them as individual strings, and when they’re put back together in the final translation, they may not make sense together, because they were translated separately.

19. Formatting + alignment tools

Use margins, soft returns, and alignment to format your text instead of a paragraph or line break.

20. Indents and lists

Use lists and paragraph styles to create indents and bulleted lists instead of tabs and spaces.


21. Printing requirements

Let your LSP know if you have special printing requirements so they can customize your print-ready PDF proofs with the bleeds and crops you need.

22. Text expansion

When accommodating text expansion in translations, if not enough white space has been left, your multilingual DTP team will have to choose how to make room for the translated text.

They can decrease font size, decrease margins, or increase the number of pages.

Let your LSP know your first choice so they can get it right the first time.

23. Font swaps

Let your LSP know your font preferences for non-Latin scripts, or be prepared for them to substitute with their default standard.

Need assistance with InDesign translation?

Let’s discuss your specific needs. Contact us.


Working with InDesign files for your translation project requires planning, preparation, and some know-how.

But the extra effort is worth it in the end to ensure that your project goes smoothly and looks great.

Understanding InDesign and desktop publishing from a translation standpoint is an acquired skill.

We hope that this article has been helpful starting you on your way.

How to Create Localization-Ready Templates in MS Word

You are a busy professional, and fast and efficient work is the name of the game. Perhaps one of your tasks is to regularly generate letters or handbooks which must be updated frequently, and to make this work more efficient you utilize templates in MS Word.

Doing so means that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, each time you must create a new version of your document.

MS Word has a host of capabilities which can make your templates robust and easy to use in English, but those same features, when used in a translated template, may cause problems. So how can you build templates that are translation-friendly and localization-ready?

You may already be familiar with some of the principles of visual design and how they affect localization, but let’s take a closer look at MS Word and talk about preparing your templates for translation.

Here are the 11 things to consider when creating localization-ready templates in MS Word.

1. Whitespace

As in visual design, whitespace in your MS Word templates is very important. When compared to English, most languages take up more space and therefore require some “room to grow”.

Leaving whitespace on your pages from the beginning will ensure that your formatting can be maintained when your translations are completed.

Typically, lack of whitespace means that the translated text will take up more pages in certain languages or the font size will have to be minimized to fit on the same number of pages.

No Whitespace vs Sufficient Whitespace in MS Word

No Whitespace vs. Sufficient Whitespace

In the example above, there is some whitespace to accommodate text expansion in certain languages.

BONUS TIP: Most languages do not expand more than 25%. Keep this in mind when determining how much space to leave.

2. Simple Formatting

Whatever formatting you do include in your MS Word templates should be kept as simple as possible, while still maintaining the look you are aiming for.

Things like colors, bolds, italics, underlines, and numbered/bulleted lists are relatively easy to incorporate. But if you add formatting beyond those basics, like images (especially those which contain non-editable text), tables, and graphs, duplicating it in the translated templates can be tricky.

Keep in mind that you may end up translating into languages which read right-to-left (such as Arabic, Farsi or Hebrew), and all your formatting will have to be flipped!

  • Normal
  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underlined

Less is more when it comes to formatting. Keep it simple.

BONUS TIP: Typically, logos are not translated, so you don’t have to worry about the complexity of your logo in relation to translation.

3. Fonts

As an element of formatting, fonts deserve special mention. Both the font you select and its size are important to consider when creating your localization-ready templates. English has an exceptionally wide range of options for font selection – this is not true for all other languages, even if they share the same script as English.

Not all fonts can support accents, umlauts, or other special characters. Picking a basic Unicode font for your templates, such as Arial or Times New Roman, will ensure close to universal compatibility for languages which use the Latin or Cyrillic scripts.

Latin Script vs. Cyrillic Script

Latin Script vs. Cyrillic Script (Image Source: http://www.wazu.jp)

The size of your font should also be carefully chosen in the source template. You should choose a size which is 1-2 points above the minimum size you can tolerate.

This is because of language expansion – if the translated text runs out of whitespace to grow into, the next move will likely be to reduce the font size in the translated language.

If your template started out at font size 8 in English, imagine how difficult it would be to read in font size 6 in Russian or Spanish!

BONUS TIP: For languages that use a different writing system than English, the font will probably have to be substituted for a language-specific font. Your language service company should know which font to use, so you don’t have to worry.

4. Line Spacing

The space between lines is also an important element of formatting when preparing templates that will be localized. Some languages are “taller” than others, due to accents or other markings above or below the script.

This means that your content may end up looking crowded in other languages if not enough space is left between lines.

Adjusting the Line Spacing in MS Word

Adjust the Line Spacing in MS Word

Typically, 1.15 – 1.5 line spacing should be sufficient, whereas single spacing could be risky depending on what languages you plan to translate into.

BONUS TIP: Check out this support article if you don’t know how to change the default line spacing in MS Word.

5. Complex Style Sheets

Style sheets are risky for localization-ready templates because they dictate elements of the formatting. The more elements you add to your style sheet, the more opportunities there are for corruption in the translated file.

Styles in MS Word

Avoid Complex MS Word Styles in Localized Documents

One of the more difficult-to-detect style sheet errors comes from forcing the file to change the font when converting from MS Word into a PDF format. This is not easily noticed by a linguist, as the MS Word file may look perfect when they are working in it, only to be corrupted upon clicking save.

BONUS TIP: Check out a step-by-step explanation on how to customize/create style sheets in MS Word here.

6. Mail Merge

Many templates will require customer information to be filled in to personalize the document to the recipient. These customizable fields can be anything from names, addresses, or dates, to information pulled from a reference document, like a reason for denial from an insurance policy, or prescription instructions for a medication.

Mail Merge in MS Word

Test All Mail Merge Fields in the Translated Files

These fields are very useful when properly set up. When using them in templates which will be translated, you must consider whether the information source should also be translated.

Names and addresses usually should not be translated, whereas the insurance policy or prescription instructions surely would need to be.

Dates may need to be formatted differently depending on the language – Some languages reverse the order of the month, day, and year, whereas others may use a different calendar system altogether!

If you have any doubts about whether something should be translated, contact us or your language service company for advice.

BONUS TIP: Many European languages write their dates DD/MM/YYYY instead of the U.S. English method of MM/DD/YYYY. You can avoid all confusion in your translation by writing dates out in full in the English template file (January 10, 2018 vs. 01/10/2018).

7. Autofill Fields

Autofill fields are similarly tricky. Their most frequent application is to add a date that automatically fills in to today’s date.

This works seamlessly in English, has some hiccups in Spanish, and is not available in other languages (in the U.S. version of MS Word).

Autofill Fields in MS Word

Avoid Autofill Fields

Adding this field to your templates poses a huge risk for error in the translations. The date will not auto-update, or it may revert to English in the translated file, looking totally out of place.

Avoid autofill fields in your templates if you are looking to have them localized.

BONUS TIP: If you must use autofill fields, come up with a procedure to have these double checked for correctness in the translations.

8. Fillable Form Fields

Adding in fillable form fields makes a lot of sense in templates that are going to be filled out by the end user.

Fillable Form Fields in MS Word

Consider Alternatives to Fillable Form Fields

However, when flipping formatting, these fields often become corrupted or malfunction in right-to-left languages. Including them in your template can lead to less professional looking translations because of the issues that may arise. It is best to avoid using them altogether.

BONUS TIP: A universally usable alternative is to put a simple underline where the user will input their information.

9. Tables of Contents/Linked Elements

Linking headers, page numbers, and Tables of Contents in, for example, a handbook is a great way to ensure that your document is easy to navigate.

However, when you translate your document, this is another complex automated element where risk for error is introduced. All automated elements are inherently risky in localization-ready files.

One way to minimize the risk is to keep your linked headers short and concise. That way, when some languages expand, they have room to fit in the table of contents without drastic edits to the existing formatting and line breaks.


Table of Contents in MS Word

Update and Test the Table of Contents

When the Table of Contents is automatically updated to match the translated headers and the new page numbers, it must be checked for accuracy. The Table of Contents does not update automatically to match the newly translated headers and will remain in English unless manually forced to update. If that step is forgotten, it is, of course, very disruptive to the target audience!

However, as long as no specific font is dictated by the Table of Contents, the Table of Contents is forced to update, and the linguists check that the automatic links have worked, this feature can be used in templates.

Lastly, using text that auto-populates from the document properties (title, subject, etc.) is extremely risky, as that text will revert to English if it hasn’t been manually updated in the document properties themselves!

BONUS TIP: Include page numbers in the footer of your document so you can easily check that the Table of Contents refers to the correct pages.

10. Native Files

Keeping the native files on-hand is important for any document you plan to translate. But for templates, there is an added layer – you must keep not only the English files, but also the native, editable versions of your translations.

Templates are usually living documents which are frequently updated, and if you lose the editable versions of either the English or translated documents, you will have to recreate them from scratch – or pay your language service company to – each time you make an update.

Microsoft Office for Multilingual Content Creation

Keep All Native Files

Keeping all native files on hand is an excellent way to save money on updating translated content as well.

BONUS TIP: PDF versions of your files are great for distribution via email or web, but they do not count as “native” files. Native files are always editable and come from the original program where they were created, in this case that would be MS Word.

11. Versioning in English (source) and Translated (target) Files

Because of the tendency for template files to be updated regularly, you will want an organized system for tracking versions, and whatever system you settle on should be used consistently in both the English file and all translated files.

Suggestions for versioning methods include: a footer indicating version number or “last updated date”, adding a version number to the file name, or others.

Whenever possible, keep a track-changes version of your file when you make edits. This will allow linguists to see exactly where changes were made so they can reflect the updates in the translations as well.

BONUS TIP: Do not delete old versions! It is possible that your language service company may need to refer to older versions of the files when making updates to the translations.

Need assistance with translating and localizing your MS Word documents or templates?

Let’s discuss your specific needs. Contact us.


After reading this article, you should feel more confident in creating MS Word templates that are ready to be translated and localized into other languages.

We found that similar clients that utilize these practices save time and money in both the short and long run and hope you will, too.

Creating localization-ready templates in MS Word is easy – Keep it simple, keep it organized, and ask us or your language service company for guidance!

5 Best Practices for Public Health Language Translation

I have been working closely with public health professionals for over ten years now. My experience includes working with various state and county public health departments, with a specific focus on multicultural communication.

With the APHA Annual Meeting & Expo about to start, I thought this would be a great time to share my experiences with you about the best practices I have learned and implemented over the years doing language translation for public health clients.

One of your goals as a public health professional is to ensure health equity for the people you serve. One way to do that is to offer content in their native language. Here are the 5 best practices for public health language translation you can apply immediately in your field of work.

1. Understand the Target Audience

Prior to having your public health materials translated, you must first understand your target audience. Is the target audience LEP (limited-English proficient) persons that immigrated to the United States, or do they still reside in their native countries? For this article, let’s assume you are targeting LEP populations in the United States.

Diverse Target Audience

The next step is to identify the languages of LEP persons you are targeting. You can do this in person by using I-SPEAK cards available at www.lep.gov. Once the language is identified, it should be stored in the respective LEP person’s health record. This information can then be aggregated and used to determine the most commonly-requested languages in your public health district to ensure meaningful access to services.

Another source you can use to determine the languages in your area are various demographic surveys. Using this method will give you a high-level view of the languages in your area. It’s not as precise as the first method I mentioned above.

Your takeaway: Know and understand your LEP target audience before translating your public health content.

2. Translate for the Appropriate Reading Level

MedlinePlus.gov recommends writing your health content for the 7th or 8th-grade reading level. This is perfectly fine for a native English-speaking audience. When you are ready to translate your English public health content into other languages, I recommend targeting the 5th or 6th-grade reading level.

Translate for the appropriate reading level

The reason behind this is that the education level of certain immigrant populations may not be as high as your typical native English speaker. In fact, I’ve personally observed persons in certain communities who can speak their native language, but have a tough time reading.

If a person can’t read in English, let alone their native language, you will have a tough time communicating with him or her. To help ensure better understanding, target a lower reading level and follow the plain language guidelines.

Your takeaway: Instruct your translation vendor to translate for the 5th or 6th-grade reading level.

3. Create a Glossary and Style Guide

Every industry has specific terminology and jargon. Public health is not an exception to this rule.

For example, terms such as assurance, benchmarks, cultural competence, evidence, risk assessment and vector can mean different things in different contexts. To avoid misunderstandings, you probably already have an English public health glossary such as this one.


Many states have their public health glossaries available in languages such as Spanish. For other languages, especially those of rare diffusion, have your translation vendor assist you with creating one. The benefits of having approved bilingual glossaries is improved consistency in public health communication.

A style guide is just as important for the look and feel of the public health materials as a glossary is for the content and context of the translated text. The style guide should address abbreviations, acronyms, units, and terms that should be transliterated or kept in English, among other things.

Here is a great example of an English style guide for public health communication.

Your takeaway: Create and utilize bilingual glossaries and style guides for your translated public health material.

4. Localize Photos and Graphics

Adapting a piece of content into another language typically requires more than translating the text. A publication laid out in InDesign will have text, along with visual elements such as photos and images. Some of those images may contain text within them!

Washington State Dept. of Health English Source

In most cases, it is recommended that you have the photos and images localized for the target audience. This means that you may decide to replace images of people with photos of people who look more like a typical speaker of that language. Having localized photos and images will create a better end-user experience. It will help the person relate to the translated piece of content.

It’s also important to consider cultural factors when localizing photos and images, so you don’t offend your target audience. Here are some things to avoid: hand symbols and gestures, religious symbols, and animal symbols that could have emotional meanings.

Conversely, here are some visual elements you can include: images of nature, abstract shapes, inanimate objects, globally recognized public health symbols and other standardized images that particular cultures won’t find offensive.

Your takeaway: Think beyond text translation. Make sure all photos and images are localized properly.

5. Involve Local Communities

For your public health communication to be successful, you must first build trust with your target audience. This is true regardless of the language you’re communicating in. If your target audience doesn’t have trust in you, your communication will not be as effective as it could be.

Friendly Government

Most public health agencies being government entities must build trust with the local immigrant communities in their districts. The reason behind this is that in some countries, government agencies are viewed as corrupt entities that are out to extort people. This is especially true in developing countries that are torn by war and other conflicts.

How do you build trust?

By involving your local communities before, during and after translating your public health content. The best way to do this is through community meetings and workgroups. You will be getting the communities involved, with the help of language interpreters, and build trust.

By doing this you will emphasize that government is not a threat. This will help focus more on the public health issues you’re addressing to begin with.

Your takeaway: Communicate and build trust with the local immigrant communities for your public health communication to be successful.

Need assistance with your public health content translation?

Let’s discuss your specific needs. Contact us.


Language translation plays a big part in ensuring health equity in public health. You can define the success of your public health communication by understanding your target audience, their cultural and educational background, creating a glossary and style guide, localizing photos and images, and building trust.

Following these best practices and working with language translation vendors who can help you execute them is essential to successful communications. It’s also time and money well spent.

Please share other best practices you’ve come across as a public health professional working with diverse communities in the comments.

3 Reasons to Provide Interpreters for Your Customers

For businesses in certain industries, it’s a fairly common practice to provide interpreters for their customers. In this article, I will use the healthcare industry as an example, where the patient is a customer.

You may view providing interpreters as just another unnecessary business expense. Let me show you why it is necessary and how working with interpreters can be beneficial to you, regardless of the industry you are in.

Whether you are a seasoned consumer of interpreting services or are just now looking into launching a language access program, I will give you three solid reasons to provide interpreters for your customers.

1. Increase Brand Awareness

Everyone wants their business to be successful, and one way to do that is to create brand awareness. As a healthcare practice, you might be doing that by sponsoring local events, investing in your online presence and offering referral discounts.

Why not advertise the fact that you also provide language interpreters?

Brand Awareness

It’s true that some states and insurance companies will reimburse you for providing interpreters for your patients, while most of the time you will have to cover the cost directly. If you pay for interpreters directly, here’s how to justify it as a marketing expense.

Run a local awareness campaign, advertising that you serve diverse communities of patients who speak Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese and other languages. Include that you also serve the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community with the help of sign language interpreters.

Such an approach will only help increase brand awareness of your business in the local community and allow you to justify interpreters as a marketing expense.

Providing interpreters for your customers will improve your position in the market you’re serving. By limiting your communication to one language, you do not realize the full potential of your business. Turn that around by letting your customers know you can serve them in many languages.

2. Improve Customer Satisfaction

Every business wants satisfied customers. After all, satisfied customers tell friends and colleagues about their experience interacting with you. They may even leave a review about your business on Yelp or elsewhere.

Ratings and Reviews

Your job is to leverage that to your advantage. Be known as that awesome clinic that helps all patients, regardless of the language they speak (or sign). Don’t be the clinic that takes shortcuts and lacks in providing a great patient experience.

Improving customer satisfaction is an investment, so you must be ready and committed to pay for it. If you hire staff interpreters, that’s fantastic. If you contract with language service companies for interpreter referrals, that’s also a good thing.

Regardless of how you approach providing interpreters for your patients, be sure to do it right. Work with interpreters that help your business succeed so you can reap the rewards of satisfied customers – getting more customers and five-star online reviews.

3. Comply with Laws and Regulations

Every business wants to comply with laws and regulations. If they are not, it would be tough to continue staying in business. Being subjected to a lawsuit or a government audit will not only drain your bank account, but may also put you out of business.

Laws and Regulations

When it comes to providing language interpreters, particularly in healthcare settings, it’s required by law more often than not. The cost of providing interpreters for your patients is marginal compared to what you would pay to survive an audit or pay out in a legal settlement.

And no, you cannot pass the cost of interpreters to your patients.

Taking this approach, you can categorize interpreter services as a compliance expense.

How much will interpreting services cost us?

Every event requiring interpreting services is unique, including yours.

Let’s discuss the details, so we can provide you with a ballpark estimate.

For most events, we can typically provide a ballpark estimate the same day.

Contact us to get started.


You now have three reasons to provide interpreters for your customers, regardless of whether your business is in healthcare or another industry. Each reason gives you a unique angle and justification for providing such services.

If you are already providing interpreter services, you are a third of the way there! Why not try some of the tactics I outlined in reasons one and two? If you are new to requesting interpreters, here’s an article that will explain how to do it.

It will only benefit your business to increase brand awareness and improve customer satisfaction.

Have more reasons or thoughts to share about this topic?

Post them in the comments.

Fast & Cheap Quality Translation – Fact or Myth?

Have you ever thought about getting that awesome tattoo and hoped not to regret it later?

Most of us have, including myself. A tattoo can be something simple that takes minutes to complete or more elaborate that takes months, if not years.

It can be done by a professional tattoo artist at a reputable parlor or by an amateur somewhere in a basement.

Whether you choose to go with a professional or an amateur, there will be a certain risk factor associated with each one.

That risk directly relates to the cost and quality of the service provided to you.

No Ragrets - Spelling Error

Surprisingly, tattoo parlors and artists are no different from language service companies and translators.

The ugly truth behind translation services is people may think that all translation services are made equal. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

It’s really like comparing apples and oranges. And in every crate of apples and oranges there are a few bad ones that may spoil it for everyone else.

Some companies may be able to charge less for their services. However, the odds are they can do this by cutting corners. Here are some examples.

Relying too much on technology

It’s easy to plug your text into a free translation tool on the web and get results. What’s troublesome is that some companies and translators do this and then charge for their work.

If this is the quality you are looking for, you might as well do it yourself for free.

Not working with professional translators

Some companies may use bilingual people who “think” they know how to translate. It’s an equivalent of someone watching a few episodes of Law & Order and thinking they can suddenly practice law.

Using economies of scale

This includes paying translators in other countries ridiculously low fees. Who can live on that?

Language translation is one of the oldest professions in the world and professional translators deserve to be compensated accordingly.

Applying different processes to their translation workflow

For example, they only use one linguist for translation, editing & proofreading (TEP) process. Whereas, others may use one, two or three linguists for a project (one for each of the TEP steps).

A true TEP process will yield the highest quality service.

The Value of Professional Translation

As Jonny Henchman points in his article: Translation: Price is what you pay, Value is what you get,

“the big issue is that many language service companies have been competing against each other in a race to the bottom on cost and deadlines for so long that many of their clients believe that price and speed are the only differentiating factors in the industry.”

Think about this.

You’ve already invested significant time, money and resources in creating your content in English.

Your reputation is on the line in your messaging.

Now you need the same content in other languages.

Why cut corners now?

If you want it fast and cheap, be prepared for low quality work. If that’s okay with you, there will always be someone to do it.

If quality is an important part of your brand and content messaging, I recommend you work with an experienced language services company that works with professional human translators.

Download this article in PDF format.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Please share in the comments.

This article was originally published on August 7, 2014 and has been updated on August 31, 2016.

How Teamwork Leads to Quality Translations

Let’s say you’re planning to get some materials translated. You’re prepared to pay for professional translation services, because you understand the benefits. You’ve even found a language service company (LSC) that you trust, and you’re ready to get a quote.

However, you’re still hesitant, because you want to know with 100% certainty that you’ve received a quality translation, but you don’t personally speak the languages your content is being translated into.

How do you know the translations will be good quality?

Here’s how you can ensure your quality expectations are met.

Work as a Team

Getting quality translations is a team effort.


Your team should be made up of the following parties:


Your translation vendor and linguistic team.

Your internal reviewers (this one is optional).

Now that your team is in place, here are the ways teamwork will help you get quality translations.

What You Can Do

You may be wondering how you can aid in the translation process, when you don’t even speak the languages in question.

To-Do List

Well, your role is actually in the preparation – what you send your translation vendor can set them up for success. Alternatively, if you do not prepare, your translation vendor may be fighting an uphill battle.

So what can you do?

Spell-check and proofread the source file.

Make sure it is actually the final version before you send it to your translation vendor!

Allow white space for text expansion.

Different languages take different amounts of space to say the same thing. Spanish, for example, takes 25% more space when compared to English. Whereas Chinese actually takes less space than English.

When in doubt, extra white space is your friend. If you jam every inch of the page with English text, your translation vendor will have no room to maneuver, and the translations may end up too small to read!

Eliminate extra spaces and unnecessary line-breaks.

Any qualified translation vendor will use a translation memory (TM) software program to aid with the translation process and ensure consistency in translation. These TM tools break the text into segments for translation (words, phrases, sentences, etc.).

If a line break is inserted in the middle of a sentence, that sentence will become two incomplete segments in the TM program. This can create confusion during the translation process.

Write the source file using the tone, formality, and reading level you would like your translations delivered in.

In the absence of special instructions, the translators will take their style cues from the source document. If it is written informally in English, the translators will mirror that in their translation. If you want the translations done differently than the original English document, you may need to provide special instructions.

Provide specific instructions about any expectations you have for the final product.

These instructions can include anything from export settings for print-ready PDFs, to reading levels, to fonts, etc.

Provide a glossary and style guide.

If you have translations done regularly, consider developing a glossary and style guide for your translation vendor to use. Glossaries can be monolingual (terms + definitions) to help the linguists with understanding industry-specific terms, or they can be bilingual (English term + translated term) so your linguistic team knows what your preferred translations are for specific terminology.

A style guide can help your linguistic team understand how to handle things like measurements, addresses, department names and other items in the translations.

Let your vendor know who to contact with questions.

And make sure that person is available for the duration of the project in the event that questions arise.

What Your Translation Vendor & Linguistic Team Should Do

You know that you want your translation vendor and translators to be thorough.

What to Expect

But if you’re unfamiliar with the translation process, you may not know what “thorough” means!

What can you expect?

File preparation.

In order to ensure compatibility with their translation memory software and compliance with your expectations, the translation vendor will check and prepare the file before sending it to the linguistic team.

Detailed project instructions.

Project instructions will be compiled and organized before being provided to the linguistic team. They should understand clearly what the expectations are prior to the project launch.

Translation, Editing & Proofreading (TEP).

Translations are translated, edited and proofread by a team of at least two native speakers.

Translation memory (TM).

A TM software program is used to help maintain consistency in the translations.

Typesetting/Desktop Publishing (DTP).

The typesetting portion is performed by a design team experienced in multilingual DTP. Formatting of the translations will match the original source file as closely as possible.

Post-DTP review.

The typeset files are returned to the linguistic team and a quality assurance review is performed by a native speaker.

In-house Quality Assurance (QA).

The translation vendor will perform a final in-house QA review, checking that nothing is missing, and the formatting matches.

What Your Internal Reviewers Should Do

After the translations are complete and delivered to you, you have the option to do an internal review.

Review and Feedback

If you have bilingual staff, or a community panel, you may choose to have the translations checked to make sure they work for your specific audience.

How can you and your translation vendor work together?

Check with your translation vendor.

Consult with your translation vendor ahead of time. Client internal review may be included in their pricing!

Provide feedback.

Compile your reviewers’ feedback. This can be submitted either by using track-changes in MS Word, or by using the editing/comments features in a PDF version of the translation.

Client suggestions are reviewed.

The suggested changes will be reviewed by the original linguistic team.

Responses to feedback.

The changes may be implemented right away without question if the linguists find no issue with them. However, if the changes are preferential or not advisable, you will be provided with responses and justification for the linguists’ recommendations.

Final decision.

After receiving the feedback, you will make the final decision regarding what changes to implement and which ones should be ignored.


Your translation vendor will implement the changes according to your preference.


Ensuring quality translations is not just the job of your translation vendor. It is a team effort from the beginning. If everyone does their part, a satisfactory translation can be delivered every time.

Remember that you are an important part of the team. To ensure translation quality of your content, you must work closely with the translation vendor, your assigned linguistic team and your internal reviewers.

Now you know the key roles each member of the team plays in the quality assurance process.

Share your questions and thoughts in the comments.

The 3 Constraints That Define a Successful Localization Project

As a buyer and consumer of language services, you have a certain expectation for quality.

What you may not know is that there are three constraints that play a role in achieving quality.

The last thing you want is to be disappointed by the translation vendor you’re working with, right?

If I were in your shoes, I certainly wouldn’t.

And if I was dissatisfied, I would even go as far as looking to establish a business relationship with another translation vendor.

But why go through the disappointment, when you can do things right from the start?

Here is how you can set yourself up for success before each localization project for your organization.

This applies to something as basic as a one-page letter that takes a day to translate, or as complicated as a large eLearning localization project that will last several months.

The 3 Constraints of Localization Projects

The 3 constraints that define a successful localization project are: scope, time and cost.

Read on to find out how they correlate and impact your expectation of quality.

1. Scope

The scope includes all work that will be done during the project.

As a project sponsor or customer, set your expectations for the project with the translation vendor you’re working with.

Project Scope

It’s critically as important to have processes in place to verify the scope once the project is completed.

There is always a chance that certain content doesn’t need to be translated or localized. Learn more about that here.

2. Time

The time component measures how long it will take to complete the project.

Your expectations of turnaround time may be different than what’s realistically possible.

Know your deadline

Your translation vendor will work with you to agree on a mutually acceptable timetable.

Defining a formal deliverables schedule is recommended. Your translation vendor may even have a delivery schedule template they can supply for this purpose.

3. Cost

The project cost is the third and final constraint of a localization project.

You have a budget to work with and any overruns can cause fiscal problems that impact your entire organization.

It’s generally a good idea to get estimates from various translation vendors.

Estimating Project Cost

However, don’t be fooled by the lowest price. Fast and cheap quality translation comes at a price that you are not ready to pay.

Lastly, don’t forget to define who can authorize changes to the budget and how the costs will be tracked.

Setting Scope, Time and Cost Targets

The most important thing you can do before approving the project with your translation vendor is set specific targets for each of the three constraints in the beginning of the project.

For example, a large eLearning localization project might have an initial scope of translating course materials into 12 languages, localizing the audio-visual components and recording multilingual voice-overs for each video.

With the help of your assigned translation project manager, you might further define the project scope to include a rough time and cost estimate, and assessments of the risk and potential payoff as high, medium or low.

The initial time estimate for this project might be three months, and the cost between $65,000 and $75,000.

You will notice that for large scale projects, the scope, time and cost targets should always be defined in ranges. Rarely does a localization project end up hitting precise targets.

Aim for the target

For small projects, your translation vendor can generally provide you with a precise time and cost estimate. Here’s how you can get a quick translation estimate from any vendor.

Understand that because localization projects involve uncertainty and limited resources, they rarely finish according to a discrete scope, time and cost goals according to the original plan.

In the end, you and your translation vendor should have an understanding to hit the target, not the bull’s eye.

How Scope, Time and Cost Relate to Each Other

You have to be ready to make trade-offs between scope, time and cost goals for the project. For example, you might need to increase the budget for the project to meet scope and time goals.

Alternatively, you might have to reduce the scope of a project to meet time and cost goals.

Changes in project scope

Ultimately, you must decide which aspect of the triple constraint is more important.

Your assigned translation project manager can make recommendations to help you with the decision.

If time is most important, you must often change the initial scope and cost goals to meet your desired turnaround time. If scope goals are most important, you may need to adjust time and cost goals.

Scope, Time and Cost in Relation to Quality

Quality considerations, including customer satisfaction, are inherent in setting the scope, time and cost goals of a localization project.

Even if your translation vendor meets the scope, time and cost goals of the project, but fails to meet quality standards or satisfy your expectations as a customer, you will perceive the project as a failure and may seek another vendor to work with.

Are you prepared to invest in quality translations?

The best way to ensure customer satisfaction and address quality expectations is through consistent communication between you and the translation vendor.

For a three-month long project, it’s not uncommon to have weekly meetings to ensure the project is going according to plan.

Your assigned translation project manager should be communicating with you throughout the project to make sure the project is meeting your expectations.

Visualizing the Triple Constraint and Quality Expectations

Here is a nice graphic to help you visualize the concepts of this article.

How would you like your translation?

Big thanks to Richard Brooks and the team at K International for putting this graphic together.


As a buyer and consumer of languages services, here is how you can avoid the problems that occur when your translation vendor meets the scope, time and cost goals, but loses sight of quality or customer satisfaction.

The answer is through consistent communication and good project management.

Understanding that a localization project is more than just about meeting the triple constraint of scope, time and cost will set you and your organization up for success.

Ultimately, it’s the quality and customer satisfaction that will determine if the project is successful.

Has your translation vendor met your localization project expectations?

Share your stories in the comments.

What You Need to Know About Audio Localization

There may come a need in your organization where you have to take an audio content piece recorded in English and have it localized into Spanish, or perhaps into another language.

Where do you start? I will show you!

If you are new to audio localization, you should know what it means first. Audio localization is different from sound localization. Sound localization refers to a listener’s ability to identify the location of a sound in direction and distance.

Audio localization is the process of taking sound content, especially when recorded, transmitted or reproduced, and adapting it to a specific locale or market. Audio localization oftentimes includes language translation as a part of the process.

Read on to find more about the audio localization process how it can be applied within your organization.

Business Applications for Localized Audio

How do you integrate audio localization in your business? Here are three examples.

1. Learning Courses

You have your training content developed in English, which is great for your English-speaking customers and employees. But what about customers and employees that speak other languages?

Localization of eLearning Courses

According to Christopher Pappas, one of the benefits of localized eLearning courses is the increase of knowledge acquisition and retention rates. That in turn, should lead to happy customers and employees.

2. Commercials

Nielsen’s Hispanic Radio Today study says that radio has a near-universal reach among Hispanic consumers. Those consumers are also huge spenders in many key retail categories. One of the best way to reach those consumers is through radio commercials that are recorded in Spanish.

Localizing audio for radio commercials

Where does localization come in? Spanish speakers in California, Texas, the New England states and Puerto Rico will all require a unique marketing approach. Your audio content will need to be localized based on those specific target markets.

3. IVR – Interactive Voice Response

Your organization uses telephones to communicate and most likely a phone tree to go along with them, right? The recorded prompts in that phone tree are in English, but you can also have them recorded in other languages to help you deliver a better customer experience.

Localized IVR phone tree for a call center

Through IVR technology, you can set up multilingual appointment reminders, payments, polls, and surveys for inbound or outbound uses.

Audio Localization Process Explained

Now that you know the business applications of audio localization, you should learn the process behind it. When working with an audio localization vendor, be prepared for the following.

Step 1 – Getting voice samples

Before your audio content can be record, voice talent must be recruited for the project. The company you’re working with should provide you with recorded voice samples. If they don’t, be sure to ask for them. It’s important for you to make a final decision on the voice talent since they will be representing your brand image.

Voice Actor Casting

I’d recommend you go with professional voice actors as opposed to working with individuals who merely speak the language. Working with professionals may seem more costly on paper, but it may also take less time to complete the recording. In the end, you get a better product when you work with professionals. More here on why you should always work with professionals.

Here are a few more things to consider when getting voice samples.

  • How many voices will you need? Your vendor should provide you with voice talent casting options if necessary.
  • What age are the actors? If you are doing voice-overs or have a specific demographic in mind, try to match the age of the on-screen actors or your target demographic whenever possible.
  • Will you need male or female voices? Ideally, you’d want to match a female source voice with a female voice-over in your target language.

Settling on the voices for your final recording is essential. Now you know what to look for.

Step 2 – Localizing the script

Now that you have your voice artists secured, it’s time to localize your script. By having your script localized, the voice artists will be able to read it in the target language. The recorded audio can then be used as a voice-over in radio, television production, eLearning courses and other content types.

Localizing the script

Here is what’s involved in this step.

1. Script Transcription

Before you have your script localized, you must first have it transcribed.

If you already have it transcribed, provide the transcription to your audio localization vendor. If not, either have it transcribed on your end or have your vendor do it.

The transcription should include time-stamps. With proper time coding, you will know exactly where to match source and target language audio. This makes everyone’s job easier!

2. Script Translation

The transcribed text is then translated for audio recording. Your vendor should offer an option of having it translated for audio recording, since translating for audio is different than translating for plain reading. This means using shorter sentences so it’s easy for the voice actor to read and breathe in-between!

Another factor to consider during the script translation is the expansion and contraction of text. If you’re having your script translated from English into Spanish, be prepared for it to expand by 25%. That will certainly impact the length of the audio recording.

If your localized audio recording in Spanish is going to be used in Mexico, Argentina or another country, have the translated script undergo an in-country review. This is an essential quality assurance step. In-country review will assure that the translated content is culturally appropriate and makes sense for the target audience.

Finally, provide a pronunciation guide to your vendor for key terms, especially brand names and acronyms. During the voice-over recording, voice actors will follow your guide to properly pronounce those key terms.

Your vendor should now present the translated script to you for approval. Once you approve it, the vendor can proceed with the audio recording process. Make sure you’re absolutely satisfied with the script. Any changes to the script during or after the recording process will cost you!

Step 3 – Recording the audio

The voice actors have been selected and you approved the localized script. It’s now time to record the audio. Nowadays you can record sound with just about anything from a professional studio recorder to a smart phone.

Since you’ve made the effort in securing professional voice talent and investing in quality script transcription and translation, you’re probably looking for equal quality in the recorded audio. This means that professional equipment must be used to achieve studio-quality sound.

Audio recording in a studio

Your vendor may have a studio in-house or may offer you an option to pay for professional studio time. Either is a good option. A studio will give you access to a sound isolation booth and professional recording equipment. Additionally, you will have access to audio engineers that will assist with the recording and post production.

Step 4 – Post production

Once your audio is recorded, it has to undergo post production. Your vendor will have audio engineers and specialists working on the tracks clean them up and adapt them to your application.

Recording Studio Mixing Console

In this step, the following tasks will occur.

  • Editing the audio voice-over.
  • Cleaning up breathing, lip and other noises.
  • Matching source tempo.
  • Addressing variations in speaker volume, tone and ambient noise.
  • Highlighting the differences between source and target language tone.
  • Adapting the audio track to video or other applications.

These are just some of the essential tasks that take place in this step. There are numerous others tasks specific to your project that will take place as well. It would take another blog article to describe all of them.

Step 5 – QA Review

As the post production wraps up, your vendor should offer a quality assurance review prior to delivering the final product to you. If everything was done correctly in the first four steps, the QA review shouldn’t take too long.

It is also essential to have a QA review to catch anything that may have slipped outside the project specifications. Any mistakes caught in this step can be fixed prior to delivery.

Step 6 – Delivery

Now that QA has been wrapped up, your files are ready to be delivered. Your vendor will deliver the files in a format specified by you. Make sure you outline the file specifications in the project scope prior to starting a project. For example, your phone system IVR may have a different file format and compression requirements compared to an eLearning module.

Are you prepared to invest in quality translations?

If you are unable to integrate the audio provided by your vendor into your final product yourself, they should be able to assist. This may cost you a little more, but might be worth the investment to have it done right.

Need assistance with your audio localization project?

Let’s discuss your specific needs. Contact us.


You’ve now learned about audio localization and how it can be applied in your organization. Having the knowledge of audio localization business applications and the process behind it will set you up for success.

More importantly, it will give you confidence to find a qualified vendor for your project. Feel free to use the information in this article to help you select a qualified audio localization vendor.

Are you ready to localize your audio content in other languages?

Share your experiences with audio localization in the comments.

What You Need to Know about Interpreter Pricing

When it comes to buying a service, there should be an effective way to quantify what you are paying for, right?

If there isn’t, the chances are you won’t buy it.

This applies to many services, including language interpreting. In this blog post, I will explain how most language service companies charge for interpreting services, the factors that determine the price, and the differences between working with companies vs. freelance interpreters.

If you are a buyer of interpreting services, this blog post is for you. If you request interpreters in your organization, you can share this article with your organization’s decision makers since it provides valuable insight on pricing structures within our industry.

Before I dive into the details and explain to you interpreter pricing, I’d like to make sure you are not confusing this with translation services. I wrote a separate article on translation pricing and how it works. You can find it here.

Here’s what you need to know about interpreter pricing.

Pricing Models and Structures

Here are the most common ways language service companies and freelance interpreters charge for their services.

1. Per hour

This is perhaps the most common way you will pay for interpreting services. Whether you’re working with a language service company or a freelance interpreter, the chances are you will need an interpreter for at least one hour for any given job.

This applies mostly to in-person interpreting encounters for both spoken and sign languages. Once you request an interpreter, the language service company will arrange one for you for a specific block of time.

The interpreter may not actually interpret for the entire reserved block of time, one hour in this case, but you are still expected to reimburse the interpreter for that time. The reason behind this is opportunity cost. The interpreter is reserved for your job, and therefore, forgoes other opportunities to make money.

In my experience, it is common to see one hour minimum fees in healthcare settings and two hour minimums in business and legal settings.

2. Per day

Full-day or half-day pricing makes sense if the job lasts longer than two hours. There is no set industry standard, but a good rule of thumb is that four hours of services equals a half day and eight hours of service is a full day.

Think bulk discount as well — When you’re quoted a half-day or full-day rate, the chances are that you will be offered a price break compared to paying for the service per hour.

Per-day rates make sense for longer jobs, such as expositions, trade shows and employee/customer training events.

If the job runs longer than scheduled, be sure you pre-negotiate reimbursement for overages, whether in 15-minute or 30-minute increments.

3. Per job

When negotiating a reimbursement for a specific job, you have the ability to control costs. You can basically have an interpreter commit to the job for a specific reimbursement amount agreed upon in advance. The biggest benefit to you is that you know exactly how much to budget for the service.

Of course, per-job pricing tends to be on the higher end of the spectrum compared to per-hour or per-day pricing. Interpreters may be reluctant to accept such terms unless it makes economic sense for them to do so.

Per-job pricing can apply to a visiting delegation from another country, for example. Let’s say the delegation visits for a week. There will be some meetings involved, site seeing and other activities where the interpreter accompanies the delegation for the entire time. Per-job pricing might be more cost-effective in such cases.

4. Per minute

The three models and structures I described so far are suited best for in-person interpreting. In-person interpreting is typically scheduled in advance and there is a definite start time and end time for the job.

But what if you need an interpreter on-demand, right now? You’re better off using telephone interpreting or video-remote interpreting (VRI). Both of those services are available on-demand once you have an account set up with your language service company.

For both telephonic interpreting and VRI, be prepared to pay per minute. The nice thing about paying per minute is that it helps you avoid hourly minimums. Then again, if your call takes longer than a certain number of minutes, an hourly rate might make more financial sense.

Telephonic interpreting is widely used by call centers in many industries, including healthcare, insurance and emergency first responders. VRI is becoming widely adapted in healthcare settings.

5. Minimum price and cancellation fees

Regardless whether you are choosing to request an interpreter for in-person service or over another medium, make sure you understand the terms of service. Specifically, you should be aware of any minimum fees the interpreter charges for his or her service.

Here is a quick table for you to reference about different scenarios and the terms that may apply to them.

Service: In-person interpreting
ScenarioBilling UnitMinimum FeeCancellation Policy
Medical appointmentHour1 hour24 hours
Administrative hearingHour2 hours48 hours
Business meetingHour2 hours48 hours
Employee trainingDay4 to 8 hours24 to 48 hours
Delegation visitJobAs negotiatedAs negotiated
Service: Telephonic & video-remote interpreting
ScenarioBilling UnitMinimum FeeCancellation Policy
Medical appointmentMinute1 minuteNone
Administrative hearingMinute1 minuteNone
911-Emergency phone callMinute1 minuteNone
Insurance claimMinute1 minuteNone

The information above is just for your guidance. Terms may vary depending on the language service company or interpreter you work with. You can read more about why interpreters charge for untimely cancellations here.

6. Mileage, travel and other related expenses

In some cases, an interpreter will have to travel to a job site. While it is possible for the interpreter to write off the mileage associated with the trip during tax preparation, he or she may want to claim that mileage to be reimbursed in advance by you.

The mileage reimbursement rate should equal that of the federal mileage rate set forth by the IRS. As of the date of this article, the rate is 57.5 cents per mile. To get the most recent rate, visit the IRS website for more information.

Other related expenses may also be claimed by the interpreter, including travel time, ferry, parking and toll fees. In some cases, airfare, meals and lodging may also need to be reimbursed.

As always, remember to negotiate such reimbursements in advance with the company or freelance interpreters you are working with.

Factors that Determine the Price

Here are some of the factors that help determine the price you pay for interpreter services.

1. Type of job

Different jobs require different levels of expertise. Medical appointments, legal depositions, business meetings, university classes, and conferences may all require interpreter assistance. All of these settings call for interpreters with specific subject-matter knowledge.

For example, interpreting in conference settings requires a simultaneous interpretation skillset, whereas consecutive interpreting is used in medical appointments.

Due to the sheer nature of different job types that require interpreter assistance, this factor plays a significant role in determining the cost of services.

2. Certification requirements

In addition to the job type, certain clients require interpreters to be certified. This is especially true for court proceedings. Many states have established court interpreter certification programs, where individuals get certified and have to maintain their credentials on an ongoing basis. There are two national healthcare interpreter certifications now as well, CCHI & NBCMI, that are gradually being adopted by healthcare providers across the country.

Because getting certified and maintaining a certification requires a financial commitment from interpreters, expect to pay a premium for their services.

3. Language combination

United States is very diverse when it comes to languages and cultures. The second most spoken language in the U.S. after English is Spanish. Since there are so many Spanish speakers, there’s also an adequate supply of Spanish interpreters.

When you have a language such as Marshallese or Tongan, things change quite a bit, since those languages are not as frequently demanded. Therefore, there are not as many interpreters available for those specific jobs.

As a result, be prepared to pay more for interpreters who specialize in languages of lesser diffusion than those that speak more common languages.

4. Location

There are two points to consider when it comes to location of service. The first is the location itself. Requesting interpreter services in a major metro area such as Portland, Oregon will probably be a lot easier than in a smaller market such as Yakima, Washington.

The second is the interpreter’s location in proximity to the place of service. If the interpreter has to travel for the job, he or she may claim mileage and other related fees, driving the overall cost of services up.

When working with language service companies or freelance interpreters, be sure the interpreter is located close to where you will need his or her services, as this will save you costs.

5. Location

The bigger the volume, the more discount you can potentially get. In other words, the more consistent work opportunities you can offer, the better price you can leverage. If you are planning to make a one-time request for an interpreter, be prepared to pay for it.

If it’s an ongoing commitment, specify this to your language service company or a freelance interpreter and ask for a better price.

Company vs. Freelancer Pricing Comparison

Some clients prefer to work with language service companies, while others prefer to work directly with freelance interpreters. There are also some that work with both. Which is right for you will depend on your service needs.

When comparing prices between the two options, you might assume that working with a freelancer will definitely be more cost-effective. Your assumption may be correct, especially if you plan on working with only one or a handful interpreters at most. You will have the leverage to negotiate a direct reimbursement rate with those interpreters, bypassing the referral benefits of a language service company.

If you work in a larger organization that has a need for many interpreters, working with freelancers may not be the most cost effective way to go for you. Even with the latest interpreter scheduling software, you need to consider the staff time you will need to dedicate in managing scheduling, billing and other related tasks, when working with freelancers.

Working with a language service company helps you unload those tasks and just focus on requesting interpreters for your specific jobs. The language service company handles the scheduling, billing and other tasks related to interpreter services on your behalf.

I created the table below to help you see the benefits each scenario can provide for you.

Benefits Table
BenefitLanguage Service CompanyFreelance InterpreterBoth
Language-specific Cost SavingsYesYesYes
On-demand ServiceYesYesYes
Subject-matter ExpertiseYesYesYes
Dedicated Account ManagementYesYes
Different Geographic LocationsYesYes
Professional Liability Insurance CoverageYesYes
Variety of LanguagesYesYes
Overall Cost SavingsYes
Consistent Billing & Scheduling ProcessYes
What about Free Interpretation Services?

I say this again and again: You get what you pay for. On a rare occasion, you may have a professional interpreter volunteer his or her time for your job. However, don’t expect this to be an ongoing thing. Being a professional interpreter is a career. People who work as professional interpreters get paid accordingly.

Those not familiar with the language services industry oftentimes assume that bilingual individuals are interpreters. This is simply not true. It is true that an interpreter is bilingual, but a bilingual individual is not necessarily an interpreter. You can read more about that topic here.

If you are looking to work with professional interpreters, be prepared to allocate a budget for their services. On very rare occasions, you may get lucky with one that volunteers his or her services at no cost.

How much will interpreting services cost us?

Every event requiring interpreting services is unique, including yours.

Let’s discuss the details, so we can provide you with a ballpark estimate.

For most events, we can typically provide a ballpark estimate the same day. Contact us to get started.


You’ve now learned about pricing for language interpreting services and how it’s determined. Having this knowledge, you are now in a better position to procure and request interpreters from language services companies or working directly with freelancers.

Share your experiences with interpreter pricing and any questions you may have in the comments.

Translation Pricing – How does it work?

You shop online and get frustrated when a company’s website just doesn’t give you the answers that you need, right?

One of those answers just happens to be to a very important question.

How much does it cost?

After all, before you decide to work with a particular company and buy products or services from it, you’d like to know how much you will be spending on those products or services.

And you are right.

You should be able to quantify the value you get for the money you pay, and in order to do that you need to know the price.

Professional translation and services related to it happen to fall into this category.

You won’t find many companies listing prices for translation services on their websites. The reason is that each translation project requires a unique approach and there are many variables involved in determining its price.

Sure, there are companies out there that list their prices for translation services, but I would be hesitant to work with them in a professional capacity due to their blind approach to pricing.

So, how does translation pricing work?

Read on to find out.

If you are in a rush, download this article in PDF format to read later.

Measuring the cost of translation
Pricing Models and Structures

Here is how most language services companies charge for translation services.

1. Per word

This is the most common unit you will encounter, since many translators and companies charge for their services per word.

Per-word pricing tends to be the most fair for all parties involved. The reason behind this is that the actual effort involved in translating a document may vary from translator to translator.

For example, a blog article that contains 2,000 words may take one translator 8 hours to translate, while another can do it in 6 hours.

Paying per word helps you keep project costs in control as opposed to paying per hour.

Another thing to look for in per-word pricing is whether you are being charged based on the source or target word count. For example, if the source word count is 2,000 words and you are charged $0.25/word, the total cost will come out to $500.

But let’s say your document is being translated from English into Spanish, and the target word count will increase by roughly 20% in the Spanish version due to expansion.

In other words, 2,000 English words all of the sudden become 2,400 Spanish words after translation is completed and your bill comes out to $600.

The difference between paying per source as opposed to per target word could have a significant impact on your translation budget, so be aware of that.

Finally, sometimes you will see quotes from companies quoting “per thou”, or per thousand words. This is common for projects that are over 1,000 words in volume.

In the example above you would be paying $250 per thou (or $0.25/word).

2. Per page

Some companies will charge to translate your content based on the number of pages your document contains.

Per-page pricing works well for documents where an electronic word count cannot be obtained. A good example of this would be any documents that were scanned to a PDF file, such as medical records, court documents and IEPs.

Per-page price is determined by an estimate number of words on a single page.

Let’s say you have 50 pages of medical records you need translated. We can assume there are roughly 500 words of content on each page.

The content may be typed and include handwriting as well, since many medical records have progress notes on them. Your language services company quotes you $100 per page.

The total project price you will be paying is $5,000.

This sounds expensive and there is a chance that you could probably pay less, since not all pages have 500 words of content. The way to do that is to ask for per-word pricing.

However, in order for per-word pricing to be accurate, you should provide the language services company with editable files whenever possible and avoid scanned PDFs.

3. Per hour

It’s not very often you will find companies charging for translation services by the hour.

As I’ve previously noted in the per-word pricing, it’s hard to estimate the amount of effort each translation project will take.

You will encounter per-hour pricing for editing and updating content that’s already been translated.

For example, that 2,000 page document you had translated into Spanish is now due for an update. You update a few paragraphs in the English version and send it along to your language services company, so they can update the Spanish version accordingly.

Sometimes it doesn’t make economic sense for the language services company to charge for such updates per word.

Instead, they may quote you to complete the updates on an hourly basis. And this usually works in your favor anyway.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you make many revisions, your source content may suddenly yield a whole new document. In such cases it might be more cost effective for you to translate the content from scratch, rather than having it revised.

Just be sure the Translation Memory the company is maintaining for you is updated as well.

4. Flat fee

When per-word, -page or -hour pricing just doesn’t make sense; you may see a flat fee estimate for your translation project.

I can only think of a few examples that I’ve encountered over the years that required flat-fee pricing.

One such example included content in Traditional Chinese that needed to be translated into English. Per-word and per-page pricing didn’t make sense for this project since the contents were actually JPG files with Chinese characters.

Per-hour pricing would’ve worked in this case, but we decided to keep things simple and quote it as a flat fee. Our client was satisfied with this approach and approved the project.

Perhaps the biggest downside to flat-fee pricing is that you don’t get the fine details of what you are actually paying for.

If you are okay with this, flat-fee pricing may work great for you. You just won’t see how your language services company arrived at the price you are paying.

5. Minimum price

Be ready to pay minimum fees to language services companies for small projects.

A small project is considered to be any document that contains up to 250 words of content. Please note that this number is arbitrary. Some companies may have a different threshold for a translation project to fall in the minimum fee category.

In other words, whether you need 25 or 250 words translated, you will still be paying a minimum fee. The minimum fee covers not only the translation part of the project, but other tasks associated with it, such as project management.

Translation ingredients
Factors that Determine the Price

Now that you learned about the most common translation pricing models and structures, you must also understand other factors that determine the price.

These factors include:

1. Number of words to be translated

Do you have a one page document with a few hundred words or a series of manuals with over 50,000 words?

The price you pay will largely be driven by the number of words you need translated.

Generally, the more words you translate, the lower the price per word will be.

2. Complexity of the subject matter

How complex is the subject matter of your content?

If you have highly technical content that requires a scientific level of expertise, be prepared to pay for such expert services.

Be cautious of companies that provide you with the same pricing regardless of the subject matter. If it’s quality that you are after, you need to budget for it accordingly. Here is more on that.

3. Language combination

Some languages are more common than others.

At NWI Global, Spanish is by far our most frequently requested language. This applies for both English into Spanish and Spanish into English translation.

As a result, we’re able to offer competitive pricing for those language combinations. Same can be said for other language services companies as well, since all companies will have a specific language combination that’s more in demand than any other language combination that they service.

When you have a rare language such as Chuukese or Marshallese, a competitive price similar to Spanish is tough to achieve.

This is a simple supply and demand issue. There are very few translators that specialize in rare language combinations and there is simply not enough demand for those language combinations.

So, when you need something translated into a rare language, be prepared to pay a premium.

4. Turnaround time

How quickly are you looking to have your content translated?

A good baseline to use for realistic turnaround times is 2,000 words per day. On average, a translator can translate about 2,000 words per day.

You should note that this is for translation only. It doesn’t include editing and proofreading by additional translators.

Can a project like this be completed in less than 24 hours?


But you’d probably be looking at paying rush fees since you are pressing for a quicker turnaround time.

Ideally, you should expect a 2 to 3 day turnaround for a 2,000 word translation that also includes editing and proofreading.

5. Volume of work

Are you looking to form a solid partnership with a language services company or have only one piece of content you need translated and be done with it?

The company is more likely to give you preferential pricing if you are willing to make a volume commitment.

Customers translating 200-page user manuals every quarter will definitely see more volume discount than those translating a one-time birth certificate.

Be upfront about the volume of work you anticipate and let your language services company know about it.

They should give you a discounted price for your ongoing commitment.

6. Formatting & DTP requirements

All I’ve mentioned so far really focuses on the translation part of the process, with perhaps some editing and proofreading thrown in as well.

In reality, your content may not be a simple MS Word document. You may have charts, graphs, tables, graphics and other visual content.

Your document may even be laid out in Adobe InDesign or one of many other popular content creation tools discussed here.

You’ve now taken a simple translation project and added an extra level of complexity to it. Advanced formatting and DTP (desktop publishing) layout services are usually billed as a separate line item.

Keep that in mind as you create those wonderful brochures in Adobe Illustrator or Microsoft Publisher. You will have to budget to have them typeset.

Formatting & DTP services are generally billed for on a per hour basis.

Translation companies are like apples and oranges
Comparing Apples to Apples

Are you feeling more confident about your ability to understand translation pricing?

You should be now that you’ve learned about how companies charge for translation services and what factors determine the price.

You are now ready to shop for translation services and know what to look for.

Your instincts tell you to make an apples to apples comparison, right?

They absolutely do.

Why pay more for the same service that others are offering for a lower price?

If it’s a true apples to apples comparison, you should go for the most cost effective option, right?

Here is where you should stop.

And consider what it is that you are getting for the price you are paying.

More often than not, it’s not a true apples to apples comparison. You might see some companies charge half the price per word compared to what others are charging.

But they may be charging for translation only, not editing or proofreading. Those could be priced out separately.

Or worse, they may be charging you pennies and then running your content through an automated translation tool and presenting the finished product to you.

You think you are paying for a professional human translation, but really you are getting something else. Find out what makes a good translator here.

How to avoid such experiences?

When a company quotes you a price for translation, whether it’s per word or any other way always clarify with that company what’s included in the price.

Otherwise, you can’t make a fair comparison. You will end up spending less upfront, but it will cost you more in the long run.

Leveraging translation technology leads to quality & consistency
Leveraging Technology

Perhaps the best way you can save money on translations is by utilizing technology.

I don’t mean that you need to do anything technical on your end. Your language services company will do this for you by using a Translation Memory System (TMS).

In a nutshell, a TMS allows the company to maintain all your translated content and leverage when needed. This leverage will yield you cost savings in the long run.

The more similar content you have translated, the more savings you get. This is often done through fuzzy matching. At the same time, you improve quality and consistency of your content as well.

Always make sure the company you work with uses a TMS and that they start a dedicated translation memory for your projects. It’s important that they do this, because should you decide to switch to another company, you will have the translation memory you can take with you.

Professionals are not going to work for peanuts
What’s a Fair Price?

If you see companies charging pennies for professional human translation services, that should be an immediate red flag.

I will show you why.

As I’ve mentioned before, on average a translator can translate up to 2,000 words of content per day.

Let’s take that number and divide it by an 8-hour work day. You get about 250 words per hour.

You then find a company that’s offering you translation services for $0.05/word. Multiply 250 words by $0.05/word. That comes up to $12.50/hour.

That company then needs to keep some of it for a profit, since they’re outsourcing the translation to a contracted translator.

The translator will probably end up getting less than $10.00/hour for his or her work.

I don’t know of any professionals that get paid less than $10.00/hour, do you?

I’d certainly question the abilities of a company that’s charging such a low price and claiming to provide professional translation services.

It simply doesn’t make sense from a mathematical point of view.

According to ProZ, here is how much individual freelance translators charge. TranslatorsCafe.com also has a similar rate table here.

When you work with a language services company as opposed to a freelancer, expect those rates to be marked up.

What about Free Translation?

If you are serious about having your content professionally translated, stay away from free translation tools.

Free translation has its own place in the market, but it just doesn’t work for business content.

Find out if you are truly ready to have your content professional translated here.

How much will my project cost to translate?

Every translation project is unique, including yours.

Let’s discuss your project specifics, so we can provide you with a ballpark estimate.

For most projects, we can typically provide a ballpark estimate the same day. Contact us to get started.


You are now an expert on translation pricing and how it works.

You’ve learned about different pricing models and structures, along with the factors that impact translation pricing.

You also have a high level understanding of the translation memory technology and how it can be leveraged to save you costs.

Most importantly, with this information you now know what to look for to make a truly informed decision when buying translation services.

Don’t be fooled by companies offering unbelievably low prices.

If those prices look too good to be true, they probably are.

What other questions do you have about translation pricing?

Ask them in the comments.

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