How long does a Project take from Start to Finish?

When requesting a translation of a document, you may wonder how long it will take until you receive the finished translation. We are here to to help you answer that question.

In an effort to help set realistic expectations for yourself and others, we will try to break down how we calculate our turnaround times.

Please keep in mind that this might be different for other Language Service Companies (LSCs) and we are only able to give insight into our way of doing things. We will give a brief overview of how we calculate our turnaround times and then show a couple of concrete examples to show our calculations.

Getting started

Once we receive your translation request, we immediately start to work on the estimate. We extract all of the pertinent information from your email, and we will contact you in case we have any questions to clarify.

To speed up this process, you should include any necessary details in your initial request. For example, which languages the file should be translated into, or whether you would like text in images translated as well.

Depending on the complexity of your request, we can have an estimate ready for you within the hour (example: a basic Word document), or we may need to consult with our teams and it could take a few days to finalize the estimate (example: an Articulate training with videos, subtitles, and voiceover).

Rest assured that we are continuously working on your estimate and will keep you updated in case we need longer than originally expected.

Typical daily output

We calculate between 1,500 and 2,000 English source words per day for a simple Translation, Editing, and Proofreading (TEP). We take the type of source text into consideration, as well as any holidays that may be taking place here in the US or in the countries our linguists reside in.

For some rare languages, like Chuukese or Mixteco Bajo, we also consider that those teams require more time to complete their work. There are not as many linguists available for some target languages. We have to take their availability into account as one of the biggest factors for their turnaround time and we therefore may calculate as low as 500 words per day.

Desktop publishing

If the document requires Desktop Publishing (DTP), we will calculate up to 5 hours per day of work, but once again, how many hours of DTP a document requires depends heavily on the type of document. As a rule of thumb, we calculate between 10 and 20 minutes per source page.

An InDesign file requires less work from the graphic designer than a Storyline 360 file.

Your estimate will tell you exactly how many hours of DTP are required.

Audio and video work

For projects that require subtitling, unless provided by the client, we will first need some additional time to transcribe the script that we can then use for translation.

The script will have to move through the usual TEP and QA process, as well as an additional review and approval through you – our valued client – before we can translate, add the translated subtitles to your video, and complete one last round of QA.

For example, a 10-minute video will take 2 days to transcribe, producing about 1,500 words, which will take 2 days to TEP, 1 day to QA, 1 day to add the subtitles, and 1 day for final QA before delivery.

Task management

Some tasks can happen simultaneously. For example, training content could be translated while videos are being transcribed, or DTP of the documents can be done while the voiceover for the videos is being recorded.

However, other steps rely on something else to be finished first and we have to be respectful and considerate of these dependencies and possible issues that could occur during all of these steps.

Additionally, we usually add some extra time for quality control in between the different tasks.

Final QA before delivery

Once all of the pieces have come together and we receive the final files from our team, we do another two rounds of internal quality checks. These reviews guarantee that we have two more fresh sets of eyes on the final files to make sure that everything looks good. If we catch any issues at this point, the file(s) will go back to the person responsible for fixing the issue.

Consider the time zones

Something that is very important to consider, but that we haven’t discussed yet, are time zones. We prefer to work with language experts that live in their target language countries. However, this means that they may literally live on the other side of the world. Sometimes, this may actually be helpful because they are able to pick up the work right when we go to bed, and this can even lead to speeding up a project. Other times, for example in cases where a same-day turnaround would be preferred, the difference in time zones may make it impossible to send the file back that very same day, since it will be nighttime in the country where the linguists reside.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to show what the above-mentioned things to consider mean in reality.


Translation of an 8-page InDesign document with 2,000 words to Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian

1-2 days of Translation and Proofreading + 1 day of DTP + 1 day for QA and corrections = 3-4 business days turnaround


Storyline training with 1,200 words training content and 15 minutes of subtitling to translate into 13 languages

1-2 days of Translation and Proofreading + 2 days of DTP + 6 days of creating SRT files and adding the subtitles + 4-5 days of QA and corrections = 14-15 business days turnaround


Once the estimate is finished, we send it your way and wait for your approval. As soon as we receive your approval to start the project, we will initiate the translation process.

If you require a PO to be added on the invoice for your project, please remember to include it in your approval email, so that we can get started on your project without any delay.

We calculate the specific delivery day of the project starting with the first business day after approval, however, if you send approval after 4 pm, we may not be able to start the project until the next business day, which would result in your delivery date being pushed out by an additional day as well.

Another thing to consider is that any delay in replying to queries we may send your way may result in a delay of your project. We know your time is valuable and oftentimes deadlines are tight, so replying in a timely manner will help our linguists to accurately translate your project and it will help us deliver your project on time.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any translation needs or concerns about turnaround times you may have. We would be more than happy to take a look at your specific project and answer any questions you may have.

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:

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 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 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.

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.

13 Translation Errors That Can Ruin Your Content

Producing content for your business is a thoughtful, careful, and important process. You apply significant time and resources to creating content that is relevant and memorable for your target audience.

Once you’ve got it just right, you may be ready to have your content translated. Making the decision to translate your materials into one or more foreign languages is a big step towards serving a broader audience – it can change your business dramatically!

When you’re ready to take that step, you want to be sure that your translations match the quality of the English content you so thoughtfully created, right?

Translations riddled with errors will be ineffective, just like English content would be if it were full of mistakes! However, the types of errors you should watch out for in translations are often different than the errors you might see in your original English materials.

Objective vs. Subjective Errors

There are two categories of errors to be aware of: objective and subjective.

Objective Errors

These are things like spelling errors or text omissions. There can be no argument about whether or not a header is missing from a translation or whether a word is spelled right. These errors are considered objective.

Subjective Errors

These are more difficult to address. For subjective errors, you may have as many opinions on the “right way” to do something as you have reviewers. These errors are things like choosing between synonyms.

English, for example, has both “car” and “automobile”. They mean the same thing, and choosing between the two is a preferential decision – or a style choice. Choosing the “right” one may depend on where you come from, the tone of the text, the intended reading level, or a personal style.

Types of Errors

Here are the 13 translation errors that can ruin your content.

1. Omissions (text not translated)

Everything that was included in your English materials was put there for a reason – leaving something out could change the message completely!

You will want to keep your eyes peeled for omissions to make sure your message is communicated correctly and completely, as you intended.

Error Type: Objective

2. Text Not Adapted to Local Market

All languages are associated with one or more cultures, which opens the door for important translation nuances. If you’re translating your materials into French, for example, you will want to let your translation vendor know where the target audience is located – Canada? Europe? Africa?

Canadian French and European French are arguably the most common choices for French translations, and they differ in many ways. In spoken language the differences are more noticeable, but there are key differences in their written forms that will make it easy for a French speaker to identify which dialect is being used.

For example, Canadian French vocabulary has a lot more anglicisms used in writing than European French. And there are some subtle grammar differences between the two as well, such as the use of “que” as a relative pronoun in Canadian French.


EnglishI found the document (which) I need.
Canadian FrenchJ’ai trouvé le document que j’ai de besoin.
European FrenchJ’ai trouvé le document dont j’ai besoin.

While all of the French speakers in the world can understand each other, adapting your translations to the intended market will help the readers relate to your content, and – in some cases – may be important so as not to alienate the readers and make them feel like an afterthought when they see that the translation was made for France when they live in Canada.

Error Type: Subjective

3. Mistranslations

This kind of error has arguably the worst consequences. Language is so creative and the ways to express the same things are many. But sometimes a translator may misread a sentence, which leads to a mistranslation.

This can happen due to a translator’s lack of knowledge in the subject area, homographs (words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings) that are read as the wrong word, or simple human error.

These kinds of errors can be avoided by having a second (or even third) linguist proofread the translations. Four eyes are better than two!

Error Type: Objective

4. Reference Materials Not Reviewed

Translators rarely work without the support of reference materials. If you have been with the same translation vendor for a while, they probably have a large Translation Memory (TM) database for you, which the linguists refer to while working. Additional resources include: glossaries, style guide, dictionaries, product information, and company background.

It can be painfully obvious when a translator did not review the reference materials. They will be less familiar with the content and their translations will not sound as professional and will not be as consistent with your previously translated materials.

Error Type: Subjective

5. Style Guide Not Followed

Your materials were carefully designed in English to cater to your target audience, and your translations need to target foreign language speakers of the same audience. Imagine if you wrote at a 5th grade reading level for a medical research study! Or an academic level for 5th grade summer camp materials!

In addition to reading level, style choices like deciding between formal vs. informal tone, whether to translate proper names or not, and how to handle measurements (metric or imperial) are equally important. It is vital to think these things through before sending your content to your translation vendor.

Error Type: Subjective

6. Spelling, Grammar & Syntax Errors

These kinds of errors fall under the “objective errors” category. They will stand out as mistakes whether the reader is familiar with the original English content or not.

The presence of spelling, grammar and syntax errors in your translation will make your content seem unprofessional and sloppy, which is – I’m sure – not the image you want associated with your business, right?

Error Type: Objective

7. Glossary & Terminology Inconsistencies

Your business has its own culture, and whether you have deliberately chosen specific terminology, or it has developed naturally, you likely have a specific way to refer to things associated with your business. When that specific, familiar terminology is not used, it can stand out, send the wrong brand message, and even feel uncomfortable.

It is just as important to put thought into the terminology you use in your translations. Maybe you’re in the business of home rentals, and you would like to market to Spanish speakers. You may want to decide between “hogar” and “casa”, which both mean “home”, but have distinctly different connotations. What do you want your readers to feel?

Once you’ve settled on the proper term, it is important to be consistent. Switching up terminology can confuse your readers and confuse your message.

Error Type: Both

8. Table of Contents, Index & Footnote Errors

Tables of contents, indexes and footnotes are internal references that are often vital to the understanding of your document. It is of the utmost importance that readers be able to refer themselves within the document to find the location of the information they seek.

Different languages will take up different amounts of space in order to say the same thing – Spanish, for example, expands by about 25% compared to English. This can sometimes mean that a section will move to a different page in the Spanish version. When this happens, the table of contents and index in the translation must be updated to reflect the new location of the information so the readers of the translated file can access the same information as the English readers just as easily.

Error Type: Objective

9. Incorrect Hyphenation & Line Breaks

Depending on the formatting of your file, it may be important to use justified text. This is a formatting choice which distributes the text evenly between the given margins of the page. In English, this often results in hyphenated words which span two lines. There are rules about where the word can be broken – for example, you wouldn’t want to put the hyphen in the middle of a syllable. It would make the text hard to read!

Foreign languages also have hyphenation and/or line break requirements which must be considered during formatting. Chinese, for example, has very few rules about where a line break may go, but one very important rule is that a line may not begin with punctuation.


Chinese Punctuation

Error Type: Objective

10. Incorrect Capitalization

Capitalization rules vary drastically from language to language. In English, proper names and titles must always be capitalized, but not much else. German, however, is an example of a language which uses quite different capitalization rules – All nouns must be capitalized in German. Not capitalizing can change the meaning of the word entirely!


essento eat

Error Type: Objective

11. Incorrect Spacing & Typos

Flying fingers can sometimes make mistakes. We’re only humans after all. Sometimes a space may be missed between words, or an extra space might be added where it is not needed. Or maybe a “/” will be inserted instead of a “.” due to their proximity on the keyboard.

These things are easy to catch with spellcheck, but not all languages have this feature available to them! For example, Somali has no standardized dictionary. This means that there is no spellcheck, opening the door for more of these kinds of errors to slip through.

Whether the language in question has spellcheck or not, a human proofreader is an excellent way to help avoid these kinds of errors.

Error Type: Objective

12. Incorrect Spelling of Names

The spelling of your name is intrinsic to your identity. When someone spells your name incorrectly, it can feel like a personal insult.

Name spelling is particularly tricky in translations where the source language and the target language do not share an alphabet.

For example, you may be translating a document from Arabic into English – How do you spell the name Muhammad?

It could also be Mohammad or Muhammed, or more! It is important to ensure that the names in the translations are spelled correctly according to that person’s preference.

Error Type: Both

13. Lack of Post-DTP Review

Many translations are done in a TM tool. In these software programs, a text is broken down into “segments”, which are usually sentences or phrases that the translators work on one at a time.

Example of TM segments:

English & Arabic TM Segments

Example of TM text exported to MS Word:

Arabic in MS Word

As you can see from the screenshot above (example of TM segments) from a TM tool, the linguists are working on the text out of context. Sometimes the segments are even in a different order than they appear on the page. For this reason, it is very important to have the translations reviewed after they have been formatted/typeset (example of TM text exported to MS Word).

At that stage, the linguists can see their translations in the context of the formatted document, and may catch errors or inconsistencies that they would not have noticed in the TM tool. This is also relevant for websites or applications – localization testing is very important to make sure that the translations work in context so the users have a seamless experience.


There are many ways to ruin a translation, and the ways they can go wrong are sometimes quite different than the ways original content can go wrong.

Everything your business shares with its target audience – both in English and in foreign languages – should be reflective of your brand message and your image.

You can avoid ruining your translations with the common translation blunders listed above by hiring professional translators, making sure that your materials are proofread, through preparation, and by being aware of the unique ways translations can be tricky.

What other translation errors have you come across?

Feel free to share your stories in the comments.

3 Types of Web Content Your Company Should Translate

Content marketing is a huge driver of business for many companies.

According to recent research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, 71% of B2B marketers meet to discuss their content marketing programs at least once per month.

That number is even greater for companies with a B2C business model. Over 77% of B2C marketers use a blog as a content marketing tactic to engage their respective target audience.

The numbers are there to support a case for having a content marketing strategy. And you may already have one.

But I bet your content, just like this article, is only in English. That’s perfectly fine if that’s your target audience, which in NWI Global’s case it is.

Consider this though – you might be missing out on new audiences or under-serving your existing audience who speak a language other than English. One way to serve those audiences is by offering translated content.

Here are the three types of web content your company should translate to attract and retain a bigger audience.

1. How-to Articles & Guides

People are always looking for quick answers when searching the web. How-to articles and guides are some of the best types of content you can produce for both B2B and B2C consumers.

Your approach to how-to articles will generally include identifying a problem and listing detailed steps to a solution. Be as detailed as possible by including diagrams and pictures. Many people are visual learners and will appreciate having those resources. These visual guides are also useful in your translated content, as they are ready-to-go resources that don’t need translation.

How-to articles and guides also have a great long tail search potential, since many people are searching the web using introductions such as: “How to…”, “How do I…?” and “How do you…?” You may have already discovered this since you’re producing how-to content in English.

Weber Blog with Tips and How-tos

Now take that how-to content and translate it into Spanish or a few other languages. Out of all the Spanish speakers in U.S., there are over 78% that use the internet. Those users are most certainly looking for the same solutions as English speakers for how to effectively solve their problems.

You can be the company that meets the need of those users by providing multilingual how-to content.

Projected End Result: Better search traffic to your company’s website and more qualified leads. The satisfaction of knowing you answered someone’s question and made their day a bit easier.

2. Lists

People love lists. Especially Top 10 lists. Psychologists refer to this as a “top-10 effect,” where people lump things into round-number groups and view everything else as inferior. If you got this far in this article, you already read the first thing on my list (see 1. How-to Articles & Guides)!

Creating lists is incredibly easy if you follow the formula of introducing a topic, listing your points, and providing a conclusion. If you look on BuzzFeed, lists are some of the most popular content types that go viral.

BuzzFeed Content with Popular Lists

Why not leverage what people love to your advantage?

If you already have lists you created in English, have them translated into Spanish or other languages. Alternatively, work with a translation service company to create lists exclusive to your target audience in their language.

Projected End Result: A strong possibility of your list going viral on social media. This will create brand awareness for your company in non-English speaking markets.

3. Explainer Videos

Implementing video in your content marketing strategy can only improve the authority of your brand. But, like with all things, it has to be done right.

Explainer videos are similar to how-to articles and guides. They are used to explain something to a viewer. This is especially helpful to visual learners as you can often convey more information in a 2 to 3-minute video than you can in an article or guide.

The easiest way to localize an explainer video is by having the voice-overs transcribed and translated into other languages, and implementing them as subtitles. This is probably the most cost-effective way of doing it too.

However, if you have the budget I recommend you translate and localize everything including voice-overs, motion graphics, bumpers, and captions/subtitles.

Projected End Result: Increase in brand authority among limited-English proficient audience. Beat your competitors to it since they are probably not doing it.

Things to Consider Before You Translate

Before you rush to translate your how-to articles and guides, lists and explainer videos, consider these things. They are equally as important to the entire process to provide the best user and customer experience.

1. Do some strategic planning.

Understand how translating these types of content falls into your overall marketing and localization strategy. Your company may already be translating other content such as user manuals and eLearning courses. They may simply be an extension of those efforts.

2. Use only professional human translation.

A personal blogger can get away using an automated translation plug-in, but as a business you can’t afford to do that. Quality is what you are looking for and to get it you must work with professional translators.

3. Be prepared to communicate and follow up.

Once you translate your content into other languages, you will start getting feedback and inquiries in those languages. For example, your Spanish-speaking audience will start posting comments in Spanish and perhaps even write to you as well. Have a plan in place on how you will communicate with them.

Ready to have your content translated?

If you said yes, slow down just a bit. Here is why.

Doing things spontaneously is exciting and provides an immediate reward. However, since you should be looking at content translation as an investment, I recommend planning first and foremost.

Contact a professional translation service company to help you with the planning process so you are not wasting money to produce content in other languages and not getting your envisioned results.

How much will my web content cost to translate?

Every web content 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 already know that content marketing is here to stay. One way to effectively market to your target audience is by producing content such as how-to articles and guides, lists and videos.

Having that content in English is a great start, but make sure you are serving your entire audience, including those who don’t speak English. A great way to do that is to translate into other languages.

The end result will include more traffic to your company website, better customer engagement, and brand recognition coming from diverse markets.

Have you included translation and localization in your content marketing strategy?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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.

12 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Translation Company

Your company has some projects lined up for the year that will require it to communicate in more than one language.

You get on Google and search for “translation companies + insert your search criteria here”. In fact, you are probably reading this article because of a search you just did.

You get about a dozen viable options to choose from. The next step is to reach out to those translation companies and get the pricing, right?

Your gut instinct tells you to think of the service as a commodity in order to get a fair comparison and you will most likely go with the lowest price.

Because why pay more for a commodity that’s essentially the same?

The problem here is that not all translation companies sell the same thing even though on the surface they appear to.

How do you determine which company is right for you?

Do that by asking the following 12 questions. You can then compare the data to help you with your selection process.

1. Establish Expertise and Specialization

You work in a specific industry that has its own language, like the one in this example. Make sure the translation company you select understands this.

Some translation companies specialize in patent translations, whereas others focus on medical documents. If you come across a company that claims to do it all, think twice about doing business with them.

Professionals in different fields

One company can’t be a great at everything, despite their great marketing message. Your goal is to identify a translation company that specializes in your industry.

Question to Ask: What is your area of expertise and specialization?

2. Determine Linguist Credentials

There is a big difference between a bilingual individual and a professional translator. There is also a big difference between how different companies screen and qualify their translators.

Your goal here is to make sure that the company is working with seasoned professionals, some of whom may even be certified by the American Translators Association. Just like companies, professional translators specialize in specific fields. One can’t do it all!

Certified Translator

Also, keep in mind that many companies work with freelance translators as opposed to in-house employees. That should not pose any issues for you as long as the company has strict processes in place with regard to quality assurance and confidentiality.

Question to Ask: How do you screen and qualify linguists you work with?

3. Learn About the Project Process

Find out whether the company will use a standard process for all your projects and whether it can be customized per your requirements. At the very least, the process should include measurable milestones such as estimates, project work and project delivery.

Communication is especially important. You should establish a clear communication plan with the company, especially for large scale projects. One possible item to include in the communication plan is weekly status updates.

Translation ingredients

A great company should make the project process as easy as possible for you. That’s less for you to worry about, because you already have enough to do.

Question to Ask: What is your project process and will it be customized for our needs?

4. Meet the Team

When engaging a translation company, ideally you would want a dedicated account manager and project manager assigned to your account. The account manager will handle the sales and administrative tasks whereas the project manager will be responsible for all the actual project work.

Project Team

Not having a dedicated project team assigned to you can lead to frustration; especially if you have to explain yourself over and over again to people you haven’t worked with before.

Avoid the frustration by requesting a dedicated project team.

Question to ask: Will we be assigned a dedicated account manager and project manager?

5. Learn About the Technology

Depending on the scope of your project, your translation company may need significant technical infrastructure in place to complete the work. This includes both hardware and software.

If you are working with large audio and video files, bandwidth and storage are the two areas to look at immediately. Video files can take days to upload and download, which could delay your project.

Recording Studio Mixing Console

On the software side, check with the translation company to see if they can work with Adobe Creative Suite, Articulate Storyline and other applications that may be used in your industry.

Question to Ask: Do you have the technical infrastructure to support our work?

6. Specify Security and Confidentiality Standards

Your content may include sensitive information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers and HIPAA PHI. You invest significant resources in protecting that information on behalf of your clients.

Make sure that the company you are planning to work with has security compliance protocols in place to handle such information with care.

IT Security

Many U.S.-based companies work with freelance translators around the world, so if you are particular about where your data is stored and shared, be sure to clarify it with the company in advance.

Question to Ask: How do you handle confidential information?

7. Understand the Scale

Translating 1,000 words in one language is a lot easier than translating 100,000 words in ten languages. Be sure to specify the magnitude and scale of your projects to the translation company.

Supply & Demand

Like manufacturing facilities, some translation companies are suited for smaller projects and simply don’t have the resources to handle large scale assignments. You don’t want to put yourself in a position to find out that the company you just awarded the contract to can’t handle the work.

Ideally, the company you choose can demonstrate experience with similar projects either through references or case studies.

Question to Ask: What is your experience with projects similar in scope to ours?

8. Set Expectations for Quality

Find out about the company’s TEP process. Do they have one in place?

TEP stands for Translation, Editing and Proofreading. Those three steps are essential to every translation project.

The translation part is completed by one person. The editing and proofreading are done by another.

Ideally, all three steps should be done by different people. At the minimum, there should be at least two.

Are you prepared to invest in quality translations?

Think about the big picture and how the TEP process will integrate within your project. Other quality assurance milestones may be needed along the way such as post-DTP review, focus group feedback and in-country localization testing.

Question to Ask: What does your quality assurance process look like and how will you integrate it with our needs?

9. Expect Consistency

I try to be as consistent as possible in all articles that I write. Inevitably, I will make mistakes along the way and use different words to describe similar concepts.

Consistency issues are magnified during the translation process, especially if they are not caught and corrected during TEP and QA steps.

Luckily, there is translation technology that can be leveraged to help ensure your translated message is consistent.

Kilgray memoQ Translation Memory

With the help of translation memory, once a word is translated a certain way it can then be used (leveraged) throughout all your content in a consistent matter. A terminology list and a glossary are also useful in this area.

Not all companies have in-house translation technology. Choose the one that does if consistency is important to you.

Question to Ask: Will you start a dedicated translation memory and terminology list for our project?

10. Be Ready for Changes

There are two scenarios you will come across working with translation companies. They include changing something during the project and changing something after the project has been completed.

Ideally, you want to avoid change orders during the project. Depending on the changes, the project cost may go up and the delivery timeline may be extended.

You always have to be ready for the unexpected and your translation company should be too. Clarify the company’s change order process and any risks associated with it.

Changes in project scope

The second scenario can usually be classified as a project update. Changing something after the initial project is completed is basically starting a new project to implement those changes. Here is how you can save costs doing that.

Question to Ask: What is your change order process?

11. Get It In Writing

In my experience, estimates for small projects (less than $25,000) usually end up equaling the final invoice amount. The turnaround time is easier to estimate and plan for in small project as well.

For large scale projects that require ongoing translation work and a commitment of several months, the estimates may not be as precise. This is largely due to changes in scope during the project.

How to get a Quick Translation Estimate from any Vendor

If you are getting multiple bids for a large scale project and one bid seems very low compared to the others, it’s probably too good to be true.

The chances are that the company bidding on it didn’t understand the full scope of your project.

Question to Ask: How accurate are your estimates with regard to cost and turnaround time?

12. Ask for References

Companies are really great at talking about themselves. They even have marketing budgets for that purpose.

Don’t be seduced by their marketing message – ask for client references!


Three references should do. Contact those references by phone and email, and ask about their experience with the company you are thinking of working with.

Question to Ask: What do others say about you?

Are you currently in the process of choosing a translation company?

Consider NWI Global. We may be able to help.

Learn more about our services.


Now that you have the answers to the above questions, it’s fair to consider the price. It’s certain that some prices will be higher than others.

Instead of choosing strictly based on price, you can now form an opinion on the value behind each estimate.

You can determine what’s valuable to you based on how your selected pool of companies responds to these questions.

This list of questions is by no means all-inclusive.

However, it will get you started in choosing the right translation company for your project. You may even find yourself adding your own questions to the list once you start the procurement process.

Feel free to share additional questions and your feedback in the comments section.