Language Services Frequently Asked Questions
- What should I look for in a language provider?
- Are you a Company or an Agency? And does it matter?
- Why don't you offer "all languages" like other companies?
- How long does translation take?
- What does translation cost?
- What's the best format to send for translation? PDF?
- Why are some languages or subjects more expensive?
- Quotes for translation vary enormously - how much should I pay?
- What's certified translation?
- Do you need the original document for certified translation?
- Are you an approved translation company?
- What do I do if I want to use you?
- How much should I pay for interpreting?
- What's typesetting?
- What's transcription?
Size is no guide - there's super small ones and rotten big ones. We've been finding great language partners for 23 years, so here's some of what we look for!
- 1. Can you trust what you see? Fancy websites DON'T guarantee good translators - buying a website's easy so always dig deeper! In particular distrust "boilerplate" language pages - if a company offers a huge list of languages which all generate identical "Our [insert language here] translators are all..." type pages, they've probably little interest in the language beyond selling it. Look for language pages that are specific, informative and knowledgeable - it's a good indicator the company CARES about the language (and getting it right). Perhaps something like our French or German pages.
- 2. Location, location, location! A really capable company's probably not based in a bungalow so check the address - this SHOULD be on the Contact page. If there ISN'T an address - what are they hiding? If there IS one, Google the street and town - if no other businesses come up, it's probably a residential "home office", so a one- or two-person operation. Google's marvellous Street View tool is even better! Think - would a "leading language company" really be based in "Flat 3, Robin View, Camber Sands"? Oh - watch PO Boxes too, these are VERY dubious.
- 3. They serious? Websites are a good guide - if they're poorly worded and contain spelling errors, inaccuracies or bad links, it's like walking into a car showroom with grubby oil-dripping vehicles. A company that neglects its own shop window probably won't look after you either. That said, buying a shiny website is easy and cheap so however fantastic it looks, DO dig down into the detail.
- 4. Got history? Everyone starts somewhere - it's up to you whether to choose a new entrant, often cheaper but lacking experience, or a well-established player with good reputation and experience. Reputable providers will be proud of their history - we've been going since 1990. Newcomers can be good, and we've found some crackers over the years - but ditched many less able. Unless you QA language yourself, it's safer to leave trying new providers to professionals who can spot - and fix - poor product.
- 5. Qualified? Language is a boom industry - and like many boom industries - it's attracted many players - some large - with little ability, as proven by the recent MoJ interpreting fiasco (just Google it). For a language company that "understands the question", you should - at least - be looking at senior and project management with good language degrees. Always check a potential provider's About Us page. If you don't see good language qualifications, beware...
Unlike many language services we're a Translation Company, NOT an Agency. And yes, it matters! Translation Companies should translate and proof-read in-house and add value by assuring quality; we have 5 professional linguists in-house, including a German Government-authorised Sworn German Translator and Interpreter, an MITI and an MCIL, while all external translation services used are professionally qualified and experienced. Work is 100% reviewed and completeness and formatting checked.
Better Companies follow strict Codes of Conduct to maintain high translation services standards, as laid down by the professional bodies - ours are the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI - we're Corporate Members).
Here's a funny thing - did you know anyone can start a translation agency in the UK? Setting-up a "translation agency" requires ZERO language qualifications or translation ability, so sourcing translation really is a case of buyer beware - which is why this FAQ page offers helpful advice on seeing beyond marketing hype to spot capable translation providers - check out What should I look for in a language provider?.
No provider can support "all languages" and it's worrying some claim to - it takes years to build expertise in one language, never mind hundreds, and there's over 6,000 in the world. We offer over 150 languages from trusted and experienced partners and our professional in-house team, and while we're happy to source new ones for you, we won't pretend we can do something if we're not fully confident.
Depends on the document. A one page certified translation can usually be done in a few days.
For larger stuff, as a guide most translators can translate 2000-4000 words per day depending on the material; however, most will have existing workload so there's likely to be some queue time as well. If urgent, it's often possible to split a project across two or more translators, although it's hard to avoid some stylistic differences occurring across the document as a result. Since we also properly review all work in-house to ensure product quality we may quote longer lead times than less diligent providers.
That depends on the language, subject and on the technical or specialist nature of the document. Our rates are charged per thousand words (or a minimum charge if applicable) and vary between language combinations.
Because there are fewer good translators for them. Take Finland - it's a popular export market, but because the country has a small population there aren't many Finnish translators (and fewer good ones!).
Very roughly half the area of France, the population's less than 1/10 the size - the translator shortage makes the language about 50% more expensive than French.
Similarly there are fewer translators specialising in robotics than in finance, so robotics tends to be more expensive to translate than annual accounts.
Indian languages have the same problem as Finnish but in reverse - the population's large, but generally poor education means again there are few good translators - made worse by the fact that these translators are spread across 5 main Indian languages and several others.
Like anything else, you get what you pay for - so for a car for instance you could pay a few hundred quid for an old van or £30K for a new Jag, more, or somewhere in between, depending what vehicle you want or need. "Just for me" translation can be free - Google Translate for example can give you the very rough gist of simple texts and if that's all you need then why not?
If however you're looking for professional quality-assured translation by qualified mother-tongue translators, that has been fully reviewed and formatted - in other words, translation you can trust and use - we'd recommend a professional language Company. We'd always avoid the cheap end of these too - there's ALWAYS a reason things are cheap, and we speak from experience!
Our rates reflect our use of professional, qualified, and experienced translators and reviewers we trust, and while we're not the cheapest, we're certainly not the priciest!
This is usually required for use by the authorities; higher levels of certification, such as notarization or legalisation, may be required for legal use.
In a certified translation the translator provides a certificate which states that they are a professional translator and that their work is a faithful translation of the original source text. There's much more information on our certified & notarized page here.
In most cases, no. A scanned, faxed or photocopied version is acceptable. The original is only required if legalisation or notarisation is needed.
Yes. We are Corporate Members of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting and Members of the UK Association of Translation Companies.
Send us a copy of your document, or tell us what else you need. We'll send you a quotation and once a price and delivery timescale are agreed we'll get started for you.
This varies greatly with format - our interpreting page describes the different types. By far the costliest is conference interpreting - the interpreters are very highly trained and work under great pressure, reflected in the rates. The vast majority of commercial and public sector users will instead need face-to-face "liaison" interpreters. Sadly, as a result of non-ideal procurement policy and some unprofessional providers, liaison interpreting in the UK is now really split between two camps.
In the first are the providers like ourselves who insist on providing only professionally-qualified, trusted and approved interpreters, ensuring a good standard of accurate and impartial communication from experienced and trained professional linguists.
In the second camp are providers who sell purely on price to win contracts, bullying interpreters down on rates or using interpreters ones who are under- (or un-) qualified - circumstances unlikely, or unable, to deliver good service.
We know this because our own interpreters encounter this second camp in hospitals and courts while delivering our own assignments - and scarily often, these others will ask our guys how to GET qualified. An unpleasant reality worth bearing in mind if you're procuring interpreting - as the MoJ has discovered.
A liaison interpreter is charged on an hourly rate; usually a minimum fee of 2 or 3 hours (depending on the interpreter) is chargeable, plus travel time (typically charged at 50% of the hourly rate) and travel expenses. To keep your costs as low as possible we always try to find the nearest available qualified interpreter.
Finally, you have the option of telephone interpreting - while costing less, it's also much less effective in many circumstances and is often inappropriate.
Materials for publication - glossy brochures etc - are almost always laid out by a designer in a "typesetting" or "DTP" (desk-top publishing) package. That's how the amazing text effects and fantastic appearance are achieved.
The industry standards are Quark and InDesign, but there are others. However, these packages are very expensive and require a lot of training, and very few translators can work in them.
Consequently almost all translation is done in Microsoft Word - however, that then needs laying back into the designer's layout in Quark or InDesign to produce a translated version of the attractive source layout. This is called "typesetting", and isn't easy to do well! We've been providing typesetting services since 2000 and you'll find our product worldwide.
The more accessible the text is, the easier and quicker it is for us to translate. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or Open Office files, or HTM or PHP webpages, are ideal. More challenging are Quark, Illustrator, and InDesign - these are called "DTP" or "Typesetting" packages, which most translators can't use at all. We can, and we're quite happy to work in their source files - there's a lot more about our typesetting services here.
At the least friendly end are scans - usually TIFF or JPG files. These are totally inaccessible - you're basically looking at a photograph of text that can't be overtyped or edited and must be re-typed.
PDF is somewhere in the middle - we handle lots of PDFs, but have to to convert the PDF to something more usable first which takes time. It's worth remembering that making a PDF (or "Portable Document Format") is essentially a printing process which destroys a lot of the usable document features. A PDF is always produced FROM another application, so wherever possible please provide us with the source format from which the PDF was made.
More accessible formats can generally be delivered more quickly, and may also bring some cost benefits.
You'll find lots more helpful advice on obtaining the best translation in our Really Helpful Friendly Guide to Language Translation - you'll find it on any of our Language or Translation pages or you can click here to view or download it.
A huge amount of data exists only as video or audio files, which is useless from the point of view of finding anything or using the content in a document.
Skilled transcription (audio typing) converts the audio content accurately into text, which you can use for anything you need. We transcribe large amounts of English and many other languages via our carefully selected transcriber pool, and there's a lot more about our popular multilingual transcription service here. One word of caution - a lot of low-cost transcription services subcontract to non-mother-tongue transcribers, often in India or other low-cost economies, and quality tends to be very suspect and inappropriate to professional use. We only use mother-tongue transcribers in the country (so our German transcribers are all in Germany) which is more expensive than India - of course! - but does ensure a professional calibre of product. Our services are in demand for conferences, software development, legal and insurance purposes precisely because the content is trusted.