A beginner’s guide to outsourcing translation work – 10 common questions answered

Like every industry Translation has its own jargon and processes. It can be hard for the uninitiated to know where to start.

If you’ve been tasked with getting a translation done for your business or personal use, here are 10 common questions answered to help you out.

#1 Who do I ask?
Generally speaking, the choice here is between using an agency or going direct to a freelance translator. Agencies use freelancers anyway, so in many cases it can be good to cut out the middle man. But it depends on the scale of the project and your project management capacity.

#2 How long will it take?
Most professional translators can translate 2000-2500 words per day. But bear in mind extra time may be needed for formatting, research, QA and workload scheduling with other projects.

#3 Does a translator have to be a native speaker?
A professional translator usually only translates into their mother tongue (first language/language of primary education). This ensures quality and natural sounding text.

#4 What is source and target?
In translation the original starting language is called the source language. And the language that you want the end text in is the target. For example, if you have a document in Russian and you want it translated into English, Russian is the source and English is the target. Russian into  English is the language pair.

#5 How much does it usually cost?
Quotes are usually based on:
• Language rarity
• Topic/specialism
• File format
• Length (word count)
• Urgency
• Qualifications
• Experience
Remember, don’t pay peanuts, or you’ll get monkeys!

#6 Where do I find qualified translators?
A good indication can be being a member of an official body. For example, you can find linguists in the UK on the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) or Institute of Translators or Interpreters (ITI) websites. There are also listings sites, such as Proz. Or why not go direct via a freelancer’s website or LinkedIn?

#7 What do I need to provide?
An error-free source file plus any helpful reference material you may have.
For example:
• Specifications/brief
• Style guide
• Similar past projects
• Glossary

#8 Can’t I just use the free online translation in my browser?
No. Firstly, there are confidentiality and information security issues with your text being processed through and saved on third-party servers. And secondly, it is not always accurate and if you don’t speak the language you may not spot any errors. There are many examples out there of when web machine translation engines have got it critically wrong. So, it’s not worth the risk.

#9 My neighbour/kid’s teacher/second cousin/mate from football speaks this language. Can’t I just ask them?
No. Translation needs to be done by a qualified professional who has undergone training in this discipline. It’s not something anyone can do.

#10 What happens if there is a problem with the translation?
Most professional translators are happy to receive questions and feedback on their work. Let them know as soon as possible if you need anything clarified. Be aware that some changes may be classed as “preferential” and the translator should not be penalised in such cases. A clear brief from the start can help avoid any issues.

Download a useful one-page guide on how to outsource translation here.

Still need help outsourcing your translation work?
Language JEM is a translation and content consultancy and we can help you get set up with translation tools, resources and processes. Get in touch: jemma.pullen@languagejem.co.uk.


Jemma Pullen#translation