These tips can help to ensure a cost-effective solution for producing high profile news translations within the inevitable tight deadlines.

You’re competing with the best local journalists

News is expected to be accurate, fair, truthful, neutral and objective; and so should its translation. Translations need to be written with flair, and in a style that supports the image of the newsroom as an authoritative source of information.

Consistently accurate translation of news is critical, as mistranslations would result in the reframing of news events. Furthermore, the quality of the copy, whatever the language, reflects the image of the publisher. There have been numerous instances of local competitors pouncing on a mistranslation and presenting it as evidence that a foreign publisher is unreliable, leading to the loss of credibility and trust from readers.

When budgets are tight it can be hard for a multilingual publisher to accept that as much attention must be given to translation as to the English copy. Like it or not, that’s the one thing all successful news translation teams have in common.

Choose the right people and develop them

  • Only highly specialised translators are suitable for the job. Not only do the translators need to possess mastery of financial terms and concepts, they must be able to write with journalistic flair. Most financial translators have the former but not the latter.
  • Define specialised sub-teams. Most publishers cover a variety of specialist areas, and the English-language newsroom will have different individuals working on Forex, for example, to those focusing on Equities. Translation teams benefit from the same approach.
  • Push hard to develop and maintain a house style. Select a lead editor who will act as champion of the house style. Ideally try and implement a three-stage process including translation, editing & accuracy check, then have a final review stage by the lead editor/s to harmonise the style.
  • Build a dedicated team, working full-time on the project. In-house is best, but dedicated freelancers can sometimes work out well, provided they can join team meetings and training sessions. Allowing a translation company to assign the team projects from unrelated clients acts as a distraction and dilutes efforts to standardise the style.
  • Allow time in the daily schedule for training and team discussions, to ensure continual improvement. This pushes up the cost but has a marked impact on results.

Shortening turnaround times

  • Use Translation Memory (TMs)* and terminology management tools. These provide automatic translation suggestions based on previous translations. As well as increasing the translators’ productivity, these tools improve consistency of the translated terms used over time and across multiple translators and editors.
  • Take advantage of time zones. To win the fight against the clock, consider using translators in different time zones and/or a night shift.
  • Categorise content into different levels of urgency. A translated feature article may be just as relevant if published 2 days after the original, whereas breaking news must go live as fast as possible.
  • Split off boilerplate text before a document is passed to a translator, and have a web engineer / DTP specialist paste in the boilerplate translation before the final review stage. This means the translator and editor don’t waste time retranslating the text, which takes time even with a TM tool.
  • Translate text in tables and diagrams before the main story copy, so a typesetter can deal with complex formatting tasks before the translation is completed, eliminating the need for a delay for typesetting after editing is finished.

Translating content as source material for news stories

Source materials for news stories require a different approach to producing translations which will be published as articles. For example, you may want to get a translation of an Arabic-language news story about Syria, which will be used as source material by an English-speaking journalist who will then write his/her own news article on the subject.

  • Accuracy is absolutely key, and the translator is encouraged to comment his/her translation in order to clarify any ambiguity. Since it is important not to deviate from the meaning of the source, even to overcome cultural differences, it is best to insert explanations and translators’ notes so the reader can understand exactly what the source is saying.
  • Production of a précis is usually fastest and most cost-effective, so full translations are only done for documents that are really needed.

Consider using Machine Translation (MT)

  • MT plus post-editing involves having a human editor do post-editing of MT output and bring the quality up to the required standard. With the best MT engines, machine translation combined with post-editing can be faster and cheaper than human translation.
  • Caveat emptor. It can be expensive to buy an MT engine and invest the necessary time in training it to the point where the output is usable. Even the best engines are usually only suitable for technical content where less flair is needed.
  • Style is normally the first casualty of MT, and one of the key challenges when translating news copy for publication. Even with a very good engine the editor will need to do all the restructuring and stylistic work involved in the human translation process, potentially eliminating time and cost savings.
  • Best suited to translation of source material. The use of MT can enable journalists to identify which sources are potentially useful and should therefore be translated to a higher standard. Post-editing may not be needed to achieve this basic quality level, so MT may result in significant time savings.


Remember that setting up a translation team has many of the same challenges of setting up a news team.

  • Look carefully at what your translation vendor is offering. Although attractive at first the lowest price per word is unlikely to give the required outcome over the long term.
  • Keep an open mind about technology:
    • Translation Memories will probably help, but not always.
    • Machine Translation probably won’t if you’re translating for publication, but can be a great help to journalists.
  • Optimise your process intelligently to minimise turnaround times.

If you’d like to find out how Asian Absolute helped the Financial Times develop a team and processes to translate news stories for their Chinese website, please read our dedicated case study.

You can learn more about the differences between CAT tools and Machine translation here.

*TM (or Computer Aided Translation) applications – distinct from machine translations – enable each segment of translated text to be stored in a TM together with the corresponding segment of source text. When an identical or similar segment of text is subsequently translated, the application will suggest the previously used translation segment. The translator can then accept the suggested translation, edit it, or reject it completely according to context.