10 Simple Tips From Professional Linguists.
Translation matters. It’s a vital part of the modern world. This is true if you’re a publisher or book reviewer. If you’re doing business internationally. If you’re a scientist trying to get your paper read by a wide audience. If you need your legal documents to be equally clear across borders. If you’re doing any kind of marketing…
The list goes on. But no matter why you need your text translated into another language, in addition to the precision of the translation, one thing is going to feature heavily in your thoughts:

How to save on translation costs?

Because with all of the expertise involved in turning text that’s written in one language into one that’s written in another, if you don’t take some simple steps costs can quickly ramp up. Plus, you’ll benefit from one little-known added advantage:
When you act to make your translation cheaper, you’ll often be acting to make it more concise and cohesive as a natural side-effect…

Factors Which Affect the Cost of Translation

First things first. There are a few obvious properties of a source document which will affect the amount your translation will cost:

  • Complexity of the source language – the more technical or specialist the subject field, the more likely it is that costs will rise.
  • Word count of the source document – the more text you need translated, the higher the cost will usually be.
  • Deadlines – do you need your translation turned around in a very short period of time? Depending on the translation company you use, that could end up costing you extra.

So what about keeping those translation costs down? Thinking about this list in the negative gives us a place to begin…

1) Use plain and simple language

It’s number one on the list above for a reason. Specialist fields and complex language take more time and effort to translate, and can often only be handled by the most highly qualified, expensive translators. Do you really need to fill your document with all that jargon if it’s intended for readers who aren’t as qualified as you?
Use plain and simple language in the first place to receive a translated document which is equally clear in the target language. And which should end up costing you significantly less to have translated.

2) Avoid idioms and cultural references

Colloquialisms and punchy informal descriptions have great power when used in writing that’s designed for marketing purposes. In English for example, perhaps you’ve chosen to describe your product in your marketing literature as something that “really knocks your socks off.” Depending on your audience, this might have a better conversion effect than simply describing something as “powerful.”
When you’re getting a passage translated however, this is introducing an unnecessarily confusing element for the translator. While he or she will probably understand what you’re saying, there may be no equivalent in the target language.
If you do want or need to include phrases like this, be sure to ask your translation provider for “transcreation – this will give them permission to use phrases that convey the same concept even if the literal meaning is quite different.
By way of illustration, the English phrase “out of your mind” doesn’t really translate well into Italian. But an Italian might say “fuori come un balcone” (you’re “outside as a balcony”) and mean the same thing.

3) Plan ahead before translation 

This is good general advice for any translation you’re considering. Avoid paying rush surcharges by seeking input from your translation provider on required turnaround times when you’re putting together your production schedule.
The second point in the list above – that the size of the source document can influence the final fee a translation company will charge you – is also important to bear in mind when cost is a concern.
Consider limiting source text creation in line with the budget you have available for any future translation which might be needed. Volume of text is almost always a factor in the cost of a translation.

4) Use a format which makes translation easier

This is another aspect which it can be easy to plan in advance, but relatively complicated to change later on. One simple question is all you need to ask:
What does your translation provider recommend when it comes to format or software for a source text, one which you’ll need to have translated into languages X, Y, and Z?
This will save you a whole lot of time, and thus a whole lot of money.
Another advantage of using the same format for all languages is that you’ll be building brand consistency across all languages, which any marketing expert will tell you is something you really want to strive for.

Remember that files in artwork formats may cost you a little extra, as the language will need typesetting after it has been translated, edited, and quality assured. As a cost-saving measure, consider not using text which is embedded into graphics or animations.
If your project requires embedded text, be sure to add a text layer to your Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign source file. This should prevent the need to rebuild the entire image.

5) Make sure your translation provider uses a Translation Memory

A Translation Memory (sometimes abbreviated to “TM”) is a database which automatically stores segments of translated language as a linguist works through a source document. These segments can then be pulled out of the database and used when a similar or identical segment appears in future.

Using a Translation Memory confers several rather significant advantages:

  • Improved consistency in terminology across even large volumes of text
  • Increased consistency in future projects, without requiring the same linguist
  • Discounted pricing on translation for matching segments
  • Makes translation quality assurance easier

The greater a TM grows in size, the more useful and effective it will be, and the more money you’ll save.

6) Consider maximising the saving from a Translation Memory

Knowing your Language Service Provider uses a Translation Memory gives you the opportunity to make the most of it.
Because every phrase you use more than once will be translated for you at a reduced cost (see the list of TM advantages above), it’s worth considering making any source text you produce focus on repetition of phrase.
Obviously this won’t be suitable for all documents – creative writing will not benefit from this, for example. But for documents intended to be functional, why not simply use the same, easy-to-translate phrase if you need to convey the same meaning in different sections or files?
This could potentially save you time and money across a huge slew of projects and documents, simply by re-using the same effective phrase.

7) Finalize the source document first

This seems like a no-brainer (there’s a good example of a colloquialism to avoid in a text you want to translate – check out tip 2), but a surprising amount of time gets wasted by translation providers because the source documents they receive are themselves not ready.
Before sending your latest document to be translated, make sure it’s been checked and proofread. Any time you theoretically save here by skipping this is only going to be wasted later on if text needs to be re-worked.

8) Quality assure your translators

Are you sure that you’re using the right Language Service Provider?
If you haven’t used a particular service before, often the best test you can set is to provide a small sample of text (perhaps 300 words or so) for them to translate. You should also ask to see the credentials, qualification, or profiles of the linguists who’ll actually be carrying out your work.
Sadly, any stock examples of past translation work a company has provided tends not to be reliable as a quality test. You simply won’t be able to tell who completed the work, and how much later editing over and above the norm might have been required to bring the text up to the standard you’re seeing.

9) Provide the translator with any existing references

The best translation companies will always make sure that your source text is paired with a linguist who has the necessary qualifications and knowledge base to understand what they’re reading. But how do they know exactly how you like to communicate?
Translation is highly subjective and there can be significant differences between the preferences of each organisation – in formality, style, terminology use of acronyms etc. If you have access to previous, approved translations within your organisation it’s a good idea to share them with your translation provider to give them an idea of what you’re looking for.
If you have terminology that’s specific to your industry – or simply a preferred way to refer to certain objects or practices of your company that’s outside of the norm – simply provide a list prior to translation.  Which leads us to:

10) Ask for a glossary

This is another great time-saving measure – one which will also make your translations much more consistent. Whether your translation provider uses a Translation Memory or not, ask them to create and maintain a glossary and style guide.
This can be particularly helpful to you if you have colleagues or partners who are native speakers of the target language. This way you can ensure that the translated terminology is consistent, and that it uses the preferred terms in your industry in that language.
All told, the more preparation you do, the simpler you make things – and the more you’re going to be able to save when it comes to getting your text translated into any language.

How to Save on Translation Costs – Asian Absolute

Get advice on how to get the best deal on translation and localisation services, with Asian Absolute.
More than 16 years of experience of delivering precise and cost-effective translations – in European, Middle Eastern, and Asian languages – means that we’ll know how to help you save on the costs of translation.
Get chatting to your local Asian Absolute team now, or email us at your convenience. We’re here to help you 24 hours a day.