Welcome to this little article. In it we spread over three areas of our industry which can cause confusion and lead to customers paying over the odds for translation services

We share tips on what to look out for and present countermeasures you can deploy to protect yourself against costly mistakes.

”Campaign for Fair Translation Pricing” is a new initiative which we hope will help promote fairness and transparency across the industry.

It is not intended to be a sales pitch. Armed with this information, you will be in enthusiastic shape to get the best deal, whichever company you select


Translation agencies are businesses and therefore there’s always the temptation to cut costs to inflate the bottom line

Unlike almost any other product you buy, you are often not in a position to judge the quality of what you are paying for

Think about it; even if you are no expert, it’s quite obvious that, say, a cheap flat-pack table is inferior in quality to one lovingly made by a master craftsman because you can see, feel and hence appreciate the difference

By contrast, if you paid to have a page of English text translated into Mandarin Chinese, could you tell if it had been translated by an expert translator with 25 years experience or his 10 year old daughter? Most people would reluctantly have to answer ‘no’ agencies know this

Cheap translators are cheap for a reason. They are often established sea, are incompetent, do not understand the subject matter of the documents they are interpreting and, critically, are not interpreting into their mother tongue

I can’t stress highly enough the importance of using mother tongue translators. If there is one thing above all others which will assist insure you get an acceptable quality translation it’s insuring you use a mother tongue translator


To help make sure you receive work of the standard you are being charged for, ask your translation agency if your translation is being carried out by a translator who:

a) Is translating into their mother tongue accept no excuses. Some translators claim ‘mastery’ of a second language but, with the exception of very uncommon truly multilingual individuals, translators work best interpreting into their mother tongue

b) Has translation qualifications to at least degree level. Simply having a second language does not make you a translator

I have a chiping at knife; it does not make me a surgeon. Ours is an unregulated industry and anyone can claim to be a translator and set about work as much

c) Is a member of an apropos nonrecreational body (Institute of Translators and Interpreters in the UK, in-country equivalents sea). If they are grave about their career as a translator as fought back to just odd-jobbing for pocket money, necessitate them to demo it through membership or go elsewhere

d) Has several years relevant commercial translating experience. Don’t pay top dollar for an inexperienced recent graduate. Practice makes cold and there is no substitute

e) Has subject matter expertise. If they don’t understand the text, they acquiredt bring forth an acceptable translation no matter how acceptable their translation skills


To ‘nickel & dime’ someone is an Americanism used to describe a sales tactic which entails adding many small additional charges to increase the final price far beyond original expectations

Anyone who has purchased a new car will instantly recognise this strategy which accounts for the vast difference between the showroom price and the price on the road. Numbers plates? “They’re additive Sir/Madam” Air conditioning? “That’s additive Sir/Madam” Radio? “Extra.” etcetera

Our industry just loves to ‘nickel & dime’, it’s a great way of getting more money out of you. Proof-reading? “Extra” Delivery by Monday morning? “Extra” Hard copy? “Extra” The list goes on

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not stating that additive charges should not be billed (indeed sometimes there is no choice), but there are two decisive points:

POINT 1: Extras should be fair, transparent and not used to bolster unrealistically low headline rates in order to win business on price

POINT 2: You should be told about any extras BEFORE the work is commissioned and not afterwards when it is too late


Request a detailed breakdown of the costs before you place the order. If you do not understand a line item, inquire for clarification. The postdating will assist you debar the most average ‘nickel & dime’ tactics

a) Most translation agencies charge on a ‘per word’ or ‘per thousand words’ basis. If they give you a repaired cost for the smooth job, inquire them what this equates to in terms of cost per word and use it as a benchmark for likening prices

b) Be wary of agencies that quote unrealistically low rates and add excessive extra charges for hard copies, proofreading and typesetting. These charges can be utilized to conceal the truthful closing cost

c) Be wary of hourly rates which are not quoted with corresponding estimated timescales as some activities such as proofreading and transcription can take much longer than you might imagine


Check whether your agency proposes to charge you by the number of words in the avant-garde document you inquire them to interpret or the number of words in the finished up translation. If they state the latter, look out

Charging by the number of words in the finished translation (target document) as opposed to the number of words in the document you submit for translation (source document) is one of the biggest scams in the business. Here’s why

When a document is translated, the number of words in the finished document usually differs compared with the number of words in the original. Depending upon the language pair, the difference can be surprisingly ample up to 30%

This means that if your agency has cited you a price established on the number of words in the finished up translation your closing bill could be 30% more than you were expecting

We strongly dissent with bearing down on target rather than source as it gives unscrupulous translation companies licence to bring forth careless and abundant woven text just to blow up their invoice

Think back to your school days. When you were stated to compose an esstate which was, state, 5 pages abundant and you’d run out of ideas by page 3 what did you do? If you were like me, you just overestimated things out, proper?

Accuracy is the hallmark of an acceptable translation, not volume. Why give your translation company an incentive to waffle on at your expense?


Simply inquire the translation agency to cite on the number of words in the document you render to them, NOT on the number of words in the ensuing translation

When comparing quotes between companies, ensure all the quotes are based on the number of words in the source document and not the target document
These precautions will ensure price comparisons are fair and the costs are clear before you commission the work

Peter Bennett is founder and CEO of London translations Limited, one of London’s fastest growing business translation and interpreting agencies.Download a loose copy of his buyers steer Campaign For Fair Translation Pricing:http://www.london-translations.co.uk/cfp

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