Friday, 7 February 2014


As an owner of a translation agency, I have to think about what our customers want.

Some 25 years ago, when our agency was first formed, I decided that Quality, Delivery and Price would be the watchwords.

Quality : almost all customers want good, accurate translations, so that was the prerequisite I sent for our translation agency. No one would want a translation which was not accurate.

However, there could be gradations as far as the finished product was concerned.

Translating a few words for an advertising slogan requires much more thought about the translation of each of those few words and a far longer time spent per word compared to the time spent per word in translating a technical report, where only very concrete terms and concepts are to be translated.

As long as an experienced translator of a technical report has the required technical knowledge and the technical vocabulary in both of the languages concerned, he or she can produce a competent translation which will accurately convey the entire meaning of the original source text and that translation can be provided in a relatively short time.

Of course, all translations, technical or otherwise, have to be proof-read by another translator to ensure accuracy and improve style.

Delivery : Customer’s requirements vary enormously. Sometimes a translation is required as part of a carefully organized schedule. Sometimes the translation is required very urgently, for example, to allow the company concerned to bid on a large tender.

While we do have in-house translators, we also need freelance translators so as to be able to cope with unexpected demands. Those translators are tested and are given small translations at first and then increasingly large ones as we become more confident of their competence.

The more experienced of our translators now dictate into a digital recorder, send the translation by email to a typist who sends it back by email after typing it. The translation is then proof-read by the original translator and afterwards by another proof-reader before being sent to the customer. It is possible, using this method, for a translator to produce over 10,000 words in a day’s work and this is very useful when unscheduled large translations are urgently required.

 What all our customers do insist on is that we keep to the deadlines they set.

Tektran makes extraordinary efforts to ensure that deadlines are kept and we have built up a fine reputation for our on-time deliveries.

Price : Of course, our customers want to receive an accurate translation at a reasonable price. We have made considerable efforts to keep our prices down to a level which is equal or lower than the competition and we have also found that the use of translation memory programs such as Trados or SDLX can provide lower prices for our customers.

These translation memory programs (Trados and SDLX) have nothing to do with the instant translation programs that you can find on the Internet.  Those instant programs are not context sensitive so they can provide very strange translations. You only have to translate something from your native language into another language and then translate the result back into your native language to see what sort of a mess the instant translation programs produce.

The Trados and SDLX programs memorize sentences of the original text and their translations so that when those sentences occur again in the same text or in another translation, the computer can translate them automatically. The original translation was produced by a human translator and was corrected by him or her, so you can be sure that the translation supplied by the memory program is accurate.

Charges can be significantly  reduced for translations where memory programs are used.

So that summarizes Technical Translations approach : Quality, Delivery, Price. We are very proud of this slogan and you may be sure that if you become one of our customers, you will benefit from all three aspects.

How to get your translations done by people who know your business.

When I founded our translation company in 1989, I had just stopped working for a manufacturer of construction machinery.

I was looking for translation customers. I telephoned hundreds of them. It’s never an easy task. It’s very difficult to get past the switchboard – and email was hardly used at that time.

Then one day I thought “Why don’t I try the company I used to work for?” (I don’t know why it took me so long to think of that). So I contacted that company and received plenty of translation work.

Our company expanded. It had its ups and downs, but it managed to weather three recessions (one in the UK, one in the USA and another in France). We were translating mostly engineering documents, service manuals and the like, for construction and agricultural machinery manufacturers, plus various engineering companies.

It was still difficult to find enough new customers.

Then I suddenly realised that the reason why we got so much work from construction machinery manufacturers was because I knew the business and I had been able to build up a team of translators who had also been in that business. Our customers had confidence in us and we were supplying their needs.

What our customers needed were translators who had practical experience in the industry or profession concerned. Not just people who have a degree in the language concerned, but people such as engineers, doctors, programmers, bankers, accountants, lawyers, geologists, scientists and technicians, people who know the business and who also speak the languages concerned.

We then had to devise a procedure for finding such practical experts. It took time, but after all the tests were completed, we assembled a large team of translators who meet our requirements. We know we can satisfy our customers and that they can be confident that the translation will provide correct information to their own customers.

The work of a translation agency in 2014 doesn’t stop at translating. We can use every sort of DTP program and we have the right translation memory software to supply translations with harmonized vocabulary and harmonized phrases for repetitive actions.

People in your company who are responsible for your technical or commercial literature would be very interested to learn about translation memories, which are a good way to cut your translation costs and improve consistency in your documents.

You can read our general paper on translation memories by reading the next post.

John Hadfield

General Manager

How to get cheaper translations with consistent vocabulary

Anyone who is responsible for a company’s technical documents - operator’s manuals, service manuals, etc. - will be aware that what the end user wants is perfectly consistent vocabulary, to avoid any  ambiguity. If it said “retaining bolt” in the previous page, why does it say “retaining screw” on this page? It is the same thing?

Recent years have seen great progress in the standardisation of vocabulary and phrasing in technical documents, and a great deal of that progress is due to the increasing use of translation memories.

You may have tried out some of the “on-line translation” systems available on the Internet. You will have seen that while it is often possible to understand more or less what the original text wanted to say, the language employed is usually not acceptable. You only have to translate a short text into a foreign language and then translate the result back into English to see what sort of a mess the translation is to the foreign reader.

Translation memory has nothing to do with that sort of “on-line translation”. Translation memories are used to record accurate translations made by qualified translators, so that the next time the same words are used in the original text, the translation memory will automatically produce the same translation. This provides consistency of vocabulary and phrasing.

Translation memories are used by translation agencies and freelancers for two purposes:

1.  To save time in translation, since the translator does not have to type the sentence again.  This saves money.

Like most service companies, translation agencies are selling time – the time that their translators take in typing out and checking a translation.

2.  To ensure consistency, particularly in repeated sentences. This gives the reader confidence in the document concerned, since he or she sees identical phrases and vocabulary in various parts of the document. It also ensures consistency of vocabulary, so that no confusion can exist as to “Is this the same thing they were talking about on page 33 ?”.

When various companies started to produce translation memories in the 1990’s, they were mainly used by freelance translators to save time and to produce standardised translations.

Translation agencies, almost all of which use freelance translators when their in-house staff have too much work, then started to use translation memory systems for the same purposes. The cost of translation was sometimes reduced, since three categories of translation were used:

·      Perfect match (when the sentence to be translated already existed in the translation memory – no action on the part of the translator – the computer translates the sentence automatically) This category is often paid at 20% or 30% of “per word” price.

·      Fuzzy match (when the sentence to be translated is almost the same as a sentence in the translation memory; in this case the translator has to check it for differences). This is often paid at 50% or 60% of “per-word” price.

·      No match (when there is no such sentence in the translation memory). This is paid at 100% of “per-word” price.

Among some of the bigger companies in the world it then became usual to work with translation agencies who kept such memories on their behalf.

Translation memories are now often used by the translation agencies for their medium and small customers and the advantages as regards consistency are immediately apparent to anybody reading the technical documentation.

Companies working with translation agencies who use these systems also often enjoy lower prices for their translations.