All you need to know about buying translations

15 useful tips for assigning translations plus the
secret to becoming a satisfied client

Send the original text to the translator to look over. They will tell you if it is within their area of specialization, warn you of any potential pitfalls, propose a deadline for delivery, and quote a price for the job. Then they will send you their

Price quote

Translators arrive at their quotes in different ways. The most straightforward is based on the number of words in the source text. In the Czech Republic translation is often priced based on “standard pages” (1800 characters including spaces). This is a carryover from the days of typewriters, when a standard page of A4 paper could fit 30 lines with 60 characters each. If the translation involves not just plain text, but also graphs, images or similar, or if the text requires a good deal of creativity (such as advertising slogans), the translator may charge by the hour or set a price for the project as a whole.

The translator may also send you their terms and conditions along with their quote. If you have not worked together before, they will probably ask for a 50% deposit.

Markéta’s Tip #7: Before you assign the translation, ask for free quotes from more than one translator. Be sure not to make your decision based on price as the main or even only factor, because that may backfire in the end.

If you are satisfied with the proposed price, deadline and how the translator communicates with you, then I suggest you send an

Order confirmation

This should specify what work is to be performed, when it is due and how much it will cost. You can attach your own terms and conditions to your order confirmation, stipulating penalties for late delivery, etc. For projects involving high volumes or confidential materials, you may wish to have the translator sign a Service Agreement or Non-Disclosure Agreement.

Markéta’s Tip #8: Confirm the assignment by sending an order confirmation with all the details in one place (what, how, when, how much it will cost).

As soon as the translator receives the confirmation, they can start work. To help the process go as smoothly as possible, make sure to provide

Reference materials

This can be anything that will help familiarize the translator with the topic: website links, samples from past projects, glossaries with specific terminology, videos or images of the products, diagrams, brochures, etc. The goal is to let the translator know as much as possible about your company, brand, products and services so that the translation will be fit for purpose and make the right impression on the intended audience. Make yourself available to the translator for questions. They aren’t trying to pester you; they just want to do their job as well as possible.

Markéta’s Tip #9: Let your translator learn more about your brand, products and services so that the translation will meet your needs.

Once they have studied the reference materials and gotten all the information they need, they will start work.


is not as easy as one might think. It’s not enough to know two languages (source and target). A translator has to know them both well enough to tease out the subtlest of nuances in meaning and style and pick up on cultural references and humor. All in order to create a new text in the target language that faithfully reflects the source while reading like it was originally written in the target language. The resulting text should be just as easy to read and understand as the original, and should convey the same information, impressions and feelings to readers. And that is easier said than done. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing, but sometimes translators spend hours on a single passage. No one can possibly know everything, so working on a translation often involves looking up various concepts, terms (a translator is not a walking dictionary!), definitions, context, etc. It depends on the nature of the original text, of course, but typically translators can translate about 2500–3000 words per day on average, or about a page per hour. The final text you receive will probably be the last of several versions. It’s like sculpture – first you get the stone roughly to the desired shape, then you bring out the more delicate tools for the fine work of shaping and chiseling until the piece is perfect.

When translating creative texts, such as advertising copy, sometimes a direct translation is inappropriate because the joke, wordplay, cultural references, or connotations of the original do not work in the target language. In that case your translator may suggest multiple options, all natural-sounding and conveying the message of the original. They should also provide a back-translation into the original language so you can see what changes have been made, and explain why they made a particular choice, how it works in the target language, and how it departs from the original.

Markéta’s Tip #10: A translation is just as important as the original, so be sure to give it the care, time and budget it deserves. This investment will be well worth it.

Once the translation is complete, it is ready for the reviewer. As mentioned above,


is meant to catch any typos, grammatical mistakes and content or formal inconsistencies. The reviewer may also suggest stylistic or other changes. Discuss with your translator to arrange (and pay) for an independent reviewer. Experienced translators have quality control procedures in place and should be able to deliver excellent quality even without a second pair of eyes.

Once you get the

Final version,

read through it and don’t hesitate to comment, share your opinion or ask about anything you find unclear. Translation is communication, so don’t be afraid to communicate. Your translator will be happy to answer all your questions and comments to your satisfaction. Once you put the translation to work, you can ask the translator to check that no errors were introduced during typesetting or printing (which can easily happen with Czech diacritic marks, for instance), that all line breaks are set correctly, no captions are overlapping images, headings are the appropriate length, etc.

Markéta’s Tip #11: Make sure to ask about anything you don’t understand or that doesn’t seem right in order to avoid unpleasant misunderstandings or missteps.

To be continued…

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