How to select the right Translator for your needs?
Myths About Language Translation
How Pricing is derived
What Are the Different Types of Translations?
Human vs. Machine Translation
Before contacting any translators or agencies, you need to understand your own requirements. What languages will you need? Who will your readers be? Your client? Your customers? Friends or family members? Will the translation be published? What are the source and target languages?

Next you should evaluate the content of the materials that you need to have translated. Is it general material such as personal correspondence? Is it business correspondence? Is it technical engineering or computer related materials? This is important to know when you contact a freelance translator or agency.

What data format are you using? What final output do you require? What kind of software does the translator need to work on your project? Make sure that the translator that you choose is equipped to work with you.

Do your research. Then contact a few possible candidates, ask them about their experience and expertise. If the translators don't feel comfortable with your project, perhaps they can direct you to someone who can do the job. Ask them for their CV or resumé, or for professional references.

Be ready to discuss rates, schedules, deadlines, and answer any questions regarding the project you are proposing.
Language Translation is simply not substituting foreign words or phrases from one language to another. According to Multilingual Computing and Technology, the translation industry's authority on foreign language translation, many myths regarding foreign language translation exist today.
Myth - Anyone can translate who has taken a foreign language in high school, lived in another country for three years or can type a keyboard in a foreign language.
Truth - In order to write in another language, one would require the same education, background and experience as writing in the original language.

Myth - Translators can translate both ways (from and to their native language) just as
Truth - The majority (90%) normally translate into, not out of, their native languages, and most translators only have one native language. A translator cannot possibly have the education and experience to translate technical, legal or medical documents in more than one language

Myth - A good translator doesn't need any reference materials
Truth - Reference materials are enormously beneficial in understanding meaning and making good word choices. A good translator has a library of reference materials containing specific industry terminology. It is not uncommon for an experienced translator to have technical, legal, medical, computer and economic dictionaries costing over a thousand dollars.

Myth - A good translator completes a translation the first time, without any editing or proofreading.
Truth - Do you think that writers for newspapers, magazines, websites and lawyers writing contracts get it right the first time? The fact is that most translations are edited and proof read several times before they are submitted back to the clients.

Myth - Translators will soon be replaced by computers (machine translation).
Truth - Complete machine translation (translation performed 100% by computer) is at least 10 years away. Even then, editing and proofreading will still need to be made by human translators. Today, machine translation still can't disseminate the many nuances of other languages. In addition, documents that are not in an electronic format cannot be translated by machine.
Myth - A 100-page technical manual that took four months and three persons to write can be translated by one translator in two days.
Truth - Let's assume that a 100-page manual averages 250 words per page, for a total of 25,000 words to be translated. Let's also assume that a full-time, experienced translator can translate 3,000 words per day or 20,000 words per week. This means that the project will take at least eight days for translation, not including editing, proofreading or formatting. And this formula can be adversely affected by a large number of factors, such as the quality, complexity and subject matter of the source document, the actual number of words, the "popularity" of the source and target languages, and the translator's schedule and previous commitments. The point is that good translation work takes a reasonable amount of time.

Myth - Spanish is Spanish - all around the world.
Truth - The Spanish in Mexico is different from the Spanish in Spain and different from the Spanish in Columbia, Argentina, Chile and Cuba. French in Canada is different from the French in France; and the Portuguese in Brazil is different from the Portuguese in Portugal.
Remember, translation is an art, not a science. There is always more than one way to translate words and phrases. It takes an extremely educated and experienced translator to translate technical patents, legal contracts, financial statements and equipment and machinery manuals. If you think choosing a translation agency or translator that offers the lowest price is the best choice, it may end up costing you more in the long run in time and expense. The main issue should be quality and the only way to get that is by using human translators.
When documents are translated you will hear terminology such as "Source" and "Target". A source language refers to the language being translated from and the target language is the language being translated into. If an original document is in English and it needs to be translated into German, for example, the source language is English and the target language is German. The final total number of German words within the document determines pricing. This pricing is usually defined as cents per word (For example $160.00 per thousand words or $0.16 cents per word). However, because languages such as Russian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese are character based versus letter based, pricing is usually based on the source word count (English). Prices in general range from $160.00 per thousand words - to $210.00 per thousand words or $0.16 cents per word - $0.21 cents per word. Pricing for interpreters is based upon an hourly rate, which ranges from $100 - $125 per hour. For assignments of a few days or longer, daily rates are usually provided

Pricing for translation is normally not done on a flat/fixed fee such as a price per page or an hourly rate. The reason for this is because some documents contain pages that have only 200 words per page while other documents contain pages that have over 1000 words per page. By instituting fixed fee pricing, clients may over pay if there are very few words on a page. By using a price per word methodology, clients only pay for what is actually translated. A similar philosophy holds true for pricing on an hourly rate. Many translators are more qualified than other translators and work faster than most, while others are not as qualified and work slower. The faster, more qualified translators are penalized while the slower less experienced translators are improperly rewarded. That is why a price per word methodology works best.

Translation costs (price per word) are also determined by the level of complexity within each project document. For example, a general letter in German will not be the same price as a technical patent, a legal contract, pharmaceutical clinical trial documents or a software manual. A general letter will be the lowest price in the spectrum while the legal documents and technical patents will be at the higher end. The price for banking documents usually falls between the two spectrums. When working with clients on an ongoing basis, pricing is usually agreed upon at the beginning of the initial engagement, for each language and for each type of project (establishing certain prices for letters, financial statements, advertising brochures, etc.) This helps to save on administrative time and costs for both the client and the translation agency.
With the need for translated material in every major language expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 36% over the next five years, documents containing specialized information from almost every industry will need to be translated. These documents usually fall into specific categories of translation. They include Technical, Industrial, Medical, Scientific, Legal, Financial, Software, Literary, Advertising / Marketing, and Internet/Websites. In order to understand the types of translation expertise in each category, definitions are provided below.
Technical Translation
Industrial Translations
Medical Translations
Scientific Translations
Legal Translations
Financial Translation
Software Translation
Literary Translation
Advertising / Marketing Translation
Internet Web Design Translation
Technical Translation
Technical Translation allows for an exchange of products and information between professionals, engineers, designers and businesses around the world. These documents include software and hardware user manuals, engineering schematics for construction, safety / maintenance reports for off shore drilling platforms and aviation design specifications as well as many other highly specialized and detailed records.
Industrial Translations
Industrial Translation enables large industrial and manufacturing companies to purchase, sell and operate specialized machinery and equipment around the world. These translations involve converting complex user commands, safety and maintenance requirements, machinery specifications, environmental protection regulations and other production parameters into a foreign language using today’s industry specific terminology.
Medical Translations
Medical Translation makes it possible for the global network of health professionals to share information that can be critical in research and patient care. Basic medical translations are used in diagnoses, insurance claims, injury and accident reports. More complex medical translations are involved in documenting new developments and breakthroughs in the pharmaceutical industry, often found in the world’s most respected Medical Journals and Industry Newsletters. Some of the most difficult and demanding medical translations involve the specifications and instructions for today’s most advanced instruments and equipment used in the ever-changing world of medicine.
Scientific Translations
Scientific Translation provides researchers in the fields of biology, chemistry and geology around the world to share knowledge, resources and breakthrough developments. These translations include results of laboratory and clinical trials, environmental impact studies as well as the complex details outlined in global patent registration. Some of the most common situations that would require scientific translations are those that affect and endanger communities across the globe. These situations involve extreme changes in nature like volcanic eruptions and hurricanes, new virus outbreaks and medical epidemics along with environmental emergencies such as a nuclear reactor explosion or the grounding of an oil tanker.
Legal Translations
Legal Translation serves to inform, protect and bind parties in international dealings where a document forces compliance. These legal translations are used by companies and agencies that work around the globe in international commerce so that all parties involved may fully understand and abide by the agreements and contracts that are signed. Government documents that have been translated and notarized are required by Immigration and Naturalization when determining the status of a foreigner. Other circumstances that require legal translations include arrest warrants, birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certificates and divorce proceedings.
Financial Translation
Financial Translation involves complex Financial Statements and Annual Reports as well as minutes from Shareholder Meetings for multi-national corporations. Companies involved in international commerce use translated letters of credit and credit reports before shipping costly goods overseas. On a smaller scale, foreigners purchasing real estate will use financial translations for sales contracts and the mortgage applications. In-country lenders require all the banking and financial statements submitted by the foreign buyer to be translated and certified.
Software Translation
Software Translation is called "Localization" because it not only translates the language but also takes the programming code to a local level. Software development companies looking to increase market share by selling products around the world use these translations. Involved in all aspects of computer programming, localization is required for full user programs from language learning and word processing to voice recognition used within other larger programs. Software programming is also used in industrial machinery by the computer chip that automates much of the operation. For companies that market overseas the software in machinery used by the machine operator must be translated, or better, localized, so that the foreign language can satisfy certain strict parameters such as fitting into the limited size of the control screen and utilizes the technologically advanced terminology of that particular industry.
Literary Translation
Publishers and novelists alike who want to bring books and stories to foreign cultures use literary Translation. This genre of translation is also used by the film industry when bringing movies to foreign countries, when dubbed and when subtitled. The translation aims to recreate the underlying message of the original author in order to evoke the same sentiments in the foreign reader or viewer. There are often cultural examples or phrases used in the original, which must be properly transformed so that the foreign audience is given the same "flavor" of the story.
Advertising / Marketing Translation
Advertising and Marketing Translation is used by agencies to help companies bring their products to overseas markets. The promotion of the product appeals to the foreign culture by utilizing country specific slang and trends that are often quite different than those used by the home country. The translation of print advertising that includes brochures, posters, commercials and promotional material is well studied so that it will convey the message in the foreign language and culture that best simulates the original.
Internet Web Design Translation
Internet Web Design Translation has become as much a requirement as having a web site for those companies that want to offer their products and services across the globe. Because the Internet has “leveled the playing field” for all companies around the world, a multi-lingual presence is like opening doors to sales in the farthest reaches of the globe. From a simple web page that has been translated to on-line catalogs with complete product descriptions all the way to full service ordering and product searches in the foreign language, web design translation can literally bring a small local company to the same level of sales opportunities as a Fortune 500 company.
In order to understand some of terminology used to define machine translation, the following definitions are provided.
Machine Translation (MT)
The goal of MT software is to try to replace the human translator. Algorithms analyze the grammar and syntax of source segments according to previously defined rules. It then queries a dictionary to produce a translated segment without human intervention. In its present state MT output is generally not good enough to be published without extensive human post-editing. The primary reasons for implementing this technology is speed, cost savings, and consistency. Currently, machine translation software is roughly 60% accurate when translating only general text such as letters and emails. It offers the reader a very basic understanding of the document. If MT is used to translate highly technical, legal or medical documents, the finished document often still reads like a foreign language. MT continues to be unable to provide correct grammar and industry related terms required by technical documents. In almost every instance, a human translator is needed to review, revise and edit machine-translated documents.
Translation Memory (TM)
TM software is designed to enhance the human translation effort. Matching source and target language segments that were translated by translator are stored in a database for future reuse. As the translation effort progresses, the translation memory grows. Newly encountered segments are compared to the database content, and the resulting output (exact, fuzzy or no match) is reviewed and completed by the translator. TM is designed to improve the quality and efficiency of the human translation process, not to replace it.
Significant Productivity Gains
Depending on the types of documents, the consistency of the source-language writing, and the software applications used, TM tools can improve productivity levels anywhere from 10% to 50%. Companies implementing a TM solution typically do so with an eye toward accomplishing one of three objectives:

1) Improving consistency
2) Minimizing turnaround time
3) Reducing translation cost

Of the three objectives, the first improving consistency-is most readily obtainable. Reductions in turnaround times and translation costs require careful analysis and planning; TM technology is not a silver bullet.
Customization Required
Despite what is being published by TM vendors, few people are able to effectively use any of the translation-memory applications straight out of the box. Some of the programs use non-standard menus and dialog boxes. All of them require the user to learn new terms and concepts because none of the filters to desktop-publishing applications such as FrameMaker or QuarkXPress will function without significant adaptation.
A Few Things To Remember
For every company that successfully employs translation- memory technology, there is one for whom the experiment has ended in disappointment and lost opportunities.

To make translation memory work, be sure to:
1) Carefully review and, where necessary, redesign your translation processes;
2) Perform a detailed Return on Investment analysis, taking into account "hidden costs;
3) Develop a long-term strategy for maintaining, protecting, and leveraging your TM assets
Human Translation
A major reason why human translation is preferred over MT is the fact that most words have multiple meanings. Because of this fact, a translation based on a one-to-one substitution of words is seldom acceptable. Computers do not really think about what they are doing. They just mechanically pick a translation for each word of the source text, that is, the text being translated, without understanding what they are translating and without considering the context. Human Translators can 1) distinguish between general vocabulary and specialized terms, (2) distinguish between various meanings of a word of general vocabulary, and (3) can take into account the total context, including the intended audience and important details such as regionalisms.
According to the latest research by Allied Business Intelligence, the market for language translation will grow to $11.5 billion by the end of 2007. Of this amount, machine translation will only account for $134.0 million or just over 1.0%. This indicates that the need for human translation will continue for quite some time into the future.