Macro Translate's Cardinal Rules of the Translation Industry

Translation is often the last step of the process before a product or service is made available to customers. As the last step in the supply chain, language service providers find that clients often do not plan as much for the translation process as they do at every other step in their overall project. As a result, translation projects are often frantically pushed through to vendors with tight timescales, limited budgets and other constraints that make it difficult to deliver a final product of high caliber. 


You are more likely to stay within your budget, meet your deadlines, achieve high quality results and enjoy a smoother translation process when you adhere to what we believe are the “Cardinal Rules” of the industry. 

Provide Clear Instructions and Expectations

Be specific with your language services provider about your expectations. By doing so, you are more to get the project delivered according to your specifications. Be clear about your expectations regarding the project schedule, including any milestone dates, and be open to hearing about any potential risks your schedule may introduce to the project. Give sufficient background information about the project, for example, about the document audience and purpose. Let your project manager know what you’re expecting in terms of deliverables, for example, do you need a high-resolution PDF as well as the native InDesign file? Are you using a PC or a Mac?

Understand Translation Production Times

Turnaround time for translation projects are quite standard across the industry. A translator can translate about 2000 words in a business day and a proof reader can check about 4000–6000 words in a business day. It is possible to turnaround translations faster by applying multiple linguists to a project, but that is usually subject to rush fees. Lastly, an overly-rushed project may affect the consistency and quality of the translation. 


Your language services provider may prefer to budget additional time into the project to account for project management, file engineering, desktop publishing and other services. Whenever possible, allow as much time in your overall project schedule for the localization process. That will always lead to quality work! 

Provide the Original Source Files

Whenever possible, provide your translation vendor with the original source file formats (not a PDF or a scan, for example) as well as any other relevant files. When work starts on your translation project, service providers must put your files through a file engineering stage, where they convert the original source files into a format that is compatible with Translation Memory. These tools are unable to process scanned or protected PDFs. While some PDFs can convert cleanly into an editable source file format, it is always preferable to work with the original source file format to preserve as much formatting as possible. If your project is going through a typesetting or DTP stage, be sure to send a package with all relevant files to your language service provider, including any fonts, graphics, links, etc. Working with missing files will introduce delays into the process. 

Provide Reference Materials and Use a Glossary

By providing any relevant reference materials, you will make the translation process smooth, often resulting in quality work! Reference materials and include style guides (which instruct the writer on the proper style and tone of voice and possibly formatting preferences as well), previous Translation Memories or examples of past translations you liked, as well as schematics, diagrams, graphics, or other visual aids that may assist the translator. 


If your content consists of industry-specific terminology, acronyms, or technical jargon, consider developing a list of these terms prior to beginning the translation process. With this, always have your language services provider work with you to determine how these terms should be handled. Should the terms be left in the source language? Do translations already exist for some of industry-specific terms? Do other terms to be translated first to ensure consistency throughout the project? While this may require some time to set-up at the beginning of the project, it will ultimately lead to efficient and accurate translation, thus improving the quality of work.

Be Clear and Concise

A clearly written document that is easy to understand in English, or any source language, will be translated more effectively and efficiently into the desired target languages, thus increasing the quality of work all while reducing the duration of project completion. Be concise­–don’t use five words where one will do. Since most language service providers charge on a “Cost per Word” rate, being concise will save you money. Lastly, avoid using any confusing language, jargon, slang, acronyms, and metaphors that will not translate well. 

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