When you first come across language services, you might be confused:
“Transcreation? Localisation? Translation? I just want my content in another language!”
In truth, all translation services have their place, and you might need most of them at different times – Each of them might need different teams of translators, processes, tools and pricing structure. This is why it’s important to use the right service at the right time to make sure your translation project is successful.
So, which service is right for your situation? Let’s start by understanding the differences in each one:
Translation is the process of rendering text from one language into another. Which is like saying “writing is the activity of composing text” – technically correct, but oh so broad.
Usually, translation is categorised based on the sector it targets and the expertise that a translator needs to have to do a good job.
Some popular categories are:
According to the specialism, different translators will be needed – affecting both turnaround times and pricing. A legal, technical or medical text, for example, will require a deep knowledge of the selected field as well as translation experience, which will increase the cost of translators for the agency and will affect the final price. The increased complexity and/or research needed will often make the translation take longer.
This is a non-exhaustive list of file formats that can be translated:
All Microsoft Office file formats: DOC/DOCX, XLS/XLS, PPT/PPTX, etc.)
Java Properties files
Illustrator (AI, EPS)
Quark Express files (QXD)
Best for: Printed and online documents of a general, legal, technical or financial nature, consumer-facing text, business-critical documentation, marketing collateral, presentations, contracts and more.
How it’s priced: per word (or per thousand words) of source language, unless specified. So, if you need an English into German translation, the price will be calculated on the length of the English text, not the final German output.
What is Desktop Publishing (DTP)?
DTP refers to a service used mostly when translating marketing and printed materials, carried out in the original sources files of a graphical document and includes typesetting and formatting to deliver a print-ready translation.
Best for: Presentations, printed documents and generally anything where the form of the content is as important as the content.
How it’s priced: while the translation part of the project is priced based on the number of words, the DTP service is generally priced per hour.
What is localisation and how does it differ from translation?
Wikipedia defines localisation as “the process of adapting a product to a specific country or region”.
The main difference between translation and localisation is that the target culture, as well as the language, must be taken into account in order to successfully adapt the product to local markets. This means making sure that the content as a whole, including references, pricing, time and date formats, and at times even colours and images, fit in and are familiar to the local culture.
Localisation is not confined to countries where different languages are spoken: often it can be useful for a single language that has regional or national differences – for example, South American and European Spanish, but also UK and US English.
Now, there is some confusion: lately the terms “translation” and “localisation” have been used interchangeably, especially when referring to “good translation”. So, it’s good to clarify with your vendor.
Localisation is most often required for the adaptation of websites, software, and video games and usually has a strong technical component to it. It is (or at least it should be) often followed by a QA process, carried out by native speakers.
Localising your website into other languages can be one of the best investments you make.
It’s a great way to:
Test new markets relatively inexpensively
Increase traffic by repurposing existing content
Improve user experience for non-native speakers
Improve conversion rate by increasing trust from foreign visitors
Take advantage of lower cost-per-click or advertising rates in countries with fewer competitors
The website localisation process:
Scoping – Most translation projects should start with a translation brief. In this document, you will outline your company’s tone of voice, what your goals are and provide glossaries of branded terms you wish to preserve in the source language.At this stage it’s important to let the agency know what parts of your website you wish to translate. All of it? Just the blog? The “money pages”? How about the T&Cs? This information will dictate the choice of translators needed to be allocated to your project based on competency and, since website localisation is charged on a per-word rate, you will be able to get an initial idea of price.At Toppan Digital Language, we’ve created tools that allow us to extract text from your website pages and run a first analysis, for a fast ballpark quote.
Quoting – To finalise the quote, it’s important to provide the translation agency with your original documents, to allow them to determine an accurate word count. At this stage, the source content will be checked with translation tools to find repetitions in the text, which can be discounted from the final price.Usually, you can send your website content in several formats. Some agencies (like Toppan Digital Language) also offer CMS and API integrations, making it easier for you to select content for translation, get a quote and reimport the translated text in the right places while keeping the code intact.
Translation – First, a project manager selects one or more professional linguists based on a combination of factors: their experience, familiarity with your brand and/or industry, previous track record and quality score. The linguist will then translate, often using translation tools to improve output and consistency.
In Toppan Digital Language’s case, we host the tools ourselves, and our translators sign in our portal to access them. This has two main benefits: on one hand, we can work with the best translators in the industry, regardless of what software they own (we don’t charge them to use ours).Also, our clients’ work resides on our secure server, meaning the translators cannot access documents without our approval and cannot copy and paste or download confidential work. During the translation process, project managers keep track of the work and relate any queries to the client and feed the answers to the team of translators.
Revision – This step of the process is carried out by another, equally qualified native linguist who checks grammar and style while making sure the meaning of the source text is preserved.
Importing content – Usually, clients are in charge or inserting the translations into their own sites. When we work on source files such as HTML, our tools ensure your code is protected at all times, making re-importing your translated content safe and hassle-free. As mentioned earlier, using CMS integrators makes it easier to import translations into your site.
QA – This optional step of the process involves a professional linguist using the website and checking that the translated version satisfied its users. In particular, they look out for:
Technical bugs such as text that overruns text boxes due to longer words in other languages or translated text inserted on the wrong pages of your site.
Style and grammar errors once more, now with the bonus of seeing the translations in context.
This service is usually charged per hour.
Best for: Ecommerce sites, company websites, company blog, landing pages, mini-sites, B2B lead-generation websites.
How it’s priced: Like document translation, website localisation is often quoted on the basis of word count, and it’s also subject to specialism surcharges, while repetitions are discounted.
Find out how much it would cost to translate your website here:
What is Transcreation and how does it differ from translation?
Transcreation is often described as ‘creative translation’, but in fact it is far more complex than this.
Transcreation, carried out by translators who are also copywriters in their own language, takes into account the cultural and contextual differences between source and target markets, which often means making cultural adjustments beyond the point of localisation.
As a result, the transcreated text should read as if it were originally written in the reader’s native language and deliver exactly the same impact and evoke the same emotions as the source text did to readers in the original language.
An example of translation vs transcreation can be seen below:
Best for: Print ads, TVCs, headlines, taglines and any other creative copy where you would like to produce something original, or where word or character limits are an issue.
How it’s priced: Because time is needed to research and think, it’s usually best to charge per hour. Some agencies might charge per word, but understandably at a higher rate than traditional translation.
Sometimes, the translation of content is not the best approach to engage with consumers in new markets. These consumers have their own unique culture and identity – that’s why brands may choose to engage with their international customers with content created specifically for them.
Copywriting is a highly creative process and as such requires detailed briefing and an open channel of communication with the end client to ensure that work is created to their specification.
Reference material is a large factor in ensuring the copywriter has the necessary information to produce copy that meets the requirements and expectations of the end client. Some examples of reference material include information about the target customer, images of products, previous examples of creative content, and brand’s tone-of-voice guidelines.
Multilingual copywriting is carried out by native-speaking writers. In this case, their writing ability is much more important that their understanding of other languages.
Best for: Blog articles, specific campaigns
How it’s priced: Copywriting can be priced either per hour or per word. It is generally more expensive than translation.
What is a Certified translation?
Clients will often ask for a “certified translation”.
In this case, the most important thing is to ask which kind of certification they need, as there isn’t a single, global certification.
Normally, a translation certification from an agency consists in a stamp and an accompanying letter stating that the translation has been completed by a professional translator and is, to the best their knowledge, of high quality and true to the original text.
This is certainly the case in the US and UK, but to complicate things, different countries have different certification systems in place. For example, in France and Spain, translations to be used in court will have to be carried out by “sworn translators”.
In some cases, translations will need to be accompanied by notarisation, an extra step where a notary is required to certify the translator’s signature on the affidavit used to attest the accuracy of the translation.
Best for: The most common use of certification is for legal translations, particularly when the text needs to be used in court.
How it’s priced: It depends on the agency, but there is little justification in charging extra for a certification letter. If it’s notarized, however, there is usually a surcharge to cover the cost of the notary (usually one hour’s worth of work).
Machine translation: what is it and how does it work?
With the recent advancements in AI, Machine Translation is on everyone’s mind.
But what is it? And how good is it?
The term “machine translation” (MT) refers to the use of computer software to translate text automatically.
There are different types of machine translation:
Rule-based, where software attempts to model the rules of a language;
Statistical, where the computer attempts to learn from large amounts of text that have been previously translated;
Neural, which, unlike the traditional phrase-based translation systems, uses a single, large neural network that can be trained with existing content and a feedback loop to produce more accurate translations over time.
Isn’t it better to machine translate and post-edit?
Although general, raw machine translation still leaves much to be desired for, when machine translation engines are customised, they can provide a better result.
During the process of customisation, human translators train a specific engine to handle a specific client’s work.
To make machine translation a realistic option, you need to meet these criteria:
At least 20,000 aligned translation segments (source and target text)
A large body of monolingual reference data, to train the style
A large body of bilingual reference data, to train the grammar
Why not just use Google Translate (or Bing)?
First, let’s look at how Google Translate works:
We test Google’s machine translation regularly to see how the quality compares.
The hypothesis is that one day Google’s quality will be sufficient that it can replace the translator in the translation process, and then be edited by a professional human translator to get it up to the required quality.
All of our testing so far has shown that it is more time-consuming correcting Google’s translations, but there are deviations from language pair to language pair, and according to the type of text.
In our tests, Google Translate has consistently performed better when translating English into Spanish and Italian than it has translating into French and German. It also translates general texts – simple communications and simple grammatical phrases – far better than more complex specialised texts.
However, even in the best cases we have so far found that the time required to correct the machine translated text means that it is more cost-effective to translate from scratch.
Best for: User-generated content, highly technical, repetitive, non-business critical.
How it’s priced: Free translation for non-business critical content. Post editing is usually charged per hour. The amount of time taken will vary based on the quality of the original output. As mentioned above, when human post-editing is taken into account, the price can easily surpass that of professional human translation.
It’s impossible to talk about content without mentioning SEO, no matter which language you operate in.
Building a site and forgetting about it hoping for traffic is the online equivalent of opening a shop in the desert. In the same way, a localisation of your site alone often won’t be enough if it’s not executed with SEO in mind.
Sometimes referred to as global or multilingual SEO, international SEO is the optimization of a website for internet users within a specific locale. This service is often executed in conjunction with website translation and it helps building the online presence of a business in a foreign country.
We go through a detailed account set-up process for each new client to build a profile of exactly the right linguistic team. We then hand-pick a team from our pre-vetted database of language and translation professionals. Where necessary we head-hunt through our global network. Our network of professional translators extends around the globe and includes more than 6,000 expert linguists. They support our translation services from on-site locations all over the world.
Because of the volume of work we do, we regularly work with many of the world’s best professional translators. Our translation workflow tools continually track and assess the performance of our translators, but there is no substitute for the quality assurance and customer service provided by our in-house expert linguist Project Managers. Our translation services have been independently audited and awarded the ISO 17100 and ISO9001 quality standards. Internally we have created a client service charter which distills our aspirations into a set of key principles that guide the way that we work, the way that our clients are treated, and the way that we deliver our translation services. Call us to find out how we can help you manage your translations.
End-to-end language services and international expansion support – helping brands and retailers ensure consistency across in-store, outdoor, digital & eCommerce, mobile, corporate, legal and internal communications.
From technical audits to keyword research and SEO copywriting – we offer a range of services that will ensure that your site is optimised for the most popular search engines and online marketplaces in your target region.
From Google Adwords to Baidu paid search advertising, we offer a full service from keyword research to ad copywriting and PPC account management to ensure that your paid search campaigns deliver clicks and ROI.
With voice search continuing to grow in popularity we unpack how you can adapt your voice search strategy for multiple languages.
We have been working with Toppan Digital Language for over 3 years and are very satisfied with their work. Their Project Managers are always responsive, add value to the work we do and the quality of their translations is great
Cardiovascular European Research Centre Clinical Operations Manager
What I think you do particularly well is understand the marketing content and you ask relevant questions that we hadn’t even thought about! I feel you are one step ahead and this is massive added value. On two occasions Toppan Digital Language has spotted inconsistencies within the content that were subsequently amended on our side. It gives me great confidence working with you.
Working with Toppan Digital Language is such a rewarding experience. At this point I can honestly say, Toppan Digital Language is like a second team in our organisation as they make collaboration so easy and fun. They are very professional, and their high standards match ours perfectly.
Verve Project Manager
I am looking at the translation of the concepts: pretty amazing :-)….I am really impressed.
Cello Health Insight
Toppan Digital Language is a reliable and knowledgeable partner when it comes to translations for the biotech/pharmaceutical industry. They are very responsive, asked the important relevant questions at project set-up and delivered high quality translations very rapidly, all of which led to Selecta filing the IND on our aggressive timeline.
Selecta Biosciences Senior Vice President R&D
Toppan Digital Language are our global translation partner who we rely on for both quant and qual translation needs. Their expertise in healthcare and their professionalism and consultative approach continue to add value to our projects and to our business.
Cello Health Insight Head of Language Resources
Toppan Digital Language has been assisting us with a large number of translation and proofreading projects covering a diverse array of study areas. They have always been very professional and highly flexible in terms of the often-changing requirements of our various studies.
Kantar Health (WPP)
Toppan Digital Language are our “go to” and global translation partner. We rely on their support, consultative service and quality delivery which all play a large part in allowing M3 Global Research to look great in front of our clients.
M3 Global Research President
…Very good with keeping to deadlines and often surpass their own estimations for translations timings. On numerous occasions they have gone above and beyond what is required and provide us with extra information that helps ensure we are working with the very best translations.
We are very happy with the high quality of Toppan Digital Language translations and the dedication and responsiveness of their team to our needs. We have already recommended their services within our company and will not hesitate to work with them further.