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As a Sales Manager for a translation agency, every time I get a quote request for a translation, the usual questions I get are- 'How much will it cost?' and 'How long will it take?'. In the service sector, when potential clients come to you with these fixed criteria, it can be difficult to convince them to shift the focus towards the quality of your services, rather than simply the price. So how do you communicate the real value of your services in your initial interactions with the customer?

Here are some suggestions from a sales perspective:

Ask questions 

When you get an enquiry, ask questions about how the translated text will be used.

Knowing the end purpose will certainly help you to decide which service to offer. For instance, if the document is for internal use only, you might recommend a basic translation service. But for more complex documents meant for external stakeholders, revision services would be better to ensure the document is thoroughly checked for accuracy.

For your client, asking these questions will be a reminder that their translated material is as important as the source. The more questions you ask, the more insight they gain into their translation needs and they may become more receptive to your proposal.

Testimonials and recommendations

Just as Amazon customers choose products with raving reviews, customers in the market for translation can also be tempted with recommendations and positive references. It is always a good idea to share what your existing or past clients say about you. Customers might choose your services over the competition, even if you're not the cheapest, because they read a very positive testimonial on your website, you never know!

As best practice, always ask your existing clients to recommend you to others.

Keep your communication short and to the point

Remember, your clients might not have the time or the patience to go through lengthy presentations, so keep it short, simple and powerful!


Keep track of the keywords that have worked for you in the past, such as native translator, project manager, translation memory etc. When something has clicked with your clients before, remember to use it again in your next conversation!

Highlight the impacts of translation

Sure, it's funny to read hilarious translation mistakes on menus and signboards, but explain how damaging it could be for your customers brand if one of their product labels was wrongly translated! A company can even lose its entire business oversees if they don't focus on the quality of their translations and instead put poorly written or culturally offensive content on an international website.

Follow up

Even if you put all these tips into practice, many customers will still go for the cheapest quote, but try to build a relationship ­ gather feedback, connect on social media and send newsletters. Chances are, the next time they need a translation they will remember your diligence and come back to you!

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From the Philosopher¹s Stone to the Deathly Hallows, J K Rowling used the English language to introduce us to a world of magic and introduced us to characters and ideas using words that have now become a part of our day-to-day vocabulary. Unsurprisingly, this creation of a whole new world led to a number of obstacles for the translators responsible for recreating the novels into a staggering 73 languages.

Often overlooked by all except the most eagle-eyed reader, the choice of proper names often gives a hint to the personality of the characters. Take Albus Dumbledore. Albus is the Latin for white, while Dumbledore is an archaic word for bumblebee (Rowling explained that she imagined Albus

Dumbledore as someone who hummed while he walked around). Readers have speculated that Albus refers to Dumbledore¹s standing as a ³good² wizard, playing on the connotations between white and good, black and evil.

The translation of proper names can be a tricky business in literature, especially in a such a well-known franchise with character names that are recognisable across the globe. To deal with this, most of the translators decided to reproduce the name Albus Dumbledore in their own versions.

Some, however, chose to play with similar ideas that gave a nod to Dumbledore¹s character. Czech also used an archaic term for bumblebee in the name Albus Brumbál, while Brazilian Portuguese changes Dumbledore¹s first name to Alvi, which also means white or clean. Rather bafflingly, the Italian translation plumps for Albus Silente but the translation of Madame Pomfrey as Madama Poppy Chips more than makes up for this odd choice.

Rowling coins a number of new words throughout her work. The remembrall is an obvious portmanteau formed from the words remember and ball and similar words are used in the French (rapeltout) and the German (Errinnermich) translations. She also created a number of acronyms that have a magical spin to them. School examinations go by OWLs (Ordinary Wizarding Levels) and NEWTs (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests). Many of the translators take some creative twists and turns to create a similar effect in their own languages with highlights like the Dutch SLIJMBAL (slimeball) and PUIST (pimple) exams.

Wordplay is even used to reveal a major plotline when Tom Marvolo Riddle¹s name is revealed to be an anagram for I am Lord Voldemort. As the name Voldemort was generally reproduced in translated works, translators had to find first and middle names that would create a similar revelatory anagram. Tom Elvis Jedusor (French) and Trevor Délgome (Icelandic) fit the bill nicely while the Swedish Tom Gus Mervolo Dolder creates the Latin anagram of Ego Sum Lord Voldemort.

There are so many, many more examples of Rowling¹s fantastic use of language and, while we can¹t examine them all here, we hope that this blog has inspired you to revisit the wizarding word of Harry Potter and maybe even to see it through new eyes by reading one of the translations.

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Treating MTPE as just a brief manual revision of the automatically generated translation before the end user delivery would never let us achieve the results mentioned by eBay’s Senior Director of Machine Translation and Geo Expansion, Hassan Sawaf: “As we’ve rolled out our MT capabilities, and even before a lot of the education and outreach we plan to do, we’ve quickly increased the number of Russian users we see using these features by 50 %”.

For Russian, which is an inflectional language with a complex structure and high morphological demands, every single MT segment has to undergo a multi-stage processing sequence with several linguists working on it in turns.

- Together with the client we developed a comprehensive guideline on the language specific conventions of MTPE, and made sure that each member of the team was adhering to it. This guide was continuously being updated.

- Each MT-segment was processed with a usual 4-step TEP+QA worfkflow, modified for the project: MT-editor/2nd editor/proofreader/QA specialist performing automated checks.

- Resources for each of these steps were tested through a special procedure, adapted for the project specifics. (The content we worked on was meant not for human users, but for the MT engine’s training.)

So this ride was even more complex than a standard localization cycle. Then why bother complicating time-tested processes, get paid less, and not just “translate from scratch”, as usual? The answer is, MT is not as black as it is sometimes painted. Judging from the experience with such major accounts as eBay, Cisco and Dell, we do believe that MT is good. But it is certainly not yet capable of replacing HT: if our goal is the client’s satisfaction, there’s always a job to do for human experts. 

We especially doubt that any MT engine can be trained well enough to produce a near final-quality translation for Russian and other complex languages. As recent article by Memsource states, “Russian, Polish and Korean have lower MT leverage rates, below 40% or even 20% fuzzy matches and 5% complete matches.”

Back to the eBay case, we think the 50% increase in the number of Russian users was achieved mostly because the content was translated. And although MT is not a universal remedy, implementing it played the key role in the success of this particular case.

In many other cases, it’s better to have no translation than a poor one (which raw MT output usually constitutes).

For a lower standard often referred to as “fit for purpose”, light PE may suffice, which aims to make the MT output “simply understandable”. However, in our 5+ years of MTPE practice we’ve never faced an actual project with Light MTPE demands. On the contrary, those of our clients who utilise MT, tend to present some of the highest quality expectations. This is probably because they’re putting so much effort into MT deployment, including engine training, output evaluation, analytics, statistics, not to mention the actual PE work for each language involved. Consequently, highest quality is expected.

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Whether you provide business translations, certified translations, localisation services, or medical interpreting, you¹ll need more than just a team of qualified language professionals to get the job done properly and accurately. To translate a complex and lengthy legal document from Spanish to English, for example, requires more than just a bilingual translator.
To accurately localise a witty and catchy marketing campaign from English into Swahili, you¹ll need a marketing professional first and a linguist second. In short, in an increasingly demanding and competitive world, to secure any major translation contract, you¹ll need a team with specialisations. Why?

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Many of us are still in a state of mourning after the shock of the UK's EU referendum result. Others in the language industry have started to look beyond the immediate horizon and can only see more negative consequences facing the language profession.

Most alarming for many has been the posturing of one of the leading contenders in the Conservative Party race for its leadership and the position of Prime Minister.  

Theresa May, the front runner, if she succeeds David Cameron as First Lord of the Treasury, is prepared to use the status of 3.3 million EU citizens currently living and working in the UK as bargaining chips in negotiations with European Union member states.  Not content with that she has pronounced that 1.2 million UK citizens living and working in other EU countries will be thrown into the mix too.  

Setting aside the morality of such a negotiating tactic, it has set alarm bells ringing throughout the UK's language industry.  Ours is a sector heavily reliant on mother-tongue linguists for translation and interpreting. Many thousands of those professionals are resident in the UK and members of either the Chartered Institute of Linguists or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.  Many are practitioners who have gone on to form companies.  Those companies not only rely of the freelance community, but need to have certainty about the ability to recruit in-house linguists too. 

Meanwhile, the vote to leave is creating just as much uncertainty around the development of future linguists too.  UK universities offering translation and interpreting courses are already under pressure with some high profile casualties, such as Westminster and Salford.  With the future of the Erasmus Programme up in the air, the viability of more courses could come under increasing pressure and some may not survive.

The uncertainty being faced by the whole of the language profession demands that all the professional bodies come together to form a united front. We need a strong united voice to speak directly to those who ultimately will lead our negotiations, so they carefully consider the future of the UK's £1 billion language industry, which is the hidden lubricant in UK plc's ability to trade successfully with the rest of the world.

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  • Verónica
    Verónica says #
    i agree completely with you
    i agree completely with you

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