Simply Friday

Business & Marketing Strategy

Website Translation - Part 2

As a follow up to last week's piece on website translation, we're delighted to publish a recent interview with Nathalie Schon, a professional translator from Metz, France.  Nath runs her own translation business Office Magenta and works primarily with French, German and English Tranlsations.

Having recently delivered  a website translation for a client it was fascinating to see quite how much emphasis is put on getting the cultural nuance correct for each language.  If you're serious about doing business in different languages, this is one area you can't afford to skimp on

We'll publish the final piece of the interview later on this week where we ask Nath about the differences between buying and licensing a translation and yes, there's a big difference!

How long have you been working as a professional translator?

I've been translating for about 15 years for national and international administrations, and as an in-house subtitler in Paris.

What languages do you work with?

French, German and English. I have a colleague who handles Spanish translations.

Can anyone become a translator if they are bilingual?

No, it's certainly a requirement but not enough. Translation is a very specific job. You have to write well too (advertisement, literary or artistic texts, subtitles...) and for subtitling, you need to know how to condense your translation into a set number of characters.

What schooling did you complete to become a translator?

I studied translation for my PhD in Comparative Literature.

Where is a good place to study to become a translator?

A translator school or a university offering language degrees involving the languages you are translating from and into.

What tools do you use to translate?

I use a CAT tool for technical texts. Otherwise the Office software, pdf editor, html editor, and the client's software for online translation. I can use any software the client wants me to. In that case I charge my hourly rate for the training period.

How long should a translation typically take?

Most translators can work on 1500 words per day, sometimes more, sometimes less. It really depends on the content and the file format.

What are typical pricing for translations?

Ballpark between someone just starting out and learning on the job, to someone who is professional and delivers excellent copy first time.  A normal rate would be between 0.10$ and 0.20$ a word, anything below is problematic because you can't get a good job for that rate, just like you can't get a good pair of shoes for 5$.

A good translator, whose work doesn't require proofreading, can easily ask for 0.14$ (or more, depending on the level of difficulty).  If you take a bad translator for 0.07$, a proofreader for 0.03$ and after the proofreader tells you the translation is really bad, an editor or new translator to fix the mess, you realize it would have been cheaper and more stress-free to chose the good translator right from the start.

What is your process like when working with a new client?

A client sends me an email, preferably with an excerpt of the text to translate, a word count, and a deadline. I answer within 24 hours on days I work outside of the office (I'm also an interpreter), but usually within one-two hours, with a rate and the confirmation of the deadline or propose another deadline. The client sends me a purchase order and I deliver the translation per email on the agreed deadline. My payment terms are within 30 days after delivery of the translation.

Deadlines are crucial. I hear many stories of translators working for dumping rates, who suddenly vanish when they realize they can't actually do the job; the first time the client knows about it is when the first deadline is missed.  A real translator will keep the client updated, particularly when it comes to large jobs, and will always deliver ON TIME. I only accept jobs I know I can do and I publish my fields of specialization on my website

What is the one thing you wish clients understood better about translating?

Some clients think that translation is easy and not an act of creation. I have heard very condescending things from people who don't understand the work and skills involved.

When you see how little some companies budget for translation, you see that they don't understand the devastating impact of a bad translation on their company's reputation and how an excellent translation can often increase their popularity and speak to another culture.  A good translator is also a writer and knows how to appeal to a new audience/readership, for instance, you don't speak to a German client like you would to a French one.

What is the strangest thing you have had to translate?

It was a video on schizophrenic patients and a film with very bad song rhymes!

What is the best thing about being an online translator?

The freedom to work from anywhere and the variety of the texts to translate.

What is the best way for people to get in touch with you?

Through my website: or just drop me an email: [email protected]

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