Translation Tips: Actually Translating, Finalising your Document, Counting Words, Sending your File
Tips for When Actually Translating
Besides the tips on this subject mentioned at the bottom, obviously one very important aspect of translations is the choice of terminology. For this it is highly advisable to get yourself a good computer translation dictionary. When I first started translating I had an impressive library of translation dictionaries, but once I finally migrated to a computer dictionary, I marveled at the amount of time I used to spend leafing through endless pages looking up words. Not to mention that I often had to look for the same word seven times over before it sunk into my head. And not to mention that I'd often have to leaf through several dictionaries before finding the term I was happy with. The advantage of a computer based translation dictionary is that you can add terms to it. So if you do have a fancy library of dictionaries and occasionally need to refer to it, it is no problem to add your research to custom develop your dictionary. A single dictionary you can refer to, which instantly accesses your term for you by simply typing in (or copying) the word and pressing ENTER. MUCH faster. I have to admit that, when previously referring to my paper dictionaries only, I'd often rather guess than waste another minute leafing through endless pages, so you can expect your quality to improve as well.
Custom developing your dictionary also applies to any research you might perform on the internet. There are a lot of online dictionaries to be found, and we have added a lot of them (and hope to continue with this endeavor) to our translation resources pages.
When using your computer dictionary, you obviously want to develop proficiency in the old ALT TAB, which allows you to switch quickly between different software open on your computer. Or if you are translating from a source file on your computer (such as a .pdf file as opposed to from a printed document), you may already have two programs running for your translation needs, in which case using ALT TAB for a third program could get annoying and complicated. In this case I press Escape to minimise the dictionary after use, and the mouse to summon it back.
But even with your library of paper dictionaries, robust and customised computer dictionaries, and the world of on-line dictionaries, you may still run into times when you simply do not find a clear term. In such cases, or when I am trying to decide between several possible terms, you might try searching the term on google. The term with the most results (number of pages out there containing the word) would probably be a better choice, as it is obviously being used more frequently.
Or for very specific terminology, you might try surfing for the source term, in case one of the pages mentions the translation (useful when translating into English).
Finalising your Document
Once completed with your translation and having proofread your work after yourself according to the instructions mentioned earlier, you may want to focus on specific terminology issues. This is where you might dig out your big and bulky paper dictionaries, but it is becoming increasingly easier to use an electronic dictionary, which is much faster than leafing through a paper book. Or several books. Another advantage of an electronic dictionary on your computer is that you can add terms to it. So not only do you not have to leaf through several paper dictionaries if the term you are looking for are not in some of them, but you can develop your dictionary further. There are a lot of dictionaries available online as well, some of which may be found on our translating resources page. Or you can google your research, using your favourite search engine to look up the term and help you find an appropriate translation for it. Or even to explain to you what the term means, if you do not know that. You can look up the original word, or guess what the translation may be. You can research the company who produces the product, search for forums, and the options are unlimited. But after translating a larger document, it is very possible that you will run into a few terms which are difficult and will require more of your time. This is another reason why you should carefully examine a document before starting. If you notice that there are many such terms and imagine that you will have to spend a lot of time researching the subject on the internet, you might point this out to your customer and ask for a higher price.
Or tell your customer that you are not certain of these terms, that you can accept the same price but that you will have to guess the translation of those terms. Sometimes a customer is willing to accept this, but communicate on this matter and make sure your customer is aware and agrees. A poor option would be to just guess and hope that your customer will not notice. Remember, if you customer catches you once, it will not trust you and probably never again want to use your services. So consider this point carefully. Customers do not fall from trees like apples in fall. Anyway, once you do spend the time making sure that you produce a good translation, not only will you be able to sleep with a happy conscience at night, not only will you gain greater respect from your customer and lead possibly lead to other customers through them, but you will learn something yourself, become more professional, and have the option to add these terms to your dictionary. So make sure to use all resources at your disposal to make a good job, and do not take shoddy shortcuts with quality. The little bit of time you save now could mean lots of lost work and idle days in the future, when you will regret that you did not spend the extra time to make sure you did a job well done.
Counting Words and Sending your File
Once you have finalised your translation and feel confident and happy with its quality, you will want to send it to the customer. But first you want to know how much you have earned, and possibly send an invoice together with your translation. It is a good idea to send your invoice together with your file because this makes it easier for the company to process your invoice, and helps ensure timely payment for you. If you send the invoice at a later date, it might take a while before the email gets processed properly, and may need to be confirmed with the project manager who assigned you the translation whether you were truly assigned this project. This all causes further delays, but if you send the invoice together with the translation, the project manager can quickly forward that attachment to the accounting department.
Most agencies are satisfied with an invoice created in a Word file. You can spend a few hours one day beautifying your invoice, making sure you have your business license details, payment information and contact information on the invoice (in case the accounting department needs to contact you). But don't go overboard with choice of fonts, because it will not look how you hoped on the customer's end if they do not have the same fonts on their system as you do. You can also get a program from Adobe (or a possible free alternative here - untested by me) which converts the Word file (or any file) into a PDF document, which looks better as an invoice and cannot be accidentally altered (such as your bank account number).
Once you have beautified your invoice, you can save it somewhere as a template and always use the same file when creating new invoices.
You can Save As each new invoice to create a copy and store it for your own accounting needs, or in case the customer loses it and asks for it again. You can even get fancy and create fields which hook up to an Excel file or other accounting system.
Once you are ready to issue your customer an invoice, you should include their project/order number (so that they can quickly know what job the invoice refers to), the date of delivery, the payment due date, and the word or other count.
For counting words in a Word file, simply go to File > Properties > Statistics tab. Since I do this frequently, once again I have created a shortcut key for this through the usual Tools > Customization > Keyboard. The word count statistics should usually suffice. If your customer is paying in some other way, such as by the page of 1800 keystrokes (East Europe and Russia) or by the line of 55 keystrokes (Germany), you can use the other statistics. But note that a keystroke includes the space, tab or ENTER mark after every word - essentially any key you press on the keyboard. Different versions of Word count these statistics differently, so make sure you test some files to find out how your version counts it. If you find out that the character statistics count does not include the space etc. after every word, simply add the character count to the word count first, and then divide the total by 1800 to get the number of pages. For your reference, I find that the average page of 1800 keystrokes usually works out to around 250 words. If charging by the line of 55 keystrokes, simply take the total keystroke count and divide it by 55.
However, some customers like to charge by the source text, meaning not by the target text, which is what you translated. Either the customer will give you a source word count at the beginning, or you can count it yourself through various procedures.
If you locally charge VAT on your services but your client is from another country (or outside Europe, if you are European), you usually do not need to charge VAT. This is because you are exporting a service, and most governments do not tax exports, because they want to encourage exports. You do not want to make yourself unnecessarily expensive to your foreign clients, and you certainly do not want to pay more taxes than necessary, so look into this before issuing your first invoice to a foreign client.
When sending your file, it is a good idea to quadruple check that you have the necessary files attached to your email. There is nothing worse than being satisfied with the quality and timely delivery of your translation, and then go off to lunch or celebrate for an evening, only to come back to your computer the next day to find an angry email that there was no attachment with your email. All your efforts for timely and quality delivery have been wasted and now you must deal with damage control.
You might also consider zipping (with the program WinZip, for example) the file(s) to compress it/them to about one tenth their size. Not only does it cost less internet time for you and your customer, but sometimes very large attachments tend to wander in cyber space, arriving to their destination at a delayed time, or sometimes not at all. Or perhaps fill up your customer's online email inbox to the point that it gets bounced back to you, causing unnecessary delays.
If you have the means, as a backup, you can also upload your file somewhere to the web and send a download link to the customer. In such cases, or when sending larger attachments, I usually like to send two emails to my customer: one with the attachment, and the other without the attachment but informing the customer I just sent them the file as a large attachment (with the download link in the email if I am using that as a backup).
Once you have received your BCCed email back and double checked that everything is okay, then you can go to lunch and party all evening with a clear conscience. However, it is always a good idea to be available for some time after you deliver a translation. Perhaps you can check your email from your mobile phone, of you can give your customer your mobile phone for sms text messaging. Things can often be found wrong with your translation, such as some missing text you have overlooked, or some problem. Until the project is finalised and confirmed by the customer, the job is not done and it is good to be on standby over the next few hours and days in case the customer needs your help finalising something.
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Published - July 2009
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