Translation agency lingo for the uninitiated

Sometimes the language used by translation providers sounds like Greek and is just as useful to the customer. Here’s a sampling of jargon used by many translation providers with explanations in plain English.

Content reuse: you don’t have to have the same handbook translated year after year. Just translate the new text.

Customer education: some translation providers use this expression when speaking about clients that ignore essential aspects of translation. In other words, a poorly written translation is approved by a client because the client doesn’t know any better. To me, it smacks of arrogance.

Exceeding customer’s expectations: we will surprise you and pretend that we know your expectations.

Fast turnaround times: we can handle rush translations but we can’t promise to proofread them.

Guaranteed success of your project: marketingspeak for “if you sell more, we were instrumental in that; if you don’t, the fault does not lie in the translation”.

High-quality translation: we promise to deliver a good translation, but we’ll call it “high quality” because we have no idea how to measure it.

Multicultural expertise: we have employees from different cultures who speak different languages, but they don’t always get along.

QA standards: in-house standards consisting of Excel spreadsheets, a checklist to identify errors and reporting capabilities. But once we get the data, we don’t always mine it and analyze it the way we could.

Quality translation/interpreting or translation services you can trust: please, trust us, we need to sell more.

Translation quality: an attempt to shoehorn a writing discipline into an assembly-line mentality where the product (the “translation”) can be measured or quantified. It purportedly tells that the translation is worth the price paid by the customer.

We deliver in any language/culture/file format/medium: as long as your original files matches the software programs we already have. Some languages, like Mosuo, Kallawaya and Sentinelese, don’t have a written form. Tough toenails.

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