oneword Partner
Nikolina Cabraja

Übersetzerin, M.A.

How do I recognise a good translation?

This question is easy to answer. A translation should never sound like a translation, it should always read like an original. A translation has been successful when the target text is stylistically confident and grammatically and technically correct, when the corporate terminology has been taken into account and when it has been adapted to the (cultural) circumstances of the target country, where applicable. If any one of these general conditions is not met, the translation may not have the originally intended effect and may also have an economic impact if the translation fails to reach the target audience, for example the potential product purchasers.

Why do I need a translation agency?

Suppose you manage a successful online mail order business for natural cosmetics. You have great products, your content is high quality and communications need to be tailored to the customers and personal. Your texts need to be convincing. Your business is doing so well that there is purchasing potential beyond the German borders. No problem in Switzerland and Austria, you can use the German texts there with just a few adaptations to the target country. It becomes difficult with Dutch, Flemish or French. And, because your products stand out because of a personal and direct customer approach, not providing any text or only providing it in English on the online platform would be almost reprehensible. Ultimately, your foreign language target group should feel that they are being appealed to just as emotionally and should be informed about ingredients and possible applications. You google a translation agency and you come across oneword. You are convinced. oneword works with native-speaking professional translators who prove their linguistic and technical expertise, their years of translation experience and their technical know-how with translation tools on a daily basis. Their specialist expertise and the fact that they reside in the country in question means they are familiar with the cosmetic industry and the target group characteristics of your purchasers. oneword also translates into and from over 70 languages, provides its clients with over 190 language combinations and offers virtually every area of specialisation: As you are considering extending the natural processing approach to include clothing as well, you are delighted to also have a translator on hand for future orders who is proficient in the specialist area of fashion & lifestyle

With customised translations, proofreading, corrections and the consistent use of terminology (for example, a consistent product description), oneword guarantees that the message will be effectively translated and clearly understood by the target group. Since oneword is ISO 17100 certified, the only internationally valid quality standard, you can expect the highest quality and a permanent contact person who, as your dedicated project manager, quickly comes to understand, and therefore know, your requirements and helps you to develop international communication.

What are the benefits of using a translation agency?

A translation agency is the interface between you and a huge network of native-speaking professional translators. The agency ensures effective, high-quality translations and seamless and efficient translation processes while assuming responsibility for your requirements. Translation agencies are particularly useful if you have special requirements, for example translation into or from exotic languages, huge time pressure or high-volume translation needs into several different languages. The benefits of an agency like oneword GmbH are therefore:

  • flexible in virtually every file format
  • cost efficient thanks to the use of the latest tools and technologies
  • high quality due to the experts at every step of the process
  • quality assured thanks to our ISO 17100 certification.

What is the difference between a translation company and a translation agency?

Do you think the terms translation company and translation agency sound similar? In many cases, both terms are used synonymously, a distinction is hardly ever made. There are however several differences between a translation company and a translation agency.

What distinguishes a translation company?

A translation company is often a consortium of various freelancers, professional translators and smaller service providers who each translate individually as colleagues but within one economic unit. They therefore produce translations themselves but only offer the languages that they themselves translate.

They are usually of a local nature and can contact the customer directly if necessary. The benefit is therefore that consultations can take place directly and face to face.

What are the common features of a translation agency?

A translation agency acts as an interface or intermediary between the customer and a huge network of different translators. This network may be distributed all over the world. For larger orders, a translation agency also has the task of project management: Project managers do not translate themselves, rather they distribute the texts to the translators, recruit revisers and undertake internal quality assurance. During this process a permanent contact person will be responsible for the customer, at least this is the case at oneword. Personal consultations therefore do not happen as much as in a translation company.

Which is better for my business: a translation company or a translation agency?

Whether you would be happier with a translation agency or a translation company is difficult to say. It depends on your requirements and individual framework conditions:

  • If you regularly commission various European languages that are less time critical in a common industry then a translation company in your local area may be a good choice.
  • If you want a flexible partner by your side who can even accomplish large-scale projects under time pressure (because it has the network and resources), who can also translate into exotic languages and has a broad knowledge of the most varied of sectors, a translation agency is the better option for you.

What does a translation agency offer that a translator cannot?

An independent translator is often a solitary individual working alone for themselves. To make it possible to offer a good service, he or she will have specialised in

  • a specific language combination
  • a specific field of expertise


So, while an independent translator is a master in his or her field, a translate agency covers multiple language combinations and specialist areas. Therefore, if you have several different texts in different subject areas and languages, a translation agency is the right choice.

What are the benefits of a translation agency?

In business life, in other words in the B2B sector, translation agencies offer huge benefits. You may otherwise need to recruit a translation service or freelancer to translate for you for every language required by your company. In the long term, this would mean a certain dependence and unnecessary project coordination and communication costs within everyday work life since you would be the single contact person for the translators.

With translation agencies, multiple translators can work on one order in the case of large projects. This saves a huge amount of time. This eliminates dependency and, since a competent project management team can resolve any technical and content-related queries from the translator(s), frees up time for you to devote to your business. The biggest advantage of a translation agency is therefore that you do not need to take care of anything. You commission the desired translation through the agency and receive a service from a single source. A permanent contact person is available for any queries and follow-up projects.

Through a translation agency, you also generally always have access to highly-specialised translators for specific translation tasks and unusual language combinations. The agency also offers comprehensive quality management.

Ultimately, with a translation agency, you can usually act more flexibly, faster, more independently and most cost effectively over the long term with consistently higher translation quality.

This is clear for a translation agency:

  • You have access to a huge network of many highly-specialised translators for specific translation tasks.
  • Commissioning a translation is quick and easy and a permanent contact person deals with project communication and any queries from the translator.
  • You benefit from professional project and quality management.
  • For you, all services can be booked from a single source leaving you free to concentrate on your business.
  • For agencies, it is worth working with other experts.
  • Ideally, translation memory systems are used. This enables consistent translation and ensures lower prices.

What does a translation agency charge, what does a translation company charge?

Just to clarify, and this is the case in any situation in life: the greater the effort, the greater the cost. There may of course be difference in price between a freelance translator and a translation agency because, ultimately, the agency also provides additional services such as professional project or quality management.

Agencies can of course balance this price difference out again however by negotiating special terms with the translators. This way the price difference is extremely manageable even for the end clients.

How can I recognise a reliable translation agency?

Translation is a service that is largely based on trust. Especially if you do not speak the target language yourself, you have to blindly, in the truest sense of the word, rely on the translation agency’s work. That is why choosing a translation agency should only be done with the help of various quality criteria. A small checklist might be helpful here:

Is the agency ISO 17100 certified?

ISO 17100 is the only internationally valid quality standard and regulates quality standards for the translation process, the finished translation and compliance with customer agreements. Any reliable agency should hold such a certification which can also be renewed every two years by means of an audit. It acts as a mark of quality and should be expressly communicated by agencies as a certification and should be shown upon request.

The ISO 17100 quality standard covers the criteria for a high-quality translation service. Many agencies also quote other applicable quality criteria that they impose on themselves and adhere to in their work.

According to the ISO 17100, a translation must be done using the four-eyes principle. This means that at least one other translator must read and revise the translation. Translators are also selected in accordance with the standards of ISO 17100:

  • The translator has a translation qualification at university level at least
  • The translator has a university degree in any subject and can demonstrate at least two years’ translation experience
  • The translator can demonstrate at least five years’ experience as a translator

Caution however. Registration for ISO 17100 certification is not a sign of quality. There are plenty of agencies who have registered for an ISO 17100 audit who do not undergo the subsequent audit by independent experts who in turn issue the certification. Registration is therefore not a sign of quality.

Non-disclosure agreement and liability

A translation agency is often called upon to translate highly-sensitive documents. You should therefore always double-check that your agency has concluded non-disclosure agreements with its staff and translators.

It is often also not clear to corporate customers who is liable for possible damages in the case of a translation error. A serious translation agency recognises that the issue of liability is not always easy to answer, even legally. A serious translation agency will offer clear information about its own liability and will never try to cast liability away from itself as this is never fair.

Registered office and contact information

As is often the case in the service sector, details of the registered office, a correct address and a permanent, human contact person speaks volumes about the integrity of a translation agency. Before commissioning an agency, you should therefore also check if its contact information appears credible to you. An initial meeting can often be arranged in advance for briefing purposes and to get to know one another. Again, in serious translation agencies, this is a given.

How do I choose the right translation agency?

The question of the right translation agency can be a difficult one. The agency should always be reputable. A reputable agency is not necessarily a good agency though and a good agency might not be the right agency for your company.

Integrity is the first and foremost requirement if you wish to collaborate with a translation agency in the long term. That alone is often not enough however. Most translations require a great deal of experience and comprehensive specialist knowledge. An agency that has been translating in the medical technology sector for years, for example, may not necessarily produce high-quality translations in the automotive sector or translate legal texts. For this reason, to begin with you need to consider two facts when choosing your translation agency:

1. Certification and quality management

  • Ask to see the ISO 17100 certificate
  • Agree upon a test translation to check you are happy with the translation quality
  • Ask to see references
  • Check customer testimonials or ratings in portals, forums or the translation agency’s website

2. Nature and scope of the translation offer

  • Check that the translation agency has knowledge and experience in your industry
  • Look at the service portfolio: Does the agency offer professional terminology management or services such as transcreation or SEO translations in addition to conventional professional translation for example that can be used to ensure consistent language and marketing texts that are adapted to your target country?

These steps will enable you to gain a good idea of the integrity and quality of the agency. You should exercise particular care when assessing the agency’s prices. An agency does not need to be expensive to deliver top quality. A certain price standard should still be expected in invitations to tender however as too low price structures indicate wage dumping for translators and shortened translation and quality assurance processes which can, in turn, result in declining quality for the final product. Ultimately, translations are a service that is presented transparently and openly by serious agencies as a matter of course within the preparation process but which is still frequently rendered difficult for customers to understand by untrustworthy agencies.

Services beyond merely translation:

In addition to conventional translation, serious translation agencies provide other services which may also be of use to you. These include, for example, proofreading, maintaining terminology databases, desktop publishing, transcreation or SEO translations.

Synergy effects and specific supplementary services

Translation agencies usually handle a much larger volume of orders than individual freelancers and independent translators. To benefit from synergy effects and specific supplementary services, commissioning a translation agency is therefore useful.

For example, such agencies often have supporting staff, for example project or quality managers, IT experts or SEO specialists who act as experts for supplementary services. Large agencies also offer technical advantages.

What is a translation memory system?

A translation memory (TM) is the memory of a translation. In more precise terms, it is a text database in which the source text is split into segments and entered with the corresponding translation. Upon each new text, the system checks independently which passages are repeated and offers suggested translations for individual expressions, phrases or sentences. A translation memory should not be confused with machine translation however: It aids the translation task in the case of repetitions but does not translate completely new text passages itself. It is therefore still human translation although computer-aided.

Cost saving with translation memory

The more passages that have a matching translation already in the TM, the greater the chance that new texts will have some repetitions from previously translated texts. The more translations there are stored in a TM and the more well-maintained translation memory systems are, the greater the time and cost savings will be in subsequent projects – therefore a serious translation agency will offer discounts of varying amounts on 100% repetitions or partial repetitions.

Consequently, there is yet another advantage of collaborating with a translation agency here: The more translators that work within a TM, the faster discounts and time savings can be achieved due to segment repetitions.

Another benefit is consistency within the translation orders. Passages that have been translated once are always translated using the same wording.

What are translation agency prices based on?

Various factors affect translation prices. These are not always easy for customers to understand. Serious translation agencies will therefore strive for a clear pricing structure that gives customers a reliable constant for planning.

The factors that can affect the price are primarily:

  • The subject area and level of difficulty of the source text: The more difficult the source text, the more experienced and competent the translator needed.
  • The language combination: how common or exotic is your language combination? It is quicker, easier and less expensive to find translators for common languages, for example, than for language combinations that are rare on the market and for which the translators hold the bargaining power.
  • The desired quality of the translation: Depending on customers’ preferences, steps in the quality assurance process can be omitted or shortened. For example, customers can choose to accept quality cuts in return for a reduction in price if the translation is of an internal document not intended for the public market.

Price per word or per line?

Translation prices can be quoted as a per word or per line price. A price per line, also referred to as a “standard lines”, consists of approx. 50 to 55 characters or 7.5 words. For customers, calculating a standard line is sometimes extremely complicated because the standard line count and standard page count for a Word document can differ greatly from the page count specified in Word.

Customers have the greatest transparency when prices are quoted per word based on the number of words in the source text. The length of a source text can also sometimes differ significantly from the length of the translated text as in general languages have different lengths per word. For example, a French text takes up 25% more space than the same text in German or English. For more certain calculations, you should therefore use the source text and a price per word.

Good to know

Translation prices only provide a limited indication of the quality of a text and the expertise of the translation agency. The quality is better assessed by means of a test translation which agencies will usually perform free of charge up to 250 words.

How can I lower my translation costs?

Since translation is quite demanding in terms of human resources, a translation will normally cost more the more complex, specific and detailed a source text is. The reverse is also true. Prior to a translation, as a customer, and possibly the author of a text, you can ensure that translation costs are kept to a minimum. You can keep a few questions in mind when authoring your text to keep translation costs as low as possible:

  • Can you provide international texts that work in any language and avoid specific idioms, phrasing and metaphors in the source language? Even these require extensive research and it can take some time for the translator to find an equivalent.
  • Is your text to be translated already finalised? If not, additional changes will still need to be translated later which will have a further impact on budget.
  • Have you compiled a clear briefing for your order? A briefing that includes plenty of illustrative material and information makes the task and your objective much clearer and will save you unnecessary queries and back-and-forth correction loops.
  • Do you work with a terminology database? If yes, provide this to the translation agency or, if not, have the agency build you one. Your translations will be more consistent in the long term and you will save yourself a lot of correction work.

Which quality level do you require? Not all translations require top quality. Thus, texts needed for internal purposes can be translated quickly, cost effectively and with less quality assurance measures. Caution however: the more high profile and sensitive the content (industrial safety-relevant content, machine instructions), the greater the quality of the texts must be.

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