Frequently Asked Questions

Language services like translation are complicated, and most people are unfamiliar with what we do or how to use it. We’ve tried to answer the most frequently asked questions below, but if you can’t see what you’d like to know please Ask Us a Question, or to see how much a project will cost just Request a Quote below – or call our friendly Project managers on 0800 783 4678.

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Size is no guide – there’s super small ones and rotten big ones. We’ve been finding great language partners for 25 years, so here’s some of what we look for!

1. Can you trust what you see? Fancy websites DON’T guarantee good translators – buying a website’s easy so always dig deeper! In particular distrust “boilerplate” language pages – if a company offers a huge list of languages which all generate identical “Our [insert language here] translators are all…” type pages, they’ve probably little interest in the language beyond selling it. Look for language pages that are specific, informative and knowledgeable – it’s a good indicator the company CARES about the language (and getting it right). Perhaps something like our French or German pages.

2. Location, location, location! A really capable company’s probably not based in a bungalow so check the address – this SHOULD be on the Contact page. If there ISN’T an address – ask yourself, “what are they hiding?” If there IS one, Google the street and town – if no other businesses come up, it’s probably a residential “home office”, so a one- or two-person operation. Google’s marvellous Street View tool is even better!
Ask yourself – would a “leading language company” really be based in “Flat 3, Robin View, Camber Sands“? Oh – watch PO Boxes too, these can be VERY dubious.

3. They serious? Websites are a good guide – if they’re poorly worded and contain spelling errors, inaccuracies or bad links, it’s like walking into a car showroom with grubby oil-dripping vehicles. A company that neglects its own shop window probably won’t look after you either. That said, a shiny website’s easy and cheap so however good it looks, DO dig into the detail.

4. Got history? Everyone starts somewhere – it’s up to you whether to choose a new entrant, cheaper but lacking experience, or an established player with reputation and experience. Reputable providers will be proud of their history – we’ve been going since 1990, delivering over 46,000 projects (that’s 48 million words and over 17,000 interpreting assignments)
Newcomers can be good, and we’ve found some stars over the years, but we’ve ditched far more that are less able. Unless you can QA language yourself, it’s wise to leave trying-out new providers to professionals able to spot – and fix – poor product.

5. Qualified? Language is big business and has inevitably attracted many less capable players (just Google “MoJ interpreting fiasco”). For a language company that understands the question, you should – as a minimum – be looking at senior and project management with good language qualifications. Always check a potential provider’s About Us page. If you don’t see good, specific language qualifications, beware…

Unlike most language services we’re a Translation Company, NOT an Agency.

And yes, it matters! Translation Companies should translate and proof-read in-house and add value by assuring quality; for this we have professionally-qualified linguists in-house, while all external translation services used are also professionally qualified and experienced.

Work is 100% reviewed and completeness and formatting checked. Better Companies follow strict Codes of Conduct to maintain high translation services standards, as the professional bodies demand – ours are the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI – we’re Corporate Members).

Here’s a funny thing – did you know anyone can start a translation agency in the UK? Setting-up a “translation agency” requires ZERO language qualifications or translation ability, so sourcing translation from agencies really is a case of buyer beware. That’s why these FAQs offer advice on seeing through marketing hype to spot capable providers – check out What should I look for in a language provider? above.


We are accredited to both ISO 17100 (for Translation Services) and ISO 18841 (for Interpreting Services).

We’re also Corporate Members of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI) and Full Members of the UK Association of Translation Companies (ATC) – in fact our Managing Director was previously a Director of the ATC.

No provider can support “all languages” and it’s worrying some claim to – it takes years to build expertise in one language, never mind hundreds, and there’s over 6,000 in the world.

We offer over 100 languages from trusted and experienced partners and our professional in-house team, and while we’re happy to source new ones for you, we won’t pretend we can do something if we’re not fully confident.

Depends on the document; a one page certified translation can usually be done in a few days. Most translators can translate 2000-3000 words per day depending on the material; however, good ones usually have existing workload so there may be queue time as well.

If urgent, it’s often possible to split a project across two or more translators, although stylistic differences can be difficult to avoid.

Since we also properly review all work in-house to ensure product quality we may quote longer lead times than less diligent providers.

That depends on the language, subject and degree of legal, technical or other specialist nature of the document. Our rates are charged per thousand source words (or a minimum charge if applicable) and vary between language combinations.

The more accessible text is, the easier and quicker it is for us to translate. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or Open Office files, or HTM or PHP webpages, are ideal. Where we’re unusual is in being equally able to handle Quark, Illustrator, and InDesign “DTP” or “Typesetting” files – which most translators can’t use at all – and provide full multilingual typesetting services in these.

Least usable are scans – usually TIFF or JPG files. These are totally inaccessible – you’re looking at a “photograph” of text that can’t be overtyped or edited and must be re-typed, in the same way as hard copy.

PDF is (usually) somewhere in the middle – the PDF must be first converted to something more usable which takes additional time and can incur cost. It’s also worth remembering that making a PDF (or “Portable Document Format”) is essentially a printing process, so can destroy document features.

A PDF is always produced FROM another format or application, so wherever possible please provide us with the source format from which the PDF was made. More accessible formats can generally be delivered more quickly, and may also bring some cost benefits.

It’s also worth noting that scanned documents often save as PDF, meaning that while the format is “PDF” in reality the file is just as inaccessible as a TIFF or JPG.

You’ll find lots more helpful advice on obtaining the best translation in our Really Helpful Friendly Guide to Language Translation.

You’ll increasingly see “CAT” offered by language providers. But what IS “CAT”?

What it ISN’T – and it’s REALLY important to understand this – is “machine translation”, or “MT”. Machine translation really must be avoided if you want quality product – in fact, our Supplier Purchase Orders explicitly ban our translators from using it.

Is MT really that bad?

Here’s a true story. Couple of years ago we needed a new translator, so sent a short job to a potential partner, including our customary “Do not use machine translation” instruction. The job related to a CV joint sealing boot – the moulded rubber sleeve that protects the joint. The translation duly came back and we started checking, and it was immediately clear that not only had MT been used, but there had been zero effort to check it. We had car boots, walking boots, even a stiletto boot – but not a CV joint boot anywhere. That translator BTW is still in business… and won’t be alone.

Crikey. So what’s CAT then?

Computer-Aided Translation. It works by memorising every translation element that’s approved, then next time related content arises it can offer the translator “matches”, so existing translation that is the same or similar. The translator will then check it in the new context, and usually revise it to suit the customer’s style and terminology. Used effectively and carefully it’s very powerful, and can often save clients both time and cost. Used badly however it’s little better than MT, so be careful in your choice of translator!

Yes. We hold no details of payment cards on any electronic system, and all card transactions are entered manually directly into the card machine by the Project Manager. The card machine uses a dedicated secured line, so is outside any computer system so cannot be hacked into. You’ll receive your card payment slip attached to the receipted invoice we’ll provide with your translation, and no other copy is retained.

We are certified as PCI DSS compliant.

Because there are fewer good translators for them. Take Finnish – Finland is a popular export market, but because the population’s small there are few Finnish translators (and fewer good ones). Half the size of France, Finland has less than 1/10 the population – so the translator shortage makes the language about 50% more expensive than French.

Indian languages have the reverse problem – the population’s vast, but generally poor education means there are again few good translators – made worse by the fact that these translators are spread across 5 main Indian languages and several less widely used ones.

Similarly, fewer translators specialise in robotics than in finance, so robotics tends to be more expensive to translate than annual accounts.

Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Consider buying a car: you could pay a few hundred quid or £100,000, more, or somewhere in between, depending what you want or need.

If you just to know roughly what some simple text says, translation can be free – Google Translate for example can give you the gist and if that’s sufficient it’s a great solution.

If however you’re looking to market in another country, or to have your material taken seriously with good, accurate translation that reads properly, then using a professional language Company to obtain professional quality-assured translation by qualified mother-tongue translators that has been fully reviewed and properly formatted – in other words, translation you can trust and use – is a much wiser bet. We’d advise against using the cheaper end of these too – in our 25 years’ experience, there’s ALWAYS a reason for low prices.

And we’d recommend sticking to language Companies rather than Agencies – you can discover why above!.

Our rates reflect our use of professional, qualified, and experienced translators and reviewers we trust, and the diligence of our in-house team to ensure an excellent standard.

This is usually required for use by authorities; higher levels of certification, such as notarization or legalisation, may be required for legal use.

There’s much more information on our certified & notarized page here.

So do you need the original document?

In most cases, no. A scanned or photocopied version is generally acceptable. The original is only usually required if legalisation or notarization is needed.

OK – so what do I do if I want to use you?

Just tell us what you need, attaching a copy of your document. We’ll send you a quotation, and once price and delivery timescale are agreed we’ll get your project underway. If you’re not new to buying translation and would like to chat over what you need first, our friendly helpful Project Managers will be delighted to help – just call on 0800 783 4678.

That’s not a straightforward question – it depends on format, complexity, duration, language(s), and more.

By far the costliest is conference interpreting – the interpreters are very highly trained and experienced, and work under great pressure, reflected in the rates.

The vast majority of commercial and public sector users work with face-to-face (“F2F”) “liaison” interpreting, or where appropriate remote interpreting may also be used.

As a result of non-ideal procurement policy and some unprofessional providers, liaison interpreting in the UK is now really split between two camps.

In the first are the providers like ourselves who insist on providing only professionally-qualified, trusted and approved interpreters, ensuring accurate and impartial communication from experienced and trained professional linguists.

In the second camp are providers who sell purely on price to win contracts, bullying interpreters down on rates or using interpreters ones who are under- (or un-) qualified – circumstances unlikely, or unable, to deliver good service. We know this because our own interpreters encounter this second camp in hospitals and courts while delivering our own assignments – and will often be asked how to GET qualified. The enormous damage done by the UK public service interpreting scandal a few years ago is worth remembering if you’re procuring interpreting yourself.

A liaison interpreter is charged on an hourly rate; usually a minimum fee of 2 or 3 hours (depending on the interpreter) is chargeable, plus travel time (typically charged at 50% of the hourly rate) and travel expenses. To minimize your costs we always try to find the nearest available qualified interpreter; fortunately, our reputation means we’re generally well-provided with resources in most areas.

Finally, the least costly option is remote interpreting by phone or web; while considerably less effective in many circumstances, it can work adequately in the right situation.

The text effects and polished appearance in glossy brochures are achieved by a skilled designer working in an expensive “typesetting” or “DTP” (desk-top publishing) package, the industry standards being Quark, Illustrator and InDesign, although there are others.

However, these packages are expensive and take a long time to learn. That means very few translators can work in them. so almost all translation is done in Microsoft Word.  However, that then needs placing back into the designer’s Quark or InDesign layout to produce a translated version of the original – a task fraught with pitfalls for the inexpert. To overcome the problems faced by UK designers handling non-English text, we’ve been providing these multilingual typesetting services since 2000, getting great reviews.

A huge amount of data exists only as video or audio files, which are very unfriendly from the point of view of finding anything or using the content in a document.

Skilled transcription (audio typing) converts the audio content accurately into indexable text. Our mother-tongue multilingual transcription services handle large amounts of English and many other languages for research, software development and other purposes.

Unfortunately it’s a business that’s attracted a lot of low-end entrants who subcontract to non-mother-tongue transcribers, often in India or other low-cost economies, and increasingly to casual workers via the internet. Many clients coming to us from providers like these report issues with poor quality that made the work they’d paid for unusable.

frequently asked questions & answers