Frequently Asked Questions About Translation Services

  1. Guidelines for ordering translations
  2. Guidelines for ordering interpreting
  3. Guidelines for ordering brand name/logo analysis
  4. Guidelines for ordering audio visual work
  5. Other services

Guidelines for Ordering Translations

 What are some of the languages you work in?

We provide language conversions for over 115 languages, including all of the most commonly used commercial languages and many of the most unusual ones. With our database of 7,000 carefully screened translators, we can help with almost any language — if we don't already have a translator who can do it, we have extensive sources to identify a qualified translator who can.

When requesting a translation, it is important to specify the target country or ethnic group. There are, for example, significant differences in the Spanish spoken in Mexico, Central America, South America, and Europe. There are also differences between Canadian and European French, Brazilian and Continental Portuguese, and Chinese for the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan.

I want a document translated into Chinese, but I'm not sure which dialect I need. Which geographic areas use which dialects?

You probably don't need to be concerned with local dialects for document translations, but you will need to know if your intended audience is in mainland China or Taiwan, because there are two different writing systems for Chinese. One of these uses simplified characters (for mainland and Singapore); the other uses traditional characters (for Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese communities). For a U.S. Chinese audience, the situation is changing, but for older audience it is probably best to use traditional characters.

If you require an interpreter for spoken Chinese, however, you will need to know the region your audience is from. Cantonese is used in Southern China, Hong Kong, and by many Chinese people in the U.S. Mandarin is used in Northern China (Beijing), Taiwan, and Singapore.

How long does it take to complete a translation?

This varies with the language, the length and difficulty of the text, and the availability of particular translators. In general, it takes about 3 to 4 days for document translation services up to 3,000 words (about 10 - 15 pages) into any of the major commercial languages. Longer documents take proportionally more time to translate. If your work requires desktop publishing and camera-ready output, that work will take extra time. If your need is more urgent, however, we will do our best to accommodate your schedule with a rush delivery.

How do you charge?

For translations, our charges are based on the English word count. If your work also requires desktop publishing, these charges are based on the number of hours it takes to complete that phase of work. To obtain an accurate cost estimate, we will need a copy of your original document.

What about confidentiality? How can I be sure that the contents of my documents will not be disclosed to anyone else?

LSI has implemented and maintains a comprehensive information security management system certified to the international information security standard, ISO 27001. Our established processes for handling confidential information undergo rigorous independent auditing by an external Registrar, and we strive to continuously improve our data protection technology by conducting regular risk assessment and risk mitigation reviews. Our ISO 27001 certificate is available for downloading from our website (see About Us > Certifications).

My lawyer requested that I get a certified translation of my documents. What is this and how can I get it?

Lawyers often ask that translations for court submission or personal documents such as diplomas, university transcripts, or birth and marriage certificates be certified. LSI has several notary publics on its staff who are authorized to take the oath of the translator. As part of this certification, we provide a short description of the translator's qualifications and background.

My company needs to have some highly technical instructions and specifications translated. Can you do this with format?

Yes, we have close to 6000 translators that we can call on appropriately for correct interpretation of the meaning of the source text, and render it precisely in the target language. Among these specialists are engineers, medical and legal professionals, scientists, and people trained in journalism, business, finance, banking, and the arts. At LSI your work will be translated and edited by professional translators who are also knowledgeable, or even specialists in the subject area.  Approximately, 75% of our translators have advanced degrees and 20% have doctorates.

I have seen translation software advertised in a few places. Is it any good, and do you recommend it? Does your organization ever use such translation software?

The translation software you may have seen advertised for $50 or $100 is not very useful, and we would definitely not recommend it. There are, however, some quite respectable programs that provide a gist translation, but these programs are much more expensive than the ones commonly advertised. At best they can be used only to get the gist of a text, which may be useful to determine whether human translation is warranted. Even with the very powerful translation programs, many of the specialized (and some of the unspecialized terms) are not translated, the word order is often wrong, and the language is at best stilted and sometimes comic.

The main use for these fairly sophisticated computer (or machine) translation programs is to provide a rapid basic translation for large volumes of text, which then needs editing by a professional translator/editor to obtain a decent, comprehensible version of a document. This process is known as machine translation with post-editing, and there are a few organizations that are able to do this work and provide a sound, professionally acceptable product. Our company provides approved post-editing services for law firms, several well known corporations and institutions, and governmental organizations. If your material would benefit from this type of highly specialized service, we will be happy to suggest it as an alternative to straight human translation. It is essential that every professional translation be reviewed by a native speaker of the target language to verify the translation's accuracy. Our post-editors can provide this, as well as basic revision editing for machine translations. For our human translation work, you can be assured that we use only highly skilled, subject qualified native speakers on every assignment, and we will not recommend machine translation when that would be inappropriate for providing the kind of result appropriate to your needs.

Guidelines for ordering interpreting

I work for an immigration law firm that often requires interpreters who can come to our office to help us communicate with our client. Do you have professionals who can do this for oral depositions?

Yes, we do. LSI has several hundred highly qualified and experienced consecutive interpreters for oral depositions, covering more than 50 languages. These interpreting professionals translate in both directions what a person has just said immediately after it has been said. A good consecutive interpreter will deliver the message with the same intonation and emphasis as the speaker, without embellishment.

In order for us to make the necessary arrangements when you require a consecutive interpreter, we will need to know: language and dialect, subject, and date, time, and place of the interpreting assignment. It is often very difficult to assign the best interpreter for your specifications on very short notice, so it is wise to schedule one or two weeks in advance.

We have a major 3-day conference coming up that will include attendees from South America and Japan. What arrangements do we need to make to ensure on-site interpreting for those languages?

There are two types of interpreting services that can be used: simultaneous or consecutive. The simultaneous mode uses electronic equipment so the audience hears the interpreter rather than the speaker. In the consecutive mode the speaker stops to wait while the interpreter repeats the message in the audience’s language. While no equipment is used for consecutive interpreting, the smooth flow of the presentation is interrupted and the discussion takes much more time to complete.
Ordinarily, for large conferences, simultaneous interpreting is the way to go. This service, which requires highly talented, specialists, enables each attendee to hear his or her own language at the same time the speaker is using a different language. Each interpreter works in a soundproofed booth. The interpreter's words are transmitted to the relevant attendees by means of wireless electronic equipment. Linguistic Systems provides both interpreters and equipment. 
To order this service, we will need to know exactly which languages you will need and the days and times you will require the interpreting. Because simultaneous interpreting is such a highly skilled profession, our interpreting manager generally requires at least 2 weeks advance notice to complete all arrangements for smaller conferences, and more time for large conferences.

Guidelines for ordering brand name/logo analysis

Why should my new company consider requesting a global cultural analysis of our new name?

A number of years ago most US companies targeted their marketing mainly for the US, but with the popularity of the Internet, the decreasing tariff barriers to world trade, and the fact that the competition is engaged in global marketing, it has become almost a necessity of survival for most companies to market their products with equal emphasis or selling in other countries. And the overwhelming majority of the world's population speaks languages other than English! Therefore, for marketing effectiveness it is important that your company or product name not mean something embarrassing in other languages.

It is also important to bear in mind that other elements in your marketing program may also need cultural adaptation. Collateral advertising materials (image and text) always need to be culturally adapted. The materials you have for your US audience may not speak to the international market in the same way. For example, images of the American West will have little or no meaning for people in Iceland.

Which are the most common languages spoken?

The six most prevalent languages in the world (in descending order) are: Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, and Russian. (When you are considering ordering foreign brand analysis and you are not yet sure where your target markets will be, don't ignore Hindi and Arabic - they may provide some surprises about the name you are considering!)

What does a typical brand name, logo, or tag line analysis reveal?

For the countries/cultures you request, the analysis will tell you if the name is used by other companies in that country, if there are any existing words in the language that are the same or similar to the proposed name, if the name will have any special connotations in that country, the imagery that it will suggest, its suitability or red flags, sexual, religious, political, or another type of offensiveness, if it will be difficult to pronounce or retain, and its overall appeal rating on a scale of 1 to 10.

Who should conduct the research?

The native language analysts should be in-country, or at least part-time residents of the target region, and university trained in linguistics, communication, sociology, marketing or a related human sciences area.

I've been told there's more than one version of Chinese I need to consider for analysis. Can you explain the differences?

When ordering brand analysis or translation for Chinese, there are both Traditional and Simplified writing systems to consider, as well as the two most popular spoken languages: Mandarin and Cantonese. Traditional characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and in most overseas (outside of China) communities. Simplified characters are used in mainland China. Most of the population you will market to speak Mandarin, but Cantonese is the major language in Hong Kong.

Do I need to consider several different analyses for Japan as well?

No. Although Japanese uses three different alphabets as well as Chinese characters, there is only one language in common use.

What do I need to order for India?

India has over 1,500 spoken languages and dialects, including 16 officially recognized languages. The most common are: Hindi, Bengali, Bihari, Gujarati, Malayalam, Punjabi, Marathi, Tamil, and Urdu. For all intents and purposes, you can probably choose Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil for much of India, but you will also need Urdu if you are planning to market in Pakistan.

Are there any special issues to consider when my product name is written in Arabic or Hebrew?

Yes, both Arabic and Hebrew, for the most part, omit the "points" or vowels in the written form. The correct vowel sounds are simply supplied by the speaker. When transliterating a name that is not an actual word from English to one of these languages, the vowel sound may vary (for example, "Agilent" could easily become "Agalant" or "Agelint"). However, once your product name becomes widely known, there will be no confusion about the way it should be pronounced.

In countries that recognize more than one official language, what are the most common languages I should choose for an analysis?

  • China: Simplified and Traditional Chinese (written forms), Mandarin and Cantonese (spoken forms; see above for more information).
  • India: several writing systems, many languages; principal ones: Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil.
  • Indonesia: Bahasa-Indonesian, and Sundanese
  • Malaysia: Malay, Chinese, and Tamil
  • Pakistan: Urdu, Punjabi, and Sindhi
  • Belgium: French and Flemish
  • Cyprus: Greek and Turkish
  • Luxembourg: French, German, and Luxembourgian
  • South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Zulu, and Xhosa
  • Sri Lanka: Sinhalese and Tamil
  • Switzerland: French, German, and Italian
  • Thailand: Thai, Malay, and Khmer
  • Canada: English and French

What is the difference between transliteration and translation of a name, especially when considering the markets in China?

Chinese is an idiographic language rather than an alphabetical one (as are languages in the Indo-European and Semitic families). Each Chinese character stands for an idea that has no relationship to its sound. In addition, Chinese is also a tonal language in which four different tones are used to differentiate among words using the same sound. So, for example, "ma" can mean "mother," "hemp," "horse," and "to curse," depending on the tone used. Several possible characters could be chosen to translate a brand name that is spelled in the Latin alphabet (for example, Coca Cola). The company owning the name can decide what meaning it would like to convey in the translation, and then appropriate characters are chosen that will have that meaning. But it is highly likely that the best translation will not sound at all like the English name. In transliteration, the aim is to choose characters that sound closest to the original brand name. The danger, however, is that those characters may carry a terribly inappropriate connotation. (In fact, this is exactly what happened with Coca Cola's first marketing effort in China when the characters selected mean "bite the wax tadpole.") Thus, a brand name analysis for the Chinese market should take into consideration the possible consequences of both a transliteration and a translation and advise which would be the better decision.

Which are the most popular languages for a cultural analysis (for companies that do not want to order as many as 30-40 analyses)?

There is no general answer to this question. It depends on the product and the likely markets. If the Latin American market is important for your product, effective regional groupings would include at least four Spanish analyses as well as Brazilian Portuguese: 1) Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay; 2) Chile, Bolivia, Peru; 3) Venezuela and northern South America, and 4) Mexico and Central America. Yes, it is possible to do one analysis for Latin American Spanish and another for Spanish for Spain - it depends on how important this particular market is for your product. For agricultural equipment you will probably want to include many Asian languages as well as many southern European ones (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, and other relatively minor cultural groups); for telecommunications you will probably want to include Israel, despite its small size.

Guidelines for ordering audio visual work

Do you offer any language conversion for videos?

Yes, LSI has a professional audio-visual department that offers voice-overs, lip-sync, dubbing, translations of videos and audio tapes, Web-based multimedia, and as much or as little assistance with the production work as you need.

Can I simply send you my video for conversion or is there something else you need?

For promotional material, it will speed up the process and reduce the cost if you have a written script in the original language. That way our specialized translators can proceed with the initial translation much more easily. The initial translation is then compared with each frame very carefully so the timing will fit exactly (and for dubbing, the lip movements will need to be synchronized).

After you have approved the final translation, production work is carried out with the narrators, monitors, and director under carefully controlled conditions in the studio.

Other Services

Are there any other services your company offers?

Yes, we are able to provide cultural as well as the linguistic adaptation of Websites. This service is important for global marketing on the Internet and goes beyond straight translation. LSI is able to call on the services of highly qualified specialists in linguistic and cultural adaptation for all of the major commercial languages and many of the other less well-known ones.