Frequently Asked Questions

Guidelines For Ordering Translations
What are some of the languages you work in?

Linguistic Systems provides language conversions for more than 120 languages, including all the most commonly used commercial languages and many of the more unusual ones. With our database of 7,500 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 resources to identify a qualified translator who can.

When requesting a translation, it’s 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 versus 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), while 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 an 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. These two spoken forms are entirely different from each other.

How long does it take to complete a translation?

This varies depending on the language, length, and difficulty of the text, as well as the availability of certain translators. In general, it takes about three to four days for documents of up to 3,000 words (about 10 to 15 pages) to be translated into any of the major commercial languages. Longer documents take proportionally more time to translate although multiple translators can work concurrently to shorten delivery time.

If your work requires graphic design and print-ready output, that work will take extra time. If your need is more urgent, 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 graphic design services, 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?

Linguistic Systems 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, certification auditing by an external registrar. 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 review.

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

Authorities often ask that translations submitted for court or for government agencies be certified. Linguistic Systems has notary publics on 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. Do you do this?

Yes, we have more than 7,500 translators who we can call on to correctly interpret 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 Linguistic Systems your work will be translated and edited by professional translators who are knowledgeable of –or specialists in — your relevant subject areas. Approximately 70% of our translators have advanced degrees and 15% have doctorates.

I’ve seen translation software advertised. Do you recommend it? And does your organization use such translation software?

The translation software you may have seen advertised for $50 or $100 is not very accurate, and we wouldn’t recommend it. There are some respectable programs that provide a more acceptable translation, but these programs are much more expensive than the ones commonly advertised. At best, they can be used to help determine the level of human translation that’s 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 accuracy very erratic.

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 need to be edited by a professional translator/editor to obtain an accurate version of a document. This process is known as, “machine translation with post-editing,” and it is in an early stage of professional development.

Linguistic Systems provides high quality post-editing services for AmLaw 100 and Fortune 100 firms, and for governmental agencies. If your needs would benefit from this type of highly specialized service, we will be happy to provide 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 result most appropriate for your needs.

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

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

We have a major three-day conference coming up that will include attendees from South America and Japan. What arrangements do we need 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 listener’s language. While no equipment is used for consecutive interpreting, the flow of the presentation is briefly and repeatedly interrupted so the discussion takes 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 that the speaker is using a different language. Each interpreter works in a soundproof booth and their words are transmitted to the relevant attendees by means of wireless electronic equipment. Linguistic Systems provides both interpreters and equipment.

Because simultaneous interpreting is such a highly skilled profession, our interpreting manager generally requires at least two weeks’ notice to complete all arrangements for small conferences, and more time for larger conferences.

Guidelines for ordering brand & product name analysis
Why should my new company consider requesting a global cultural analysis of our new name?

It’s become almost a necessity of survival for most companies to market their products with equal emphasis in multiple countries, and the overwhelming majority of the world’s population speak languages other than English. Therefore, it’s essential to understand if your brand or product name has a negative connotation in other languages.

Other elements in your marketing program may also need cultural adaptation. For example, a campaign theme and creative execution may evoke images of the American West, but these may have little or no meaning for customers in other countries.

Which are the most common languages spoken?

One source lists the six most prevalent languages in the world (in descending order) as: Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, and Portuguese. But what’s most relevant is the languages and dialects spoken in your target markets. Linguistic Systems can help you understand the required mix in each market, and to make sure you’re creating a positive, locally relevant impression in each country.

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

For the countries/cultures you request, the analysis will tell you:

  • If there are any existing words in the language that are the same or similar to the proposed name;
  • If the name or logo will have any special connotations in that country;
  • The imagery that it will suggest;
  • Its’ suitability or red flags;
  • Any 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 conduct’s this naming research? Our native language analysts are in-country or at least part-time residents of the target region. They are 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 Chinese population you will market to speaks Mandarin, but Cantonese is the major language in Hong Kong.

Do I need to consider several different analyses for Japan?

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

What do I need to order for India?

India has more than 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. You can probably choose Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil for much of India, but you’ll also need Urdu if you are planning to market in Pakistan.

Are there special considerations 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

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 meant “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)?

Effective regional groupings can streamline the process. For example, translation for South and Central America could be accomplished via subgroups of Spanish analyses as well as Brazilian Portuguese.

It is also possible to streamline further by doing one analysis for Latin American Spanish and another for Spanish for Spain – it depends on how important each market is for your product.

For certain product categories, there are geographically important groups to include. For example, for agricultural equipment, you’ll probably want to include many Asian languages as well as a southern European group to include Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, and other smaller cultural areas. For telecommunications, you’ll probably want to include Israel, despite its small size.

Guidelines for ordering audio visual and other services
Do you offer language conversion for videos?

Yes, Linguistic Systems has professional graphic design and audio-visual departments that offer voice-overs, lip-syncing, dubbing, and translation of videos, audio tapes, and web-based multimedia. These departments have been a continuous operation for more than 43 years.

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 cost if you have a written script in the original language. That will assist our specialized translators in speeding up the initial translation. The version is then carefully compared with each frame so the timing will fit exactly (and for dubbing, the lip movements will be synchronized).
After you have approved the final translation, production is carried out with the narrators, monitors, and a director under carefully controlled conditions in the studio.

Are there any other services your company offers?

Yes, we are able to provide transcreation which is a re-write instead of translation of websites and promotional material. This service is important for global marketing and goes beyond straight translation for foreign markets. Linguistic Systems can call on the services of highly qualified bilingual copywriters, native to the target markets.