Everything you always wanted to know about translation

If you’re looking for someone to translate texts relating to the environment or sustainable development, it’s important to choose a professional translator who has specialist knowledge in these fields. That way you can be sure that the person translating your documents understands the content and context, and knows what kind of language and terminology to use. In the same way that not all translators work on medical or legal texts, not every linguist translates documents relating to the environment or sustainable development – these too are specialist fields that require in-depth subject knowledge, acquired through dedicated training courses or other means.

Everyone on the Syllabes team is personally committed to protecting nature and promoting sustainable development. For example, some of us are involved in environmental organisations like Montagne Verte and Zero Waste France, and we all aim to adopt eco-friendly practices in our day-to-day lives, such as making homemade soap, jams and preserves, growing our own vegetables, installing solar panels, supporting local businesses, buying seasonal produce, and avoiding excess packaging. We also enjoy outdoor pursuits like hiking in the mountains and scuba diving, and are keen to play our part in protecting these natural environments. Our translation cooperative is a member of 1% for the Planet, meaning we donate 1% of our gross revenue to environmental organisations each year.

And that’s not all! Our translators also undertake training on topics relating to the environment and sustainable development. This includes both linguistic training covering environmental terminology in French, German and English, and in-depth training courses on specific topics, such as how land use affects the environment. We also keep up-to-date with environmental news and developments, and regularly share interesting articles and discoveries with one another – and also with our online communities on LinkedIn and Facebook).

If you work in the environment or sustainable development sector and have articles, web content, press releases or other documents you’d like translated into German, French or English, why not get in touch with Syllabes? You can email us at info[AT]syllabes[POINT]eu or phone us on +33 (0)4 58 10 15 08.

In France, as in many countries, translation is not a regulated profession. Translation agencies and freelancers alike are free to set their own rates, based on their own criteria.

Many factors influence the price of a translation, including the task to be carried out, the type of document, and the subject matter and its complexity. Not all translations are priced in the same way: sometimes it makes sense to calculate the price based on the number of words, lines or characters in the source (or target) document. Other times an hourly rate or a package price may be more appropriate.

At Syllabes we strive to quote a fair price for every document – fair for us, and fair for our clients.

So how do we do that? Let’s take a closer look. If you ask us to translate a document relating to the environment or sustainable development, here’s what to expect:

  • First, we will ask you to send us the document you’d like translated so that we can establish what kind of text it is, how complex it is, and how long it is.
  • We may arrange a phone call or meeting so that we can make sure we fully understand your requirements and expectations, in particular regarding deadlines and technical constraints (file formats, page layout and so on).
  • We will then draw up a formal quotation that summarises your request and how we can help. This will include details of our services and rates, calculated based on the information you provide.

At every step in the process we’re happy to answer questions and provide any additional information you require.

Would you like to know more about our rates? Then let’s talk. Feel free to contact us to ask questions or arrange a phone call, video call, or a face-to-face meeting.

Perhaps you’re wondering why you should pay for a human translator when sites like Google Translate and DeepL can do translations for free. We are professional translators, so it won’t come as any surprise to you if we say that machine translation isn’t a good idea – or at least, not usually. In recent years, machine translation has improved a lot. For certain text types, the translations are quite good – although some editing is almost always required. However, if you want a translation that will speak to your target audience, you need a real, human translator. We could write an entire book on what makes a translation done by a human translator different from one done by a machine, but for now here’s a summary:
  • Machines are fast and cheap, and they only see things in black and white. They can handle huge volumes of text almost instantly. They don’t ask questions, they won’t tell you your deadline is too tight, and they won’t comment on your way of doing things or offer any advice. Machines struggle to pick up on semantic and stylistic nuances or recognise cultural differences and humour, and they definitely can’t read between the lines. Machine translation tools basically just replace words and phrases in one language with words and phrases in another.
  • A human translator, on the other hand, is just that: human. They will seek to understand exactly what a text is saying and what it is supposed to do: raise awareness or inform people? Persuade them? Make them laugh? Cry? A human translator will keep these aspects in mind at all times, carefully choosing words and expressions that convey your original message in another language. They will do research to make sure they fully understand your text and translate it accurately and naturally. They may offer advice on how to adapt the translation to the target audience, or even regarding your communication strategy more generally.
Let’s look at an example. Imagine you’re the Communications Manager of a nature reserve that attracts visitors from all over Europe. You’ve written a press release about how you’re seeking to raise public awareness of climate change by organising activities like nature observation trails. What benefits will you get if you choose to have this document translated by Syllabes’ team of human translators? Here are a few examples:
    • A text that uses the right technical terminology: because we are familiar with the fields you work in and are skilled in terminology research, we know the right words to use.
    • A text that’s easy to read: while translating, we pay close attention to things like word choice and sentence length – no-one wants to read a text that’s full of repetitions or clunky sentences!
    • A text that speaks to your target audience: perhaps your document mentions places or events that the target audience won’t be familiar with. In this case, we’ll add a few words of explanation or adapt the text as appropriate.
    • An extra pair of eyes on your original document: if something in the original document seems unclear or inconsistent, or if we spot any typos or other little slips, we’ll let you know so that you can correct it.

    In short, if you choose to work with Syllabes’ human translators you will get a translation that speaks to your target audience – whoever they may be. Your goals are our goals. We will work with you to create a translation that meets your needs and objectives.
We understand that time is a key consideration for environmental and sustainable development organisations who are looking to outsource translation work. When proposing a deadline or turnaround time we always consider the following elements:
  • The length of the text: it takes longer to translate 20,000 words than to translate 1,000. At Syllabes, we consider that a translator can handle around 1,500 words per day, although this can vary depending on the type of project and our workload.
  • The complexity of the text: texts that are particularly complex or technical will require more in-depth research.
  • The file type: editable texts (e.g. Word documents) with a basic layout are easier and quicker to handle than documents with complex layouts and non-editable files like PDFs, because the latter require additional processing and formatting steps, sometimes using DTP tools like InDesign.
  • Any specific requirements or reference materials: reference documents can be very useful, but they also add to the time required to complete a translation. The same goes for projects with particularly complex requirements – we need to study them carefully and make sure your instructions are followed throughout the translation process.
  • Our workload: if we’re very busy when we receive your request, we won’t be able to start work on your translation immediately. The deadlines we propose always take into account our current workload and the time necessary to produce a high-quality translation, including proofreading by a second linguist.
Our tips for speeding up the translation process
  • Let us know in advance what you need translated, and when. That way we can set aside time to handle your projects.
  • Finalise your content before sending it for translation: if you update a document after we’ve started translating it, this will obviously slow things down and push back the final deadline.

Within the translation industry, as with many professions, you will find both general translators and specialist translators. To be sure of finding the right translator for your project, follow these recommendations. Start by defining exactly what you need:

  • Which language combinations? Professional translators translate texts in a foreign language (the ‘source language’) into their native language (the ‘target language’), and their work is proofread by a second linguist. The maths is simple: for each pair of languages, you need two translators. The more languages you want your documents translated into, the more translators you will need. For multilingual projects, it may be easier to go via a translation agency, as they can quickly source translators for lots of different languages. However, bear in mind that if you choose to work with an agency, you won’t actually know which translators and proofreaders are selected to work on your texts. At Syllabes, we offer translation services in the following language combinations:

– English into French or German
– French into German or English
– German into French or English
– Italian into French, German or English
– Spanish into French, German or English

What’s more, when you work with us, you’ll know who is assigned to translate and proofread your documents.

  • Is your document for the general public or for a specialised audience? The more complex or specialised a text, the more important it is to find a specialist translator. Syllabes’ translators are experts in matters relating to the environment and sustainable development. We are passionate about these topics, stay up-to-date with the latest news in the sector, and regularly undertake professional development activities to keep our knowledge and skills at the highest level.
  • How confidential are your documents? If you don’t want your data to end up online for anyone to see, make sure you work with professionals who have set up all the necessary measures and file transfer systems to ensure data security. At Syllabes we have implemented a number of data protection procedures to protect the documents and data entrusted to us, and we comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Start by doing some background checks on the translator you’re thinking of working with. One mark of a professional translator is their qualifications. Do they have a Master’s in translation or an equivalent degree? Most professional translators are also members of a trade union (like the Société française des traducteurs in France) or a professional association (the BDÜ in Germany, the CIOL or ITI in the UK, the ITIA in Ireland). These industry bodies require translators to meet certain criteria based on qualifications, skills and experience, and to adhere to professional standards. Experience, too, is very important. Your translator will probably have signed non-disclosure agreements preventing them from showing their work to other clients, but they may have translations published online, or have prepared a portfolio of samples you can look at instead. Alternatively, arrange a phone call with the person you’re interested in working with so you can assess whether they understand your sector and requirements.

To make sure you’ve found the right person, why not start by placing an order for a short document, to be reviewed in-house? If you’re happy with the trial translation, you’ll be more comfortable entrusting the translator with larger projects.

Last but not least, if a translator asks lots of questions from the word go, don’t be fooled into thinking they don’t know what they’re doing – far from it, it’s good professional practice! By asking questions, the translator is making sure they fully grasp your requirements and understand your products and services. At Syllabes we take pride in getting to know our clients and establishing lasting relationships with them, all of which means asking questions.

Got a question? Need some advice?