The Essentials of a Quote

We’ve all asked about offers for various services in our daily routine. A situation that nobody is a fan of is when an offer is either delayed or not understandable at all. You can stare at the information all day long and fail to comprehend how the numbers you’ve been provided fit together. We’ve taken some time to study how the quoting process goes in the Translation industry and we compiled a short-list of details that are really important and make both sides’ life easier.

“Preparing a quote for an Asian language is more like preparing a quote for an Alien language.”

Most Asian languages have a completely different structure and writing mechanics when compared to European languages. That fact leads to a few issues:

  • There are specific ways to operate with CAT(Computer Aided Translation) tools
  • There are two different ways of quoting, depending on the source and target language
  • The type of language usually depends heavily on the target audience

Word Count – per word or per character – which is better and why?

Knowing how many words should be translated is a must-have when asking for a quote. The word count of a document is the base with which we all work in order to estimate how much a translation will cost and how much time it’s going to take for it to be completed. When it comes to Asian languages, a quote can be provided in two major ways:

  • Per source character – that is the best and most precise way of preparing a quote. You run the file through specialized software, and it gives you the number of characters (Asian and otherwise). Based on that, you can provide a nice and understandable quote.
  • Per target word – using this kind of word count can lead to discrepancies between the estimated and final word count. In order to provide a quote, we estimate approximately how many words the target text will be, based on the source text. There are rules and ratios regarding how much a body of text will expand or shrink in size, but the inconvenience comes from the fact that it can only be estimate due to the dynamic nature of the content. The final cost becomes clear after the translation is done, so you won’t know the exact sum you’ll be paying until the work is finished.
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Time is important – the more you can provide, the better!

Be aware of the potential negative consequences when you force your vendor to rush – shorter turnaround times usually demands sacrifices when it comes to quality. The more time the translators are given to work on a translation, the better the outcome will be.

If you’re looking for quality translations, you’ll sometimes need to make compromises with timeframes. We know it’s all about time, but advising your client to allow more time in order to get a better translation is one of the most important things you can do, if you plan to keep the client as a frequent partner – which is easier if they’re happier with your service. Think about it this way: if you pose this question to your client – “What do you prefer, good quality or a faster delivery time?” – and you explain the reasoning behind your request for more time, which option are they more likely to choose?

The Essentials of a QuoteExample from experience: having a 30,000 word translation done in 5 days instead of 10 days is possible – but it would involve having a few teams doing the translation concurrently. Each translator has their own style, vocabulary and way of understanding the text they’re translating. In the entire body of text, there might be repeatable segments that are given to different teams of linguists – and each team can translate them slightly differently. The text would technically be translated correctly everywhere, but at the end of the day it’s likely going to lack the desired finesse due to an important feature called “consistency”.

When a single team is working on the same translation, the text will be one and the same everywhere – and the team will be able to maintain and improve consistency the more they get to work on the same or similar files and they get a feel for the flow.

We would prefer a 10,000 word translation due in 4 days to one that is 1,000 words but is due tomorrow! It has a lot to do with the availability of the appropriate people to do the job. When you rush, you inevitably make compromises – which is now what you want when you demand quality.

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Support materials and information

The Essentials of a Quote

  • Additional information – the more information you can provide us with right at the start, the faster we’ll be able to quote you and the better and more precise the desired translation will end up being. You may not think it’s important, but even giving us a link to the client’s website would have a positive effect, since our linguists would be able to get a feel for the language and the tone of voice the company likes to use. This will allow them to match the language that they’ll use when translating much more precisely.
  • Target audience – most of the Asian languages rely heavily on existing hierarchies and the language changes depending on the people you’re addressing. Knowing what the target audience will be is really important when it comes to the final quality of a translation. If the audience isn’t specified, the translation can still be technically flawless – but it may not be relevant to the people you want to reach.
  • Type of languages – is it Simplified Chinese, is it Traditional Chinese? Is it aimed at Chinese living in Hong Kong, at Chinese living in the United States or another country? The variety of dialects and the subtle differences in each territory is something that’s important when choosing the right resources. Different areas call for different specialists, so if you can share as much detail as you can from the very beginning it will definitely make it easier for everyone.
  • Glossaries, TMs(Translation Memories) and any other reference materials (especially editable files, if available) – all these are valuable assets when it comes to preparing a quote and later on, doing the translation.
  • Out of scope or in scope – knowing which content is which is will save everyone a lot of time. Content that is out of scope is content that won’t be translated (and you won’t be charged for it), whereas content that’s in scope will be translated and reviewed.
  • Specifying how and if we should translate names, addresses, titles, authors or references is crucial. The same goes for text in logos/stamps/images, etc.
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Never assume that a job is being processed!

One of the most important actions you can take after being quoted is to give a heads-up to the company that you’ve chosen and who’ll be doing the work for you. It might seem a bit much, but if you miss this step you might not get your job done. A translation company won’t start processing a potential job just because you requested a quote for it – requesting a quote doesn’t mean you’ve agreed with it and sent a confirmation to them to proceed. You need to confirm that you chose a particular company and are instructing them to proceed with that particular assignment. They can’t assume that you wanted them to proceed until you let them know – as doing so when they most probably receive a hundred quotes request per day would be unprofessional.

Our advice is to check the quoted turn-around-time (TAT) carefully and just give the company a simple confirmation – “Yes, please proceed with that deadline.” would be just fine. That way you’re going to be sure you’ve successfully assigned the task to the vendor you chose and they’ll be proceeding with it.

Final advice

When it comes to quotations and customer service, there are many ways to approach the subject. With the knowledge that our industry is very time-sensitive, optimizing the quotation process and making it easier on both sides is essential. That way both sides can be as swift as possible in stipulating the conditions of a project, and that only improves things for the end-client.

We’ve managed to generate a short checklist to make it easier on you when you need to request a quote. You can download it from here and use it each time you need a quote for an Asian language translation. Please try using it and share your experience with us.

Download it here: Your checklist for Asian language quotes.