Monday, September 9, 2013

Back translation – what is it and when is it needed?

A back translation, which is sometimes also referred to as reverse translation, is the translation of previously translated content back into its original (source) language. Back translation is carried out by a native speaker of the target language who has not been involved in the project’s execution until this point and has no reference materials or original text available. 

This translation quality assurance method is commonly requested by the most demanding clients with the purpose of verifying the level of accuracy of the original translation. Back translations may differ stylistically, and some words may be replaced by their synonyms, but the final text should definitively show the meaning of the original document as closely as possible. Please note that for the best results, the translator handling this work must be aware that the job concerns a back translation. This means that the translator will stick to the source text a little more closely than usual. It is especially important that small errors or weak sentences in the text are not improved or adapted which is something that the translator would normally do.

A back translation can show the quality of translated text as an equivalent to its original meaning. The process could also be called translation validation

Due to its high cost, back translation is not among the most frequently requested services for the purchaser of normal translation services, but it is highly recommended for high risk document translations such as life science documents, clinical trials, market research, herbal recipes, and others. 

However, if highly qualified and experienced linguists are used for the original translation, the second party editing, and the third party review, the back translation phase can be skipped.

  • A back translation is the validation of a previously translated document against the source text. The main objective is to find any shortcomings in the original translation, and highlight all errors that are discovered.
  • The cost of a back translation is similar to that of an original translation that is carried out from scratch. Therefore, this service should be used when 100% precision is required.
  • A back translation is primarily requested by the medical, science, and market research industries.
  • Ask your Language Service Providers (LSP) if their quality assurance process includes back translation for important documents.

NB: The back translation of MT is also called a round-trip translation. More information on frequently used terms in the translation industry can be found here: Glossary of industry terms.

RIX Translation Service Agency
About the author

RixTrans ( – rapidly growing translation agency providing innovative language solutions.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Translation Memory and Translation Memory Tools

What is a translation memory?

A translation memory or TM is a database that stores previously translated source and target words, sentences and paragraphs into an electronic file. This memory allows us to reduce costs for future translation, speed up translation work and keep consistant terminology throughout all documents.

The source text (original) and target text (translation) is stored in TM. Usually, translation memory is created from scratch and updated by the translator with each translation or revision. Looking for a term or sentence in translation memory is searching for repetitions in a previously created individual term base. What it means for a translator is that the same sentence will never have to be translated again. Moreover, translation memories also allow fuzzy matching which shows the translation of a similar segment, even if the 100% match cannot be found. Such fuzzy translation can then be modified by the translator to match the source segment perfectly. The more that translation memories are built up, the faster translators can work, thus accelerating the delivery of translation projects and increasing revenue.

Benefits of using translation memory

  1. Terminology. The main advantage of using TMs is the consistency of terminology within all language projects.
  2. Ensuring that the document is completely translated. It is immediately clear which parts of the text must be translated.
  3. Dividing the project among various translators. Different translation teams can be assigned to your projects if the translation memory is made available. The terminology will remain consistent throughout all projects as new translators can use the pre-translated terms with less effort.
  4. Saves time and increases productivity especially when a text is repetitive. 
  5. Enabling translators to translate documents in a wide variety of formats, such as .indd, .xml, .html, .rtf, .ppt and many more.
  6. Saves money. TM helps clients to save money as the cost of repetitive text is considerably lower.

Translation memory and related standards

  • TMX 
    Translation Memory eXchange (TMX) is a standard that enables the interchange of translation memories between translation suppliers. TMX has been adopted by the translation community as the best way of importing and exporting translation memories. 
  • TBX 
    TermBase eXchange. This LISA standard, which was revised and republished as ISO 30042, allows for the interchange of terminology data including detailed lexical information. The framework for TBX is provided by three ISO standards: ISO 12620, ISO 12200 and ISO 16642. ISO 12620 provides an inventory of well-defined “data categories” with standardised names that function as data element types or as predefined values. 
  • UTX 
    Universal Terminology eXchange (UTX) format is a standard specifically designed to be used for user dictionaries of machine translation, but it can be used for general, human-readable glossaries. The purpose of UTX is to accelerate dictionary sharing and reuse by its extremely simple and practical specification.
  • SRX 
    Segmentation Rules eXchange (SRX) is intended to enhance the TMX standard so that translation memory data that is exchanged between applications can be used more effectively.
  • GMX
    GILT Metrics. GILT stands for (Globalisation, Internationalisation, Localisation, and Translation). The GILT Metrics standard comprises three parts: GMX-V for volume metrics, GMX-C for complexity metrics and GMX-Q for quality metrics.
  • OLIF 
    Open Lexicon Interchange Format. OLIF is an open, XML-compliant standard for the exchange of terminological and lexical data. 
    XML Localisation Interchange File Format (XLIFF) is intended to provide a single interchange file format that can be understood by any localisation provider. XLIFF is the preferred way of exchanging data in XML format in the translation industry.
  • TransWS
    Translation Web Services. TransWS specifies the calls needed to use web services for the submission and retrieval of files and messages relating to localisation projects. 
  • xml:tm
    The xml:tm (XML-based Text Memory) approach to translation memory is based on the concept of text memory which comprises author and translation memory.
  • PO
    Gettext Portable Object format. Though often not regarded as a translation memory format, Gettext PO files are bilingual files that are also used in translation memory processes in the same way translation memories are used.

The most popular CAT tools

  • SDL Trados 
  • Wordfast
  • SDLX
  • Across 
  • STAR Transit
  • Idiom 
  • Swordfish
  • Déjà Vu
  • etc.

RIX Translation Service Agency
About the author

RixTrans ( – rapidly growing translation agency providing innovative language solutions.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Test Translations – Trial Period for a Freelance Translator

There's an opinion within the translation and localization industry that PERFECT TRANSLATION is not a measure of quality – it’s a lie! It's one I'm inclined to agree with, because nowadays our client requirements are so different that it’s almost impossible to guess precisely every single preferred word and style. I'm using the term 'guess' because translation is not simply changing words from one language into their equivalents in another language. Quality translation involves knowing the context and cultural background of the words in the original text, and then choosing those words and phrases of the target language which will best convey the idea and meaning of the original in a new and different cultural context. However, there can be at least one hundred ways of translating each document, all of which may seem correct from a language point of view, but there’s always a little something extra you can add or change to make it sound even better.

So how can translation agencies prove their ability to deliver quality translations? And how can translation agencies recruit appropriate linguists for the job? Normally there’s only one answer – ask for a test translation. Competition among freelance translators and translation agencies is constantly growing: therefore, an unpaid test translation is becoming commonplace. This may not be the ideal situation for the translator but usually - it’s all or nothing! Either you go from working free of charge to receiving paid assignments in the future if you pass the test, or someone else will get the job instead of you. Of course, there are some clients who agree to pay for tests, but this tends to be more of an exception than regular practice.

RixTrans has been offering quality translation and localization services for some time now and we've collected many interesting cases, some of which I'd like to share with you now. For example, an excellent translator who had received only positive feedback from random clients on his website and marketing text translations was rejected by one of our prospects. He even claimed that our translation was done using machine translation software, although it was not. After long negotiations, we finally came to realize that our client was actually in need of transcreation, not translation services. So we swopped our qualified translator for a third-year university student, who did an excellent job of creating a new marketing text for our client. Can we call it a 'perfect translation' though? Well, it certainly was perfect for this client, but it could just as equally be unacceptable for someone else.

Just a few weeks ago, we received a rather strange request from a large and well-known company who asked us for a free test translation of about 50 pages. Of course, it's up to you if you want to accept such conditions, but in my opinion, unpaid tests shouldn’t exceed 500 words.

So, what is worth considering?
  • First, consider whether it’s really necessary to evaluate your potential linguist. Sometimes it can be enough to call on a few references to evaluate whether the candidate can handle the job or not.
  • Divide all tests into specific subject matters – marketing, medicine, history, finances, etc.
  • Determine which language pairs you might need additional help with in advance.
  • Plan the budget. Test translation and vendor evaluation is a major part of the translation business, so it's essential you factor in resources, providers, salaries, office rent and marketing activities.
  • Create a plan for linguist evaluation – who will be responsible for this? It's better to keep linguist evaluation in-house as far as it's possible.
  • Use test results to rank your potential providers. Client feedback is of course the most important measure of quality, but you still need to start somewhere.
  • Test translation doesn’t have to be long. Sometimes three tricky sentences can be enough to determine if the potential candidate can handle the job or not. 
  • Think of how much are you are ready to invest in a test translation? At RixTrans we usually don’t take test translations above 500 words. However, every rule has an exception. Coca-Cola once asked for a free test translation of around 3000 words, which we took without a hesitation.

Here at RixTrans, the following criteria is considered before we assign any job to a new vendor:
  1. Vendor's qualifications (copies of diploma, previous work experience)
  2. Test sample in each category (medical, technical, marketing, IT, law, finances)
  3. References
I have a strong belief that there’s no perfect translation in this world, and there’s no single translator that can deliver perfect work for everyone. But considering our vast experience and know-how there’s a great chance that among our team of carefully selected international linguists we will find that perfect one for everybody

What if the costs of the required translation exceed your limit?
  1. Don’t give up on a client – making that first contact  means that your potential client is interested in your services. You can either suggest selecting a couple of paragraphs you will translate free of charge to prove your expertise, or offer them a special test translation rate.
  2. It’s important to determine actual costs versus potential benefits before you accept any work you are not getting paid for. Always try to think long term (if this is a perspective client who could possibly order from you on a regular basis).
  3. Think of each test translation as a learning opportunity. Every passed or failed test translation will give you some lesson you can use in the future. For example, start asking questions and receive quality expectations from the client up-front, asking the client to give feedback on the work, etc.

To be honest, I think that test translations should be looked at as you would a trial period in a new job. Even if you are a qualified employee and fit in perfectly in your new working environment, there’s always a period when you have to accept a lower salary with an option to be fired without prior notice. It's the same story with translations – our clients test, double check, measure and audit our work. Service providers have to either accept it or let the client go.

But the common goal remains the same for both translation agencies and freelance translators – to resolve client language problems and receive an adequate remuneration for the work. Only by working together towards this goal will we succeed.

RIX Translation Service Agency
About the author

RixTrans ( – rapidly growing translation agency providing innovative language solutions.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Freelance or In-house Translator?

Over the past few years, we have received a constant flow of e-mails from both new and potential providers asking about freelance versus in-house vacancies. What is the difference between them and which one should we as a translation agency use? What are the pros and cons for each of them? Although there seems to be no precise answer, the interest has made me eager to investigate this question in more depth.

There are many benefits of working as both staff and freelance translator. But before going into more detail about the pros and cons of working with the two kinds of translators, I would first like to explain the difference between each of them.

Note that the term "in-house" does not normally describe a translator who works from home and on a “from time-to time” basis.
  • An in-house translator is a translator who works for a specific company as an employee on a full-time basis, usually at the company office.
    Some of the advantages include a regular workflow and set schedule as well as a salary, often with additional benefits such as healthcare and paid vacations.
  • A freelance translator is a translator who works as an independent contractor from home or a private office with a variety of clients and with no binding agreements to accept all tasks.
    One of the advantages to being freelance is a more flexible schedule.

Working as in-house or freelance translator



No need to worry about new clients.*
You do not have to be 2 (or more) in 1. Which means you do not have to be equally good at translation and key account management. You do not have to spend time on finding new customers. All you have to do is to translate and to satisfy the linguistic needs of pre-existing customers!

No need to  worry about Customer Relations Management.
You stay behind the scenes and do not have to invest time in CRM. This sets you free to do your main job – translate.

No need to worry about finding the workplace, PC and software needed for job.
Latest CAT (computer-aided technology) softwares don't come cheap, and that might be an issue for freelancers. But not for an in-house linguist: all equipment, as well as a workplace, is usually provided by your employer.

Constant source of income, annual leave and insurance.
This is the greatest advantage for in-house translators. Freelancers may be able to work whenever they want, but finding time for a vacation can be a big headache.

You can be promoted.
True, this does not happen that often, but working in-house could always open new doors in your professional life.

Become an expert of specific field.
Working for one company could improve your knowledge in specific subject, which allows you to translate faster and deliver translations of better quality, as you don't have to spend time searching for specific terms and expressions. Freelancers sometimes don't have any other choice than to accept everything that comes their way.

Your talents will be used solely for translation.
As described before, freelancers have to take on many different tasks, including invoicing, basic project management, key accounting and other business related activities, but in-house translators can focus on translation only.
Work whenever you want
The biggest advantage for a freelancer is that he/she does not have to wake up and go to work every morning, sit on the train or in traffic jams; simply does not have to waste time and money on the "9 to 5 grind". A Freelancer is the leader of his/her own life. Note, however, that this may often mean taking on tasks that requires working overnight or on weekends: it all depends on how you plan your schedule.

The ability to choose what and for whom to translate/ to choose the most profitable and best jobs for you.
A freelancer can always decide if he/she would like to take a project on or not. If the project appears too difficult or the deadline is too tight, a freelancer can always turn it down with a perfect excuse — sorry, I'm working on another project at the moment, or by explaining that it would be possible to take up the task if the deadline and/or rate was more flexible.

You can refuse any job you don't like.
This may not sound very positive, but freelancers sometimes refuse jobs from clients that do not pay on time, have low levels of communication etc.

Flexible working time.
A freelancer can decide when, where and for how long to work.
A freelancer can also translate for different industries (not obligatory).
Many freelancers work for different clients in various industries. This enables them to learn new skills and apply them to other projects, too.

Note that in-house translators (if stated in their employment agreement) may be able to take some freelance jobs from other clients, while freelancers do not normally get the chance to try being in-house linguists, even occasionally.

There is therefore no precise answer to the question of whether it is better to be an in-house or freelance translator. The most important question is, what are your own priorities? Freedom and flexible hours or stable income and insurance? Freelancers are like small businessmen with their own clients, CRM system and quality control, but this can be an unstable lifestyle to maintain.

A US survey has found that very few translators ever go in-house. Moreover, the vast majority continue to work as freelancers for the duration of their careers. This system is more common in US-based companies and less in Europe.

Having all your team based in-house limits a company to less specialized language combinations than can be offered using a larger stable of freelancers: offering services in 150 language combinations would result in extreme office expenses!! An in-house team for a “one-stop” translation agency is almost impossible.

In-house translation can however be a solution for companies that are not related to the language business. For instance, a manufacturing company may find it more convenient to have an in-house team for the translation of their marketing materials or instruction manuals, as they know which countries they export to and can predict both expenses and workload.

As a language service company, we combine the best of both worlds and work with both freelance and in-house translators. Only in this way can we offer the best quality service. Our project managers are specialists (linguists) in most common language combinations, and allow us to fulfil the last step in our quality control - the project manager gives the last check before sending the translated and proofread translation project to the client.

RIX Translation Service Agency
About the author

RixTrans ( – rapidly growing translation agency providing innovative language solutions.