Translator or interpreter: what’s the difference?

The difference is simple. A translator only works with the written word, whereas an interpreter works with the spoken word in real time.
Although an interpreter may also work as a translator and vice versa, the two professions require very different, if complementary, skill sets.

How should I choose my translator/translation agency?

Translation is often the last link in a company’s communication chain, but it deserves careful reflection nonetheless: your company’s image is important in every language!
So how should I go about finding a translator or translation agency?

Step one: decide whether you prefer to work with an independent translator or with an established agency. Both freelancers and agencies have their respective pros and cons, but it is the services they offer and the requirements of your project that matter the most. Whichever you select, study their offering to make sure it corresponds to your needs.

Make a shortlist of at least 3 agencies and/or translators. If you do not know of any at first hand, search the internet and visit the websites of translation agencies, freelance translators or associations.

To simplify the task and to be sure that a translator or agency meets your expectations, focus on translators who specialise in your field and, preferably, already have some relevant experience. While qualifications such as a translation degree are usually a fairly safe guideline, don’t rely exclusively on this criterion. If you are looking for a specialist in a relatively narrow technical field, your best bet may be somebody qualified and experienced in that field rather than as a translator.

Either way, the proof is in the pudding – at the end of the day, the only way to tell whether a translator’s work is up to scratch is by testing it! A well chosen text of around 300-500 words should be enough to give you an idea. And whether or not you end up working together, make sure you give them some feedback.

Call them and ask a few pointed questions so that you “get the feel” of whether a working relationship is viable from a personal point of view.

* their mother tongue
* which language they translate into (a professional translator will only translate into their mother tongue)
* their business credentials (URSSAF/SIRET/trade register number)
* their work capacity (on average, a professional translator will translate around 2,500 words a day, but naturally this varies from one translator to another; if you are looking for a quality translation, be wary of anyone offering 5,00 words a day)
* pricing: if you are looking for a specialised translator with a minimum of experience and adequate writing skills, rates towards the lower end of the spectrum do not herald this kind of experience.

I am bilingual. Is that enough to produce a good translation?

No. Although people claiming rightly or wrongly to be “bilingual” may feel equally at ease when using both languages, it is probably rare that the same person will be equally skilled at translating in both directions and they will more likely have one dominant language into which they are comfortable translating. Professional translators only translate into their mother tongue and never into a foreign language. Furthermore, translation is an art and a profession: precision and experience are vital and a professional translator has dedicated all or a large part of their career to honing and perfecting this craft.

What is a source language?

The source language is the original language in which your document is written.

What is a target language?

The target language is the language into which you want your document translated.


Why do your experts only translate into their mother tongue?

Translation is a difficult exercise that requires a perfect understanding of what is written in the source language so that it can be accurately rendered in the target language. And since we avoid literal translation in our endeavour to capture the true meaning of a text, we think it is essential to know all the nuances and subtleties of the target language. This is only possible if the translator is translating into their native language.

How can I obtain a quote?

Getting a quote is very simple: use our online form to send us the files you need translated and leave us to do the rest! Make sure you specify all the information that may be relevant to the quote, such as: source and target languages, delivery date, required style, existing references, etc. After acknowledging receipt of your request, we will analyse it and send you our offer by return.

To request a quote, click here.

Do you translate any type of document?

No, we wouldn’t dare make that claim. In accordance with our commitment to quality, our team specialises in translating legal, financial and corporate communication documents. Sometimes our clients submit documents of a more “technical” nature: in such cases, we carefully analyse the documents in-house to see whether we have the resources and competencies to take on the project.

Can you handle any type of file?

We can process any file in Word, Excel, PowerPoint or InDesign format. For PDFs, we offer a conversion solution from PDF to Word to obtain files that can be directly exploited by our translators, whilst preserving the original layout. For any other format, please contact us.

Do you translate all languages?

To learn more, click here.

Can you preserve the layout of my documents?

If you provide us with a Word, Excel, PowerPoint or InDesign file, the answer is yes: your source layout will be overwritten and replaced with our translation at no additional cost. For PDF files, there may be an additional cost or time factor depending on their readability, in the case of scanned or handwritten documents. Otherwise, our CAT tools can process classic typewritten files without hassle through their inbuilt OCR technology. For any other format or layout, please contact us.

What pricing unit do you use for your translations?

Different countries have different conventions in this respect, charging per character, per word, per line, per page, per time spent, etc.  At OTW, translation prices are based on the number of words in the source document. For proofreading, we apply an hourly rate, while the charge for updating a previously translated project is based on an average word volume.

How do you calculate the volume of your financial and legal translation projects?

Calculating the work volume for a translation project can be very fast… or very time-consuming! And it varies a lot from one project to another. For a relatively straightforward project using common file types:

a- Word: check your word count: make sure you include footnotes, comments, images etc. in your word count if they are to be translated or, if not, that the agency knows this!

b- Excel: although there are various formulas for counting words within the programme, the simplest way is to copy and paste the text from the Excel file into a new Word file. Or just let our CAT tools do the work for you!

c- PowerPoint: like Word, PowerPoint has a simple word count function. Make sure you include or exclude the Notes and Comments from your word count, depending on your needs. And again, be sure to specify whether any images require translation, as they may have to be counted manually. Editable text is evidently a translator’s best friend!

d- PDF: words can be counted either via OCR technology or via conversion to a Word file. If you have the original text file, so much the better, if not, there’s always a way! A quick word count will give you a general idea of the volume of words to be translated, but our project managers will be able to give you an in-depth analysis of your file.

These days, translators and translation agencies use CAT technology to analyse documents, prepare quotes and translate the documents. CAT tools are capable of analysing documents in far greater depth than Word and PPT statistical functions. Besides this, they will integrate the entire content of an Excel or InDesign file and can convert PDF to Word. Our CAT tools will match any text to previously translated files and extract any repetitions – so you never have to pay for the same translation twice! This is a win-win scenario: our translators can process your documents faster and cheaper! Contact our project managers to see what we can offer in terms of timing and cost.

How much does a translation cost?

This is the age-old question: how long is a piece of string? Translation pricing can vary significantly from one project to another, depending on the text to be translated, the language pair, your deadline, the formula you choose… and the volume of course. It is therefore essential that you send us your files and the details of your order in order to obtain an accurate quote.

Do you apply a minimum fee?

Yes: for any project under 300 words we have a flat rate.
Get in touch to find out which rate works best for you.

What will be the turnaround time for my project?

This question is always tricky to answer without having analysed your project. But it is generally assumed that a competent professional translator is able to translate a minimum of 2,500 words per working day. Their volume may vary considerably from project to project. If your deadline is urgent, the translator will be able to increase their daily working time and volume. But if you are looking for optimal quality, it is better to stay within this range. If your deadline is too short for a single translator, we will put 2 or 3 translators to work so that they can cover up to 7,500 words per working day.

Why do you make a distinction between normal and urgent turnaround?

To allow our translators to work under the best possible conditions and to obtain the best translation quality, we generally recommend our normal turnaround, which involves one translator translating a daily volume of 2,500 words. Over and above this volume, we apply our urgent rate.

If I send you my translation tonight, will I get a quick answer?

Not a problem! Our sales department will acknowledge receipt of your request and get to you the same evening or first thing in the morning.

Will you accept a translation test?

We fully understand your need to assess the quality of our services. That’s why we are happy to accept a one-off free translation test on a short text, selected by your teams, up to a limit of 300-400 words. This is an industry-standard length – if the text is well chosen it does not need to be longer!

Who will translate my document?

If your translation is from French to English or vice versa, it will most likely be assigned to our in-house translation team. If they are tied up with other projects, we will entrust the job to an appropriate and available member of our freelance network. Proofreading is nearly always done in-house to ensure maximum quality and consistency. For most other language pairs, the whole process (translation and proofreading) will be outsourced.

How do you manage quality?

We have always applied a rigorous quality management system. In 2011 our commitment to quality was officially recognised in the form of CERTITRAD certification, awarded and audited once a year by Bureau Veritas

We pride ourselves on our quality, which is one of our core values. Everything we do, whether it be project management, translator selection, translation, proofreading, quality control or processing client feedback, is designed to guarantee perfect satisfaction

Do you use CAT tools?

We have been using computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools for many years, based on individual translation memories created for each client from the very first project translated. These tools are extremely powerful and have proved their worth over many projects, especially recurring and repetitive projects such as annual reports where stylistic and terminological consistency is crucial.

To learn more, click here

Do you use machine translation?

We do not currently use machine translation (MT) as we believe that this technology is still in its infancy and, as yet, no match for human translation. However, as this technology is developing rapidly and is already capable of “learning for itself”, it is likely to worm its way into our profession at some stage. The question is not therefore “Whether” will MT arrive, but “When” and “How” we will employ it in our everyday work.

As your translators are real human beings, is there any way I can make their lives easier?

It’s simple:

a- If you have models or reference documents in the target language, e.g. past or similar publications, don’t hesitate to send them through! Our translators will take these references into account and then meticulously archive them for future use.

b- Give precise instructions on your terminological and stylistic preference. Because your way of communicating this year may be different from prior year practices. And don’t forget your company’s priorities and strategies as well! Our translators will respect your preferences in terms of style, terminology, format, etc. and, what’s more, will carefully note them down in specific glossaries so that you don’t need to remind us next time round! There’s one thing you can do to help: our translators may have questions about your business, terminology or the meaning of a sentence or acronym during the course of their work. It is helpful if you assign a competent contact person from the beginning of your project to reply to their questions.

Can you provide a certified or sworn translation?

Of course we can. Our network includes sworn translators who can provide certified translations in accordance with the requirements of French assermentation. Send us your request and we will find a solution!

Can I edit my source text if you have already started translating?

The best case scenario is to provide a final source version for which we provide a final target version! This helps minimise risk of error and, most importantly, optimise your budget. However, we know very well from experience that urgency may require other arrangements. In such cases, it is possible to send us a draft version, which we will translate immediately, and then follow it up with your final version which we can use to update our translation.  We may have to charge you a bit extra for the update, but you will get your final version sooner than if you had waited until your final source version was ready.

Can I ask your team questions after the translation has been delivered?

Translation is not an exact science, language and style are subjective matters and no translation is immune to improvement. If for any reason you are not satisfied with our work, our translators are always ready to listen to your feedback and rework their translation so that it matches your requirements perfectly.

My documents are confidential - how do I proceed?

Confidentiality is a key issue for all of our clients. For this reason, we make everyone involved in your project, whether employee or freelancer, sign a non-disclosure agreement. We process your documents in strict compliance with our own data privacy policy and can sign an individual confidentiality agreement for your project if required. In addition, if you don’t want to send your documents by email, we can create a secure account on our extranet site for which each member of your team will receive a user name and password. This will allow you to send us your translation requests in total security and retrieve past projects and invoices at any time.

Can you guarantee consistency over multiple projects?

You bet we can! We take both a human and technological approach to guarantee consistency:

  • For a start, this is why we have in-house teams! Over the course of time, our translators will get to know your stylistic preferences.
  • We create language specifications and glossaries specific to your company and business in order to keep a record of your stylistic and terminological preferences. That way, we only need ask you once! These resources are updated as required with each new project.
  • We use CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools to create a translation memory that keeps a record of projects we have worked on for your company. This allows us to quickly identify passages that have already been fully or partially translated. This way, the same sentence will always be translated in the same way for all your projects.
Which currency do you invoice in?

The euro is our preferred currency, but we also accept pound sterling.


Do I need to pay a deposit?

For one-off projects worth over €5,000, a 30% deposit may be required. However, we can agree on special terms for large or repeat projects or for recurring business.

Which means of payment do you accept?

Bank transfer is our preference, but you can also make payments by cheque or PayPal.

What are your payment terms?

30 days from the invoice date.

Interested in our services?

Contact us so that we can discuss the best solution for your requirements.