What they do, How they Work and Where to Find German Translation Agencies

To ‘translate’, in lingual terms, is to express the sense of words or text from a source language in another language, and down the ages this skill has been a major enabling mechanism which has allowed diverse cultures to communicate with each other for the benefit of mankind. Just to be useful at even a basic level, a translation must at least capture the original author’s core meaning. In this sense, a translator has an active role rather like a musician interpreting a composer’s musical score; and just as great musicians have always captivated audiences with the power and beauty of their performance, so master translators inspired by their original texts have often produced their own literary masterpieces in response. This is why, for example, the King James Bible – which is ‘just a translation’ – is nevertheless regarded as a literary jewel in its own right.

Since ancient times, the difference between metaphrase (word-for-word translation) and paraphrase (reworded equivalent) translations has been well understood, and the 17th-century English poet and translator John Dryden, advocating the sensitive use of ‘counterparts’ (word equivalents), summed up the essence of good translation practice as a judicious balance of these two concepts, saying:

‘When [words] appear… literally graceful, it were an injury to the author that they should be changed. But since… what is beautiful in one [language] is often barbarous, nay sometimes nonsense, in another, it would be unreasonable to limit a translator to the narrow compass of his author’s words.’

Our modern businesses compete in a world-wide marketplace where the ability to secure and transact business with confidence and accuracy in the native language of customers and intermediaries is now essential. Thus there is an ever-increasing need to handle a range of business documents – emails, marketing media, contracts and similar – in many different languages. Given that the language translation process requires specialist skills, and that hiring in-house translators is rarely cost-effective, many businesses and institutions choose to outsource this task to translation agencies.

What is a Translation Agency?

A translation agency is a business which offers to handle the translation process on your behalf. Such agencies vary in size from solo translators providing custom services to a few clients, right up to sizeable companies able to handle large-volume translations in many formats with a full range of associated services. In translation-industry parlance, ‘single language vendors’ are specialist agencies translating to and from just one language, for example German. ‘Multi-language vendors’, on the other hand, will offer to translate a given text into several languages, often within a single project. Whatever their size, all translation agencies should provide a suitable level of support to ensure a client is offered the right service and that the final product is delivered as promised.

As a minimum, a translation agency will be able to provide a native speaker of the ‘target’ language – the language required for the finished translation – who also has a good knowledge of the ‘source’ language, to produce an accurate ‘human’ rendering of the original text. Should your text also require technical expertise or other specialist knowledge, you should also expect that an agency agreeing to translate the work would provide a translator with matching skills.

Twigg’s Translations, for example, are based in North Germany and offer professional German translation services, using native-speaking translators with years of experience. This focused approach enables them to offer high-calibre translations and expertise in business, law, software, science and other specialist areas, with a high level of personal service.

London - Home of Great German Translation Companies
Image by Luis Llerena

How do Translation Agencies Work?

For a translation agency, translation is never just one single task: assembling high-quality translation teams, quality control, customer support, project management and marketing are just a few of the essential functions needed to service client’s requirements efficiently.

Indisputably, the recruiting of good native-speaking translators is the most critical of these functions and is crucial to the performance and long-term viability of any translation business. Invariably translating towards their native language, translators must have a good understanding of the relevant cultural background to the source text, in addition to linguistic competence, in order to recast idioms and colloquial expressions in a form which will be natural and familiar to their target audience. Good research skills, a comprehensive reference library, and subject expertise complete the must-have requirements for translators, though articulate fluency in the target language remains the key skill for professional translators.

Thanks to the Internet, work is received and dispatched online in most agencies, and translators normally work remotely too. This means office space can be devoted to:

  • Customer support for private and business clients, which can include levels of project management and arranging for revisions, which are often processed without charge.
  • Responding to new business enquiries by providing competitive quotations, offering advice and responding to queries.
  • Maintaining good quality control via a robust and effective multi-phase editing and proofreading system.
  • Comprehensive and efficient document management, which can often involve the conversion of electronic and software formats, and the handling of multimedia and web-based materials, followed by delivery of the end product according to the client’s specified layout and format.

Customer satisfaction is of course the paramount consideration for a translation agency, and Twigg’s Translations have gained their long list of prestigious clients by offering a flexible and professional service which prioritises good customer contact and carefully defines each customer’s requirement.

How do I Find a Translation Agency?

The digital world is awash with translation agencies advertising their services and several online translation databases can also be consulted to reveal more. The best agencies will offer transparent and easily accessible information about their business profile including translation methods and services, country of origin, quality control systems and some guidance on their translation pricing policy. Perhaps most important of all, a customer-friendly agency website should include typical examples of their translation work, and easily verifiable references from genuine clients happy to recommend the agency’s services to others.

Those who are (understandably) nervous about entrusting important translation work to an unproven agency on the strength of nothing but a supercharged web presence would be well advised to either seek out word-of-mouth referrals within their own industry, or else contact two or three smaller translation agencies by telephone. Like Twigg’s Translations who offer direct contact with the owner, this type of agency provides a more personalised service and will welcome an informative and reassuring discussion about their services with a potential new client.

Learn German by walking
Image by Jon Ottosson

What are the Benefits of Using a Translation Agency?

Every client using translation agencies can expect that the impact of an important source document is at least preserved, and possibly even enhanced, by a professional translation. A fast, efficient and reliable document turnaround also saves a client the considerable time and effort of locating a linguist with appropriate subject competence who is prepared to commit to the translation: as so often in service industries, the best freelance specialists are the busiest, and therefore the least able to respond to such ad hoc requests.

For business clients with products and services to sell overseas, or those wishing to develop such markets, a broader range of benefits apply, and the related business decisions are more strategic in nature. There is often an initial tendency to deal with these translations in-house until companies become overwhelmed by the effort involved, the scale of the task, or both. Developing a good relationship with a translation agency at an early stage not only avoids such difficulties but, as business surveys regularly confirm, companies investing in ‘localisation’ – the adapting of business materials for specific countries and regions – are the ones most likely to reap business rewards.

For companies, the advantages of working with a translation agency will include:

  • Expertise
    Language professionals will have worked on similar projects to yours. This means they will both understand your objectives and have a store of accumulated wisdom at your disposal covering each and every aspect of your enterprise. As a result, your material can be tweaked and customised when necessary to ensure maximum impact and avoid expensive mistakes.
  • Translator Resources
    Companies employing in-house translators often struggle to match translator resources to workflow as their business expands. Consequently, it becomes difficult to maintain standards and campaigns can easily collapse under the weight of their own success. Translation agencies, on the other hand, can continuously call upon a roster of professional translators with the skills and experience to keep your project on track whenever success triggers a scaling up of resources.
  • Facilities
    Professional translation requires access to a range of expensive specialist hardware and software, plus the expertise to optimally deploy these often complex facilities. In addition to having such processing and management tools available, translation agencies also have well-established editing and proofreading systems fine-tuned to guarantee you continue to receive a consistent high-quality final product.
  • Uniformity
    Language uniformity in product description often presents a problem for in-house translators. Such issues commonly arise when products are modified or staff changes occur. For instance, if two product variants share features or functionality, these must be described in the same terms otherwise customers will be misled. Such problems can easily arise if, for example, one translator refers to a ‘disposable camera’ whilst another uses the term ‘single-use camera’ to describe the same product. Translation agencies are aware of such pitfalls and will seek to define essential terms via target language glossaries, whilst also setting up translator guidelines to ensure a consistent style and tone of voice across the project.
  • Efficiency
    Outsourcing your translation requirements to a translation agency gives you access to a focused, tried-and-tested facility which guarantees a quality output. This produces a saving in the capital investment otherwise required to set up and maintain an in-house translation team. Using an agency also allows a fast and flexible response as your business needs develop.

As always, the most persuasive evidence for using a professional translation agency is provided by feedback from business customers who have already adopted this risk-free, future-proof solution themselves. One customer using business translation facilities at Twigg’s Translations comments:

‘The translations we receive.. save us lots of time. The completed specialist management and marketing texts can be published straightaway within the department without any need for editing.’

Endorsing the flexibility and reliability of arrangements, another customer adds:

‘[Our company] has to react quickly to the needs of its customers… The [translation] work… is always delivered on time and in excellent quality.’

What are the Disadvantages of Using a Translation Agency?

Clearly, engaging a professional translation agency involves additional expense, and is perhaps initially more costly than utilising an in-house option. It could be shown too that sourcing individual translators can also be cost-effective at the outset. Nevertheless, using a translation agency is always a safe value-for-money option for any translation requirements, and becomes the default option where other considerations such as large volumes, deadlines, and extended contracts come into play.

Though translation agencies offer fast turnaround times, they cannot compete with machine translations (MT) which provide a low-cost and virtually instant digital alternative. Despite their unreliability, MT draft scans providing a low-level rapid overview of documents have proved a rough and ready tool for intelligence monitoring and surveillance tasks, and may indeed have some limited commercial applications.

A healthy competitive environment tends to keep standards high in the translation industry, and poor service or complacency from any translation agency should never be tolerated – there is always a more suitable alternative.

What do Translation Agencies Charge?

Text translation costs will always be on a sliding scale because each text presents a different mix of variables. Some texts may be relatively undemanding in content, whilst others may require extensive research, experience and high-level writing skills to deliver a satisfactory adaptation in the target language. However, to give some indication of the likely scale of translation charges, Twigg’s Translations price guide quotes the following rates:

‘Example prices (ex VAT) based on translations in WinWord

Straightforward Text from 14 pence (€ 0.18) per word
More Difficult Text from 15 pence (€ 0.19) per word
Challenging Text from 16 pence (€ 0.20) per word’

In the above context, ‘straightforward’ text would contain fairly short simple sentences with no particularly technical content; ‘more difficult’ text – the most common category – would consist of varied sentence lengths, require some knowledge of the topic, and need some creative translator input; and ‘challenging’ text would demand extensive technical knowledge and fully test the translator’s abilities.

Translation agencies will always provide advice and a detailed quotation free of charge if you are able to forward a copy of your document via email. Charges for proofreading and website translation, where the content is even more varied, would also require a specific quotation.

Why is Professional Translation from a Translation Agency much more Expensive than Automated Translation?

The expensive end product of professional human translation is a highly readable text which preserves and conveys the message and impact of the source text. In comparison, automated translation is available at bargain basement prices but has yet to demonstrate comparable quality.

More reading: Translation Costs and Prices: A Comprehensive Guide

As early efforts have proved, translation is a difficult task for a computer. For example, the idiomatic phrase, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ was rendered in computer translation as ‘invisible insanity’, whilst the opening salutation ‘Dear Bill’ was mistranslated into German as ‘liebe Rechnung’ (beloved invoice). Even though digital translation, bolstered by advances in computer technology and linguistic theory, has moved on from its early phase, there has been only limited progress. Small advances have occurred in specialised scientific or mathematical contexts where vocabulary is limited and strictly defined. If there are no semantic ambiguities and absolute consistency is essential, a computer can quickly ‘learn’ and apply rules to produce workable translations.

Beyond these limits, computers lack any sense of audience or context and thus cannot reproduce in translation the rich variety of expression which characterises human language communications. Experts agree that MT output to seriously rival the efforts of professional translators would require advances in the field of artificial intelligence which are still a long way off.

Thus it appears a human translator is still the best bet for a truly polished translation, whilst automated transmission presently remains ‘a tall order’ – or, as a digital translator might put it, ‘a colossal discipline, a leggy diktat, or even a dubious brotherhood!’

More Information About Translation Agencies:

How do Translation Agencies work?

Taking a Break from Translating
Image by Maliha Mannan

German Translation Freelancers in Germany

Lingo Code
Rose Newell is a professional German to English translator based in Berlin. Her skillful weaving of the longest of German nouns into beautiful English has been satisfying the most discerning of clients since 2006.

Techwrite Translation Services
Steffen is a native-speaking German living in Germany and provides one-stop English into German translator, editor, proofreader, writer, and copywriter for almost any text related to your product or service offering for the German-speaking market

Silvia Sinha Translations
Silvia is a native German and state-recognized translator for English. She offers Professional translations from English into German as well as proofreadings.

James Gray | Translator and Writer
James offers translation from German into English (British English, unless otherwise specified) and covers a range of subject areas including: Sports (ice hockey, F1, MotoGP, skiing, extreme sports) and Marketing (websites, press releases, newsletters, brochures, case studies)

Language Boutique
Inspired by the term “fund boutique” – small and nimble investment funds which in recent years have delivered above-average results – Language Boutique stands for value-adding, high-quality English language services.

Light House Translations
Annika, a full-time freelance translator, is a native German speaker and offers translations into German in a variety of fields with an emphasis on creative translations.

Margaret Hiley | German – English Translation, Proofreading & Editing
Margaret is a native speaker of both English and German and grew up in the UK, Canada and Germany. Margaret specialises in the academic fields of the Arts and Humanities as well as creative work and texts for mueseums and cultural institutions.

Stefanie Sendelbach | Native German Freelance Translator
Stefanie Sendelbach is a professional German freelance translator. She offers translation and proofreading services for the language combinations English – German and Portuguese – German.

John Neilan | Freelance German English Translator
John Neilan is a freelance German English translator based in Berlin, Germany. He specialises in the translation of software and literary texts but also have vast experience in a number of different areas including the translation of technical texts as well as copywriting material.

German Translation Freelancers in the US

Reliable Translations
Barbara Jungwirth is based in New York and translates German technical and business documents into polished English appropriate for a specific audience.

Annika Romero | Certified German – English Translation Service
Annika Romero is a native German speaker and precise English – German document translation and German transcription services are her professional specialties.

Ted Wozniak | German – English Translation Services
Ted Wozniak specializes in business German, in particular in the areas of accounting and finance and has degrees in accounting and German and have worked as an accountant in both the private and public sector.

Carol A. Mueller | German to English Freelance Translator
Carol Mueller is based in Jacksonville, Florida, and has been providing clients with high-quality German to English translations since 1997. She specializes in financial, securities, investment, mutual fund and IT/ software texts.

Ann C. Sherwin | Translation from German to English
Ann Sherwin has been translating professionally for nearly three decades, she specialises in history, genealogy and a few other areas of personal interest.

German Translation Agencies in the US

Cathy Lara | German-English Translation
Cathy Lara & Associates are a leading German translation company. They provide quality, customized and cost-effective German-English translation services.

Sondra Schalk | German-English Translator and Interpreter
Sondra Schalk is an experienced German Native-speaker / translator and interpreter for the German and English language. Her goal is to provide individual and efficient expert solutions for businesses and individuals.

German Translation Freelancers in Canada

Johanna Timm | German-Link Translation Services
Johanna Timm was born and educated in Germany and has been living and working in Canada since 1985. She offers Accurate, yet elegant translations and years of professional experience.

German Translation Agencies in Canada

ABC Language Solutions | Certified German To English Translation
ABC Language Solutions specialize in professional German to English and English to German translations. Their translators are well experienced, certified to translate documents for immigration purposes, courts, medical institutions, insurance companies and any other organisations in Canada.

German Translation Freelancers in New Zealand

Jayne Fox | German-to-English translator
Jayne Fox is a German-to-English translator and native speaker of British English, specialist in technology, health care and corporate communications. She provides premium German-to-English translation to discerning companies, communications agencies and health care providers.

Freelancers in Austraila

NYA Communications
NYA Communications offers German  English translations and
language services, specialising in the areas of marketing, corporate communications
and public relations since 2003

German Translation Freelancers in the UK

AbleWords | English and German translator and proofreader in Essex
Based near Chelmsford in Essex, AbleWords is a one-stop shop to get your English or German text translated, proofread or edited. Maren is a native German speaker with bilingual proficiency in English and a profound understanding of both cultures.

Angela Grütters | German Translation in Devon
Angela Grütters is a native speaker of German and a qualified translator based in Devon with more than twenty years’ experience. She offers a premium service tailored to your requirements.

Clackson Partners | German Language Services Provider
Dr. Ute Clackson is a native German speaker who speaks English and is a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. She has been a freelance technical translator in 1996 and translates texts from German into English and from English into German.

Jonathan Bruton | German-English translator
Jonathan Bruton has for the past eight years been working as a freelance translator from German into English and am now resident in Shrewsbury in the West Midlands of England. Jonathan is a native speaker of English and a fluent speaker and writer of German.

Neuling Translations
Sheelagh Neuling has many years’ experience as a translator, offering translations from German into English. She offers German – English translations of all types, can help you with selecting suitable advertising text for German language websites.

Sally Mcphail | German Language Consultant
Sally is a translator from German into English and has a background in marketing of financial services. The main focus of her work as a translator is in marketing, financial services and legal translations.

Carol Finch provides a friendly and reliable translation, proofreading and revision service from her home on the Isle of Mull

ABC Deutsch-Englische Übersetzung
ABC German Translation is based in Southern England and specializes in translating German texts into English and vice versa. They offer Accurate translation of general and specialized texts, Proof-reading and editing of texts composed by the customer.

Other German Translation Agencies in the UK

BP Translations
BP Translations offer accurate, fast and reliable German <- > English translations by qualified native English and German translators.

Dania Translations | Translation services in Danish, German and English
Dania Translations has been in operation since 1993 and offers high quality translation, interpreting & training services. Since 2000 there has been an informal collaboration between its two main translators, Lone Beheshty and Sussy Schutze.

GS | German Translation & Interpreting Services
German Translation & Interpreting Services provides specialist German to English and English to German translation and interpreting services. They apply the most comprehensive internationally recognised translation quality system.

Professional German Translation
Professional German Translation provides high-quality expert translation from/to different languages. They are proficient to provide first-class translations during short time-frame thanks to our professional translation team of over 2000 Qualified Translators from over 100 distinct countries.

Solidus Old German Translations
Solidus has twenty-five years of German-English-German translation and editing experience and are fully bilingual in English and German, fluent in French. They specialise in the Translation of historical documents, e.g., emigration and birth records, obituaries, genealogic material, etc.

The German House | German – English Translation Services (Medical Specialists)
Based in the North East of England, The German House are medical specialists who undertake translation projects into English where German is the source language.

English <> German translation services
Translate German is a translation service providing professional German to English translation and English to German translation. They guarantee that the translation from German into English (UK) and vice versa will be carried out by highly-qualified native language specialists.

Wolfe Stone | Professional Translation Services UK
Wolfe Stone are a multi-award winning, internationally renowned language translation, voiceover and language services company. Their focus is on understanding your business objectives and delivering complete customer satisfaction.