Did you ever wonder about the pricing of translation projects? Why are translation services so expensive? How hard can it be to translate several pages into another language? It's not rocket science. Also, Google Translate is a thing.

First and foremost, we DO NOT use Google Translate for translating in any language pair. Professional translations are done with the help of CAT (Computer-assisted Translation) software. CAT tools, with their translation memories and term bases, shorten and streamline the translation process. Additionally, they facilitate consistency in translations.  Even though machine translation software is getting better, the complexity of certain texts, the variability of terms and key language nuances remain in the human domain. And this is exactly what makes a quality translation.

What is quality?

According to ISO 9000, quality is the “degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements.”
Inherent characteristics mean the qualities of products important to buyers, and requirements are expressed, unexpressed or implied needs and expectations of buyers regarding the product.

Unlike the marketing era that featured  “price wars” with the main task of creating a new market for new products, the current period of focus on quality is characterized by a large diversity of products, market saturation and prices on the edge of cost-effectiveness, with quality becoming the most important aspect for customers. There are currently around 400 translation agencies in Croatia. Clients have a wide choice, and considering that almost everything can be done via e-mail, even the location is not an issue. After all, we also work on the global market with clients from various parts of the world.

Difference between price and value

Even though you probably expect for the price of a translation to be similar at every agency, the price difference can sometimes be up to 100%. This is largely affected by the fact that the price of translations at translation agencies that are not in the VAT system can immediately be 25% lower. Furthermore, there are agencies that operate only online and therefore have significantly lower costs compared to traditional agencies. On top of that, there are agencies working for peanuts, that is, offering translations at extremely low prices. Such translations are known in the industry as extremely low-quality translations since they are done by underpaid, underqualified and/or inexperienced translators not taking paying attention to the quality, style and even basic accuracy of translations.

Let's take a simple example (even though, if we would ask a translator, it would be one of the most complicated ones) – translation of menus. Imagine finally getting several vacation days and using your annual leave. You sit down in a gorgeous small Italian restaurant overlooking the sea and start reading the menu. You're craving for something with an appetizing flavor that goes with the local wine.  And you find –gnocchi in angry sauce. Hmm... A translation done for peanuts.

Somebody translated that menu from Italian to English. It doesn't matter whether the job was done by a freelancer or an agency. A little bit of literal translation, a little bit of inexperience/carelessness and the sauce can become angry instead of spicy.

Practice has shown that it is better to ask the client for a description/recipe/photograph of the meal than it is to literally translate a certain meal. Cuisine is a part of the culture of a nation, and often there are no equivalents for certain dishes in another language. But it is the translator's job to invest their time, to research the dish in question, and to find the best solution or to present the meal using a description. And someone who invested time end effort into finding the best possible solution will also want to be paid fairly for their work.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get,” said investor Warren Buffett. Finally, poor translation services can cost you a lot more than money. Whether it is a translation of a professional paper, brochure, menu, website or advertisement – your communication with consumers shows how much you care about their satisfaction and how much they can rely on you and your product or service.

Translation price does not always reflect the quality, but the level of service must justify the price paid by the client. We all need to stay competitive on the market in order to keep doing business at all. But on the other hand, translators need to set their "value". You would not want somebody to underestimate your work, invested time and effort, right? Translators are the same. Not every translation is equally demanding, but research, knowledge and experience go into every translation, so that the client can get the best possible result in the end. Actually, we can only speak for ourselves here.

What determines the price of a translation?

Specifically, the translation price mostly depends on the quantity of text and the language pair. For example, the translation of a text from Croatian to English will be cheaper than the translation from Croatian to Dutch. Why?

There is a very small number of translators working in the Croatian-Dutch language pair. Their number decreases even more if you consider their reliability. If you entrust your translation to an agency, then that translation agency must vouch for the quality and accuracy of the translation, as well as meeting a deadline. When entrusting your translation to an agency, you should be confident that your translation will be done professionally and to a high standard. That is why the translation price in translation agencies can be somewhat higher than it is with freelancers. At the same time, this gives you some certainty. Working with an agency will ensure consistent terminology and style in your translations since they are likely to use glossaries and translation memories (databases) dedicated to your industry or even custom-made for your company.

Besides, if you don't know the ins and outs of the translation industry, you don't know whether you'll get only a basic translation or an edited/proofread translation. Maybe you need a translation, editing, proofreading and industry-specific revision? To ensure the quality of translations for our clients, every translated document produced by Sinonim undergoes the process of editing and proofreading, as well as quality assurance, regardless of the language in question. Mistakes can happen to everyone. That is why you should do everything you can  to minimize or eliminate them.


How to choose a good translator?

When selecting a translator or an agency, you should take into account everything offered as part of that service, the time required for translating the text, the reliability of the translator and his or her expertise. The translator's job requires learning and improvement on a daily basis. That is the person/agency you entrust with your work, documents, financial reports... Find someone to build a partnership with and help you achieve your goals. At the end of the day, this is what we do at Sinonim. We look forward to every new success story to which we have contributed.

For any additional questions and information, feel free to contact us at info@sinonim.hr.

The unique terminology of legal texts, along with cultural differences and linguistic specificities, can pose a real challenge to translators. Legal translation is not only a translation between two languages and two cultures, but also between two legal systems. Whether you're entrusting your legal translation to an agency or a freelancer, make sure they are reliable and professional.

In today's blog post, we bring you five reasons why it's important to hire a professional translator for legal translations.


  1. Low-Quality Translation Can Lead to Serious Consequences

A legal translation affects the client's life directly, business and/or private. A translator's lack of experience and preparation can have serious consequences for the client. The person translating should, at the very least, have basic knowledge of the legal systems of both the source language and the target language, the types of legal acts and their functions. Besides, the translator should understand the legal concepts and terminology of the area being translated. Unlike some other types of translations, legal translations do not allow for "text interpretation". Adding or omitting words and phrases or replacing them with words of similar meaning won't contribute to the translation quality. Quite the opposite. A legal translation carries much weight. This is why it is important to keep precision in mind and translate what is said, not what the translator thinks is being said.


  1. One Word Can Have Multiple (Legal) Meanings

Words with multiple meanings are everyday phenomena in all types of translations. However, due to its effects, legal translation is a whole different story. The job of a translator is to understand the context and reach a decision on the meaning that should be used. If the context does not make clear what the matter is about and what the correct meaning is, consultation with the client is needed, and more information should be requested so as to make sure the translation is correct. In legal translation, you can never make enough checks.

When translating the word agreement from English to Croatian, one might use Croatian words conveying the meanings of contract, treaty, arrangement, consent, acceptance, deal, concordance or harmony (ugovor, sporazum, dogovor, suglasnost, pristanak, slaganje; nagodba, pogodba; podudarnost, skladnost). Although it may seem that these meanings are not that different at first, they have a significant distinctive role in the legal world.

Just how clear legal translations should be can be seen from the fact that the use of pronouns is avoided in legal regulations, hence the subject noun is repeated more often than it usually is in general language. Furthermore, nouns that are singular in Croatian and which don't refer to a specific person or thing are often translated into English as plural.


  1. Legal Translations Depend on Cultural and Legal History of an Area/Language

The legal language and legislations of a country reflect its culture. For example, someone not familiar with the legal system of Scotland and England may see the word marriage and not be aware of the fact that legal provisions for this term are not the same in those two countries. In Scotland, the legal minimum age for entering into marriage without parental consent is 16, and this minimum age is set at 18 in the legal system of England, that is, 16 with parental consent.

We can see how challenging a legal translation may be in systems where the same term could have an entirely different meaning due to the legal tradition of a certain country. Hence, in the American legal jargon, enjoin means to (legally) prohibit someone from doing something, while in the British version this means to (legally) force. The phrase on the table in the British legal system means that something has been put up for discussion or made available for consideration. In the American legal system, the same phrase could mean that something has been postponed, withdrawn.

Still think anyone can translate legal texts?


  1. Knowledge of Acts, Manuals and Ordinances Is Obligatory

Naturally, the translator will never have the knowledge an attorney has. This is why it's important to know where to look for reliable and relevant information on a certain area. The emphasis is placed on the reliability of information. It's important to keep up with news from the industry, official websites of competent authorities, ministries and other institutions to be aware of all the changes and guidelines that may be different depending on the area of law and/or institution for which the translation is done.

This is particularly important for EU institutions that are very specific in their guidelines for translators. Our experience tells us that using manuals when doing translation for EU institutions is a must. Furthermore, there are certain rules when it comes to translation of legal regulations of the Republic of Croatia and a reliable resource for all translation dilemmas is the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.


  1. Consistency in Terminology

Legal translations are usually big in size and have (very) short deadlines. That's why it's essential, when splitting the project among several translators, for the terminology to be consistent. In translation agencies, due to organization of work and experience, this should function without any major problems. At Sinonim, our work is based on the principle that the same translators work for the same clients, since they are familiar with the material and are consistently using terminology throughout the translation. Consistent use of glossaries is also obligatory and, additionally, each project has a project manager who, besides taking care of terminology and division of work, also takes care of deadlines, communication with the client and makes sure the translation is of high quality.


Regardless of whether you ultimately decide to entrust your translation to an agency or a freelancer, check their qualifications, experience and ask for references. Good legal translators are hard to find, but once you find them and agree on mutual expectations, they can become your main support and a reliable partner when it comes to preparing any case.