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.

There is a frequent statement directed towards translators by people who don’t understand how translating works and it goes something like this: “What’s the big deal, you just transfer every word into another language. Just use Google Translate and there you go!” Well, we could do that, if a client wants a poor-quality translation which does not sound natural or even make sense.

Speaking two languages is not the same as knowing how to translate. The process of translating is a lengthy one, with the translator really having to use their noggin. Join us through the journey of translating in order to reach the art of invisibility.

Considering the Meaning

The thing is, regardless of the improvement of technology, high-quality translations are done by a person going through a text word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, trying to find the perfect equivalent. More often than not, there are phrases that simply do not have a counterpart in the target language. This mostly happens with idioms, which can be quite bizarre:

British English: Bob’s your uncle!

Meaning: and there it is/there you have it, typically used to say “everything is alright” or when a result is reached.

Croatian: Vidjet ćemo čija majka crnu vunu plete.

Translation: We will see whose mother is spinning black wool.

Meaning: We will see who will end up badly.

Spanish: Tirar la case por la ventana.

Translation: To throw the house out the window.

Meaning: To spare no expenses.

For each of these, the translator needs to spend a certain amount of time to find the expression suitable to replace it in the target language. They try to understand the meaning as a whole and create a sentence which will sound natural. Even some simple expressions, such as “je m’appelle Josh” in French, cannot be literally translated as “I call myself Josh”, but as “my name is Josh”. And it makes a big difference. At least if you want a coherent translation.

Considering the Author

It’s impossible to translate the text correctly if you don’t understand the author’s perspective. Who are they addressing, in what way and what is the point of the text are only some of the questions in need of answering before starting the translation process. It’s the translator’s job to adjust and create a translation which captures the spirit of the original text.

Considering the Client

There are, however, situations when the client has specific demands and requires a different approach to the translation. This may vary, from using specific tools to using certain words and phrases. It’s a translator’s job to respect their client’s wishes.

This entire process leads to the creation of a superior translation. After stopping at all the aforesaid stations throughout this journey, it would be a shame if the translator broke the illusion of it actually being a translation. Since it’s a known thing that the best translation is the one which is read as if it were an original, being the invisible translator is what one should aspire to be. The irony of it all is that nobody notices the invisible translator. If a translation is read like an original, nobody will acknowledge the person creating it in such a way. In other words, the better the translation, the less likely the translator is to be remembered. People tend to recollect the poor translations and huge (sometimes funny) errors, and with it the person who made it such.

And that is the reality of translators. Crazy deadlines with no appreciation.

It’s a good thing we love what we do.

Starting something new requires knowledge and bravery. If that something comes from personal desire and intrinsic motivation, it becomes a much easier task to accomplish. Regardless, blindly undertaking such responsibility can be troublesome without proper advice from others.

Today, we are going to be focusing on facilitating the starting process of any young translator. Of course, there is a lot for individuals to learn on their own, but we’ll do our best to provide some guidance for new translators, and it will hopefully make the entire starting process somewhat easier.


  1. Understand the business.

First things first, learning the business is an important aspect of starting anything. When it comes to translating, there are several options for you which you must explore before going any further. You need to be aware of the risk/reward ratio of anything you would do and compare it to your professional capabilities and personal desires. Translating literature is not the same as translating technical texts and it does not require the same amount of work for the same profit. For example, translating literature is often not that cost-effective. If you enjoy translating literature, be ready for the fact that it will not always be sunshine and rainbows, since it can take up a lot of time and additional research. But, ultimately, enjoying what you’re doing is what matters most.

Furthermore, figure out the differences between working for an employee and being a freelancer. This one is important. There are many differences between those two and you should see what works best for you.

All in all, learn about yourself and your intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and act accordingly.


  1. Be prepared to work hard.

Despite what you have chosen as your business direction, it will not be easy. Sure, some days will be easier than others, but there will be harder days too. If you are freelancing, you might think that you can wake up whenever you want and still have a lot of free time because you don’t have a 9-5 job. On the contrary. Depending on the amount of work, there will be days when you’ll be working from early in the morning to late in the evening (including weekends) and you’ll still be cutting it close. On the other hand, when working for a company, you have your office hours and then you’re done. But, approximately the same amount of work will be crammed into your normal working hours, and you’ll end up exhausted for the rest of the day. So, whatever you choose, be ready to give it your best.


  1. Find a mentor.

When starting, don’t be too confident. Be aware that there are many things you can still learn and that you will learn every day when translating. Finding someone who can constructively criticize you is of the utmost importance. You also need to learn how to accept that criticism as something valuable to you, not as a personal blow. Translating means constant improvement and learning. It’s okay to make mistakes when you are a beginner, but it’s not okay not to learn from those mistakes.


  1. Check everything.

As we said, it’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s your job as a translator to give your best and minimize them as much as possible. It’s obligatory to check everything at least twice, if there is time. Distractions lead to mistakes, which is fine, as long as you detect and correct them before sending the translation. Our advice is, if possible, to sleep on it, and then come back with a fresh mind to reread it.

And, of course, always use a spell checker.


These are only some of the most important advice to get you started, but make sure to further look into what is needed to be a good translator. There are many books that might interest you, such as Translation in Practice: A Symposium by Gill Paul or How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay, among others. Make sure you network wisely, try out different translating tools to find the best one for you, set a realistic deadline when freelancing, and don’t shy away from a challenging project (within reason), because you will end up far more knowledgeable on the subject and you will be proud for doing it in the end.