german to english


You’ll find a Translation Institute anywhere

If you are starting to get interested in translation (at any age), the next translation institute probably isn’t very far. Contrary to what most people would think, most universities do have a separate translation and interpretation department within their faculties of linguistics, and there is a plethora of other options as well, like schools for linguistic mediators, as some of them like to be called. You don’t necessarily need to study at a university, but a variety of private institutions satisfy the same need. Just approach your university or ask around, or use the internet. Even if you live in a small town, there is probably somewhere you can go to take up some sort of translation course.

You don’t need a Degree

Even if you can’t find an official school of translation anywhere nearby (although they are widespread, as said above, especially in countries such as Germany, France, or Italy), you should know that owning a degree is not a strict requirement as translation is not a protected profession. Anyone who thinks they are good enough in more than one language can do it. It’s just that with a proper translation degree you can charge more, and you get an excellent preparation for your job.

Translators earn a lot of Money – if they do Things right

Which brings us to the next point, the remuneration. As much fun as translation might seem in the beginning, it soon becomes just as boring and monotonous as any other job. So you will want to earn some money for the hassle to be worth it for you. If you manage to approach your job in the right way, you can start out for example by advertising your services on online translation platforms, and then gradually build a reputation – online and in real life – by networking and providing quality services. In my case, it only took a few weeks after graduating from university and I was already translating websites into German like a pro, or interpreting at fairly large events. Accept that the money is not so great at the beginning, but gets better and better, and work the crowd.  

Translation Degrees prepare you to do Loads of Things

In the modern world, the equation degree = job in that sector is no longer valid. Translators for one find employment in many different sectors; many much more interesting and fun than actual translation. Some of my ex-colleagues work in tourist offices, advertising agencies, as online marketers, and in a variety of other fields. But the translation degree covers so many different aspects that it is a great way of preparing for a variety of different jobs.


Are you interested in studying translation, and need more information? Just let us know in the comments, and we’ll be more than happy to help out. Or have you studied translation and now you work as something completely different? We’d be interested in hearing your story, too!






translation delivery times

It’s very important not to deliver your translation too late early.

Being on time is important, but dangerous

Remember when you were just starting our as a translator, and you were so happy when you finished translations ahead of schedule? “Yeh, I’m the fastest translator! Let’s send this off now and the client will be delighted!”

Yes, but… Sending translations off early has some disadvantages that we should be aware of:

  1. It can cause a bad impression with the client. Seriously. Imagine you just agreed, through gritted teeth, to pay a translator 100 euros for a few paragraphs, and then you get the translation after two hours! Surely, someone’s taken the ****, right? You’ve just paid your translator 50 euros per hour. Surely they haven’t taken the work very seriously? …. It’s very easy for a client to think that you haven’t taken the work all that seriously when you deliver the text much too early. That’s logical. Who would like to spend a fortune on a translation only to find out that your translator barely spends any time with it? Clients, of course, usually are not aware, and cannot be expected to be, really, that a) you’re the world’s best and fastest translator b) your translation memory did it for you because they’ve send you the exact same text a week before already c) you really didn’t give a **** (though surely that’s not the case, right?).
  2. It raises expectations. Translation deadlines are tight enough. Especially if you’re like me, i.e. you yourself set your deadlines as tight as possible, just so you have to get down to it and don’t waste your time reading the sports news. (There’s just too much interesting stuff on the internet, isn’t there?) So, the only thing you don’t want to do is make your client believe it can be done even faster. But this is exactly the impression you give a client when you send off a translation before the deadline. Their reasoning will be, if he delivered it in a day last time, surely he can do it in a couple of hours, too?

It’s pretty obvious from the above that there is only one good time to send off your translated document: right on the deadline, or just before. Well, let’s say if you want to cause a good impression but avoid the pitfalls described above, as a rule of thumb, you could argue that one hour before the deadline is just right. You’re early, but not too early. And you’re not too late, either.


Yes, but I want to get rid of this now!

OK, so now that we’ve agreed on the time of delivery, there’s only one problem: We don’t want to sit around until the deadline when the work is already done. Let’s say there is nothing else to do for the rest of the day, and we just want to get out of the office, you know, out into the world, or get drunk on some whiskey, or erm, take the girlfriend out for some ice cream (yeah, right…). We could take the document with us on our modern, intelligent phone, but chances are we’ll forget to send it off after a few glasses, or a few cups of ice cream…


Luckily, Microsoft Outlook 2010 has a solution for this (and previous versions might have, too, but I can’t tell as I have never used Outlook before the 2010 version): Delayed Delivery. From the ribbon, under “Home”, when sending off an email, you have the option right there:

delay translation delivery

Make sure your translation is sent off at exactly the right time.

Just click on “Delay Delivery” and then check the box “Do not deliver before”, and set your time. You need to have an active internet connection and leave Outlook open (or minimized) for this to work. You email will stay in your Outbox and it will be sent at the exact time which you specify.


In the series, “Better Translating”, we try to help you set yourself up as a professional translator and be more efficient by using the right software and hardware, and knowing how to use it. Any suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

german english email

Email is the main communications medium for translators. These days, because of the popularity of blogs and because it is getting easier and easier for freelance translators to have our own websites, we are likely to receive most of our jobs in our inbox.

Finding the right email program to suit your personal needs is thus key to efficiently dealing with correspondence with clients and colleagues. Many people swear on GMail, but there’s no doubt also Microsoft has come a long way with Hotmail, and as far as webmail clients go, Hotmail now matches GMail feature-per-feature (if not for speed) and many might argue it is even a bit nicer to look at. I nevertheless recommend the use of a full-blown desktop email client to manage your mail, for the following reasons:

  • They double as a storage solution for your received files and attachments. You might accidentally delete a document for translation (or worse, a translated document) from your hard drive, but chances are you’ll find it by doing a search of your desktop email client.
  • They make all your email available offline. Which means that clean-up and organization can be done on a plane or train, or whenever your internet connection is down. (It’s advisable to clean out your translation inbox every now and then, or use email productivity tactics like Inbox Zero to stay on top of everything.)
  • Plugins and Extensions go a long way to making your life easier. Xobni is a great search extension, for example, and the Plugins for Linkedin and Facebook (which deserve a separate post) are great for a quick lookup on the sender of an email.

Currently, there are not so many email programs out there which satisfy the needs of a freelance translator in terms of function, looks, and ease of use. Apple Mail is solid and nice to look at, but not feature-complete enough to be a valid solution for professional translators. Postbox is a better effort, like Apple Mail, but with bells and whistles, though the lack of proper calendar integration is a great drawback. In my opinion, it’s a toss-up between Postbox and Microsoft Outlook. Outlook 2010 is a lot more satisfying than its predecessors, and while it’s still rather slow and prone to the occasional crash, it is the most complete solution. Try both and decide which one you want to spend your money on. Do not waste your time with any of the thousands of alternative email apps out there; they’re either limited in functionality, or rather behind the times. Take your choice between the two and learn to use them properly. I know what you’re thinking: It’s only an email application. However, it is probably the one software you are going to spend the most time with, so let’s get to the bottom of it and see if we can make email management easier to do and speed it all up a bit.


In the following couple of posts, we will look at some handy ways of attaching and saving files, researching your clients using Outlook, and making sure emails  get delivered not too early, and not too late. Watch this space.

What are your strategies against email overload? Which software do you use and why? Sound off in the comments.




In parts I, II, and III of our Guide to becoming a more efficient Translator, so far we have looked at the design of our offices, the setup of our PCs and monitors, and the perfect web browser to use while translating. Once we have have all that in place, it’s time to think about the actual translation process… and the right software to use. We will talk about receiving project orders, billing, and organizing your file system at a later point in this series, but chances are that, while you’re busy honing your organizational skills, you’ve got some translations coming in. Let’s take a look at how we can get this done more efficiently (and take some of the pain away from translating)…

For all those new to translating, it is important to know that there is amazing software out there which helps you abbreviate the translation process by about 50 %, if you are using it correctly. If you are a young translator, and have only just started work as a freelancer, or for an agency, chances are you still translate in Microsoft Word. I never translate in MS Word; even for the shortest translation, I use a CAT tool, and I recommend that you do the same. “CAT” means “computer-assisted translation”. CAT software works with translation memories, i.e. anything you’ve ever translated is saved in a central database and re-used whenever similar sentences come along. Over the days, years, and months, this allows you to build up a huge knowledge database far bigger than the amount of information you would be able to store in your brain; unless you’re an exceptional talent, of course. It can also become a great lookup tool and as such, really makes translating more enjoyable. Never translate in MS Word again; get the right software as soon as you can.

Translation software is ridiculously expensive, but it’s a worthy investment. The main competitors are DejaVu, Wordfast, MemoQ, and SDL Trados Studio. It’s worth noting that the first two, while they deserve their place in history, almost certainly belong to the past, as they have not been able to keep up with technology developments in terms of compatibility, ease of use, and user interface. It essentially boils down two two alternatives: MemoQ and SDL Trados Studio. MemoQ is to SDL Trados Studio like LibreOffice is to MS Office: much cheaper, in some aspects better, but not as widely used and feature-complete as its rival. If you want to remain at the forefront of translation technology, and make sure the files you produce during the translation process are compatibly with the formats demanded, and delivered by, large clients or agencies, you will almost certainly want to go with SDL Trados Studio. The bad news is: The software is infamous for being overly complicated, buggy, and difficult to work out. The good news: If you know how to work with it, it’s also terribly efficient. And the 2011 version is actually usable in a way the series has never been before.

We’ll look at details of the software and how to use it to speed up the translation process next time.

Do you agree that only novices translate in MS Word? Do you use CAT tools for even the smallest translation, like me? And do you agree with my choice of SDL Trados Studio as number 1 CAT tool? Let us know in the comments.

By Mark Heaney

When it comes to translation, anything machines can do, humans can do better. Much better.

In our wonderful whizzing world of gadgets and gizmos, you could count on one hand (or on your recently acquired Fingercounter 5000) the number of jobs that a machine can’t do anywhere near as well as a human being.image[1]
We’re still waiting for the Wallace and Gromit-style wake-you-up-dress-you-and-make-your-breakfast-in-one device – well, at least I am. If I were a sheep with thoughts of one day having a wooly family of my own, I dare say that a sheep shearing machine just wouldn’t cut it – or more than likely it would, wherein lies the problem. And for boxing aficionados, I’m sure, the sight of a scantily clad robot strutting about the ring signaling the next round would have a far from knock-out effect.
Yet perhaps one of the fields in which humans most outperform their technological counterparts is that of machine translation. Machine translation has been around since the 1950s when the powers that be in Cold War-era America decided that programmable computers and artificial intelligence were the perfect solution to the need to translate reams of Russian technical articles into English. Computer scientists duly set about the task and yet, many decades on, it is still very much a work in progress.

So, why so difficult? Well, as Alan K. Melby (in his study Why can’t a computer translate more like a person?) puts it: “Translation is difficult, even for people.” In a nutshell, languages are difficult. Language, for that matter, is difficult. It is a living breathing thing. It changes – constantly, sometimes it seems on a daily basis. Keeping up with it can be challenging. Moreover, language is laden with nuances, inflections, multiple meanings, idioms, idiosyncrasies – getting a handle on these is far from easy. Add to that the grammatical rules – and perhaps even worse, certainly for learners of the English language, the exceptions. Then you have the structural differences between languages; one of machine translation’s major downfalls is due to word order – for example, the order in German is completely different to that in English.
To top it all, you have to consider other factors beyond the realms of possibility for a computer (and sometimes mere mortals), factors such as tone, mood, context and culture. As Stephen Budianskypoints out, computers lack common sense. Unlike human beings, or at least the majority of them, they don’t live in the real world.

Add all these things together, put them into a computer, and you have a recipe for disaster. Or, depending on your perspective, comedy genius. To get an idea, let’s look at a few phrases translated into German from English and back into English using Babelfish. “When it comes to translation, anything machines can do, humans can do better” comes out as “If it comes to the translation, works on everything can do, humans better do by machine can.” OK if you want to come off as Star Wars’ Yoda with a hangover.
Football is a game of two halves” becomes “football is a play of two halves“, which, taking the theatrics of modern-day footballers into account, is arguably not so wide of the mark. A strange chat-up line used by a Spanish friend of mine, “Would you like to have an apple with me on Wednesday?” returned the even stranger “Did you become to like an apple with me on Wednesday to eat?“. Clearly, a mixed bag (or “strewn depot”)of results.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the Babel fish of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame (a fish that when inserted into the ear renders the wearer fluent in all languages) remains a thing of fiction. Interestingly, the Spanish talk about having to ‘change the chip’ when speaking in a foreign language, a nice metaphor for the different mindset needed to cope with the myriad rules, idioms and nuances of foreign languages. Alas, for those trying to translate into other languages, there are no such fish and chips, no quick fixes. When it comes to word-perfect translation, therefore, best leave it to the professionals.

english german dubbing translation

Dub or sub?
The decision could be more important than we realise.

It is no secret that with dubbing, so much can be lost in translation. Humour sometimes falls flat-on-its-face flat and the voices of actors can ring hollow – or worse, come off as camp or macho when they should be the other way round. However, hidden under the voice-over, there is a far bigger concern lurking: does dubbing affect our ability to aquire another language?

Surely, it is no coincidence that the citizens of Spain, whose TV and cinema are dubbed into the local language, have the worst level of English in the EU according to a recent survey (, nor that the top five on the same list, including Norway, The Netherlands and Denmark, all use subtitling. Research has shown that we pick up languages much quicker as children than we do as adults, and that in order to aquire a language we need constant exposure to it – indeed, it is estimated that we need 30% daily exposure to a foreign language to become fluent.

Does it not make sense, then, that by watching and listening to TV programmes and films in English, foreign viewers are more likely to improve their ear for the language, their pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary? According to various studies, the answer seems to be yes. One such study found that language aquisition increases dramatically when material is subtitled as opposed to dubbed; indeed, it is suggested that the difference is equivalent to between one and a half to four years of English education at school. Imagine that – a possible four years worth of classes, just by watching TV? English language learners will be reaching for the subtitle buttons on their remotes in droves.

So too, perhaps, should business owners. Subtitled television has been shown to influence the economy of a country, particularly in foreign direct investment, the increase in the percentage of the population who speak English translating into an increase in the country’s GDP.

Equally, a 2007 EC survey among nearly 2,000 European small and medium enterprises found that a signicant amount of business is being lost as a result of a lack of language skills, mainly in English. In all but 8 of the 29 countries surveyed, more than 10% of businesses had experienced intercultural and/or language difficulties; 11% had missed out on business due to a lack of foreign language skills, with almost a fifth of these losing actual contracts, an estimated total loss of up to €12 million. When this is scaled up to reflect the almost one million exporting SMEs in Europe, the potential and actual losses caused by language shortages could conceivably run into the billions.

The bottom line seems clear, then. Or does it? Other bottom-line factors need to be considered. Dubbing itself is big business; in Germany alone, where they have their very own ‘Oscars of dubbing’ awards, and some German voice actors are almost as famous as the original stars, the total turnover of the dubbing industry in 2009 was €87.25 million. Add to that the fact that changing the translation mode from dubbing to subtitling (or vice versa) would incur substantial costs, and it is easy to see why no OECD country has changed from one mode to the other since World War Two.

And what about the public? Much like Marmite and Mourinho, dubbing continues to divide opinion, and for viewers it seems to be a case of sticking with what you’re used to. Any change would meet considerable resistance; in Poland, for example, a recently proposed move away from dubbing was only favoured by 19% of the public.

Unfortunately, it seems, at least for countries where dubbing is used, it could be a case of continuing to give the audience what they want – and not what they need.

Check these points before you ask for a translationHelping your translator to help you

If you’re a company looking to do business abroad, getting your translation spot on can be a case of make or break. There have been many translation blunders over the years. Take the example of Clairol, who introduced their “Mist Stick” curling iron into Germany. Unfortunately for them, the pronunciation is very similar to that of the German word “Miststück”, which is a none too flattering word, the German-English translation akin to “bitch” or “bastard”. Hair-curling no, toe-curling most definitely.

To avoid such embarrassing and costly errors, best to prepare well before launching your new venture and to follow a few steps as outlined below.

Brief, and make it long

The most important step. Tell your translator exactly what you need and why. The briefing stage should be a two-way conversation; ask your translator questions and expect questions in return, and listen to their advice. Being clear from the start saves time, money and possible gaffes.

Pitch Perfect

Writers should never forget their audience. Tranlsators are writers. It stands to reason, therefore, that they need to know who and what the translation is for. Tell them. Pitch, tone, style, language, they will vary depending on whether it is an ad or a memo, for example, or if it’s being aimed at Spanish or South American people.

Keep it snappy

Finding the time to trim down a document can be difficult; however, the more text you give to a translator, the higher the cost and the greater the probability of there being errors. Think about what is absolutely necesssary for your target audience and leave out the rest.

Say it with pictures

A picture speaks a thousand words, as they say. What they don’t tell you is that pictures cost little or nothing to translate. Use images, graphs, diagrams, photos, and make more of an impact on your audience, and less of one on your budget.

Put it in neutral

Don’t be too culturally colourful. Colloquialisms, idioms, cultural references, they can all confuse foreign audiences so keep your language plain where possible. If necessary, however, speak with your translator and find out which idioms and ideas can be suitably translated into the target language, and save embarrassing blushes.

Finish before you start

Only give translators final drafts where possible. Trying to save time by translating earlier drafts can go horribly wrong with changes and corrections being lost along the way and errors slipping through the net.

Avoid DIY

Do-it-yourself is for the home – bookshelves, IKEA flatpacks, that sort of thing. When it comes to translation, leave it to the professionals. As much as you may fancy yourself as a fluent and loquacious bilingual, making corrections or additions to your translator’s work – or worse, trying to do the whole thing yourself – can be disastrous.

Finally, bear in mind that translators, or at least the majority of them, are not mind readers. Plan your material well in advance, brief them precisely and work with them throughout the translation process; do this, and prepare to succeed.

Want more tips? Check out this guide to translation and getting it right.