Translation Services FAQ


Certified freelance translation services Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for your interest in my technical translation services.

Whether you are looking for a good professional translator for yourself (direct client) or for your own client (translation company), you want to make sure you are getting someone who can skillfully translate documents for the Italian market, a translator with technical know-how, product knowledge, research capabilities, and writing skills.

Some of the most common professional translating services requested are:

  • Technical Manual Translations (Electrical / Electronics / Mechanical / Engineering)
  • Website Translation
  • Document Translation

The following are good questions with which to interview a professional translator. I invite you to use them to check me out.

“What are your qualifications as a technical translator?”
Are you natively fluent?
Do you have a technical background?
You live in the USA, not in Italy. I heard that translations into Italian are best done by translators who live in Italy, because they do not lose touch with their native tongue. Is this a valid claim?
You have an engineering background. Can you translate technical marketing documents with the correct style?
Do you provide also editing services?
How much do your services cost?
How long will it take to translate my project?
Technical material can be repetitive. How do you account for repeated text when quoting your price?
What happens if we make revisions to the English text after you have translated it?
What about revisions to your translation, for example, by one of our representatives in Italy?
How do I order your services?

“What are your qualifications as a technical translator?”

In the past 20 years, I have translated a wide range of technical and technical marketing materials into Italian, including ads, brochures, catalogs, hardware/software documentation, company newsletters, product guides (installation/operation manuals), press releases, slide presentations, video scripts, web sites, and white papers. I have translated on average 650,000 words per year.

The subjects in these documents cover many technical fields, including automotive, computer hardware/software, engines, gear drives, heavy machinery and vehicles, high-tech medical instruments, hydraulic systems, machine/power tools, measurement/monitoring electronic instruments, motors, networking, optical instruments, packaging, pumps, test equipment, turbines, and uninterruptible power supplies.

I have written several articles on terminology and style issues in technical translations have been published on the ATA Chronicle, the magazine of the American Translators Association.

I am the author of two training modules on technical translation into Italian, written for ICoN (Italian Culture on the Net) Group. In  partnership with three Italian universities, ICoN offers a Master in Translation modeled after the European Master’s in Translation. Among university professors specialized in translation and world-class professional translators, ICoN selected me as the person most suited to write about the various aspects of technical translation into Italian.

For two years I have written (in Italian) a column on translation for the web site of SIS (Servizio d’italiano scritto), a nonprofit association for the advancement of business writing in Italian established by the University of Venice. I have also contributed a technical article to an Italian trade magazine.

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“Are you natively fluent?”

Yes. I was born and raised in Palermo, Italy, where I earned a Laurea (Master’s Degree) in Electronic Engineering.

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Do you have a technical background?

Yes. My technical background is solidly based in both English and Italian. In Italy, I earned a Laurea (Master’s Degree) in Electronic Engineering and certification as a Professional Engineer. In the US, I earned a Master of Engineering and a Degree of Electrical Engineer. I have worked as R&D Engineer both in Italy and US.

As you might easily guess, a technical background is essential for accurate technical translations. A translator must know not only what the target readers of a technical document infer, but also what they take for granted, that is, the common knowledge of the target technical culture. The translator needs this knowledge to avoid the “trans-cultural” embarrassments too often seen in translations.

Native fluency is not enough. There are no shortcuts to advanced technical education and experience. New, ambiguous or unexpected terminology (jargon) often trip translators who lack a technical background, even if they have translated for years. Technical bilingual dictionaries and glossaries can mislead translators who do not know the field well enough to recognize the correct context or the use of new jargon not covered in the dictionary. Often printed dictionaries and glossaries are simply wrong or hopelessly out of date, but it takes knowledge of the subject area to know that.

The terminological accuracy of my translations is grounded in years of engineering study and work in both Italy and the United States. If your project involves new, complex technologies, you will need an experienced engineer who not only understands technical fields in general, but knows how to research new fields quickly and apply the new technology to your translation. I can find and read related documents written in Italian by specialists. Possessing a sound understanding of the concepts, I can choose the correct technical terminology. Only a translator with an extensive technical background can apply this method effectively.

For more information you can read my two articles on this subject, Beyond the Dictionary – An Italian Perspective on Technical Translation and Avoiding False Friends in Technical Translations into Italian.

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You live in the USA, not in Italy. I heard that translations into Italian are best done by translators who live in Italy, because they do not lose touch with their native tongue. Is this a valid claim?

No. At the bottom end of the market, you can find poor translators on either side of the Atlantic. At the top end of the market, you can find excellent translators on either side of the Atlantic. The best translators know how to keep their language skills up to scratch regardless of their location, and they are alert for the problems that their location may cause.

That said, let me explain why an expert translator who lives in the US could provide you with better technical and technical marketing translations into Italian.

First of all there is the Internet, itself a technical tool that requires expertise. This immense multilingual library allows translators who know how to search effectively access to a host of materials-including scientific and technical journals and encyclopedias, newspapers, newsmagazines, specialized glossaries, and manufacturers documents-written in Italian and reflecting the language currently written and spoken in Italy. I browse Italian web sites daily. The basic techniques involved in research and the technical experience needed to know when I have found the information I need, remain the same regardless of my location.

The first step in translating your documents is to understand them fully. In the United States, I am in constant touch with American English and with changes in the technical subjects of your documents.
Without up-to-date linguistic fluency, it is easy to miss nuances of meaning or changes to the way English is used. Consider how quickly metaphors and references taken from current movies or television shows appear in technical and marketing documents. Without up-to-date technical fluency, it is difficult to catch new jargon, especially old technical terms used in new or different ways, or borrowed from other industries or subjects but with new connotations.

If you are located in the Western Hemisphere, you will enjoy faster communications using a professional translator in the US. If you need last-minute revisions to time-sensitive materials, or if your project is on a tight schedule and you need to get in touch with your translation provider in the evening or during the weekend, I will be just a phone call away, working when you are.

Then there is the issue of currency, that is, keeping up with the changing language. In addition to my daily Internet research and reading, I return to Italy on a regular basis. Deliberate, professional observation is a goal of these trips: I may be even more in touch with the subtle changes in my native language than if I lived there year-round.

Would my Italian be more up-to-date if I lived in Italy? Not necessarily. While my English is constantly updated and changed by living in the United States, I am not writing in English. I am translating into Italian, and Italian is a very absorptive language. Loan translations and borrowed phrases that may be literal renderings of English words are constantly seeping into the daily language. Very often their meanings change, and they are very often used outside the fields from which they were borrowed. This can lead to fatal flaws in technical translations.
Translators who live in Italy might let these loan words and creatively-applied translations of English words seep into their daily speech and writing and slowly begin to miss them when they appear used incorrectly in their translations. By returning to Italy regularly, I look for these changes to my native language. Then I can recognize them for what they are and catch them when I am editing Italian translations for myself and for others.

For more information you can read my article on this subject, Influences of English in Technical Translation into Italian.

The best way to assess the quality of your translated document is to get comments from representatives of your products or services in Italy. Your Italian reps will see at a glance if a translator has a good technical background and writes with the style needed for local clients. Take a look at my clients testimonials. Would you like your translated documents to have the same effect?

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You have an engineering background. Can you translate technical marketing documents with the correct style?

Yes. Your message needs to be expressed simply and directly, but at the same time, be powerful and effective. The writer must craft concise sentences that flow. Your prose in Italian should be cohesive, coherent, and informative, and when needed, be emphatic and persuasive.

For reasons of linguistic history, many Italians, even those with advanced degrees, write tangled prose using a turgid and awkward style called antilingua (“anti-language”). Italy’s most respected writers, linguists and communications consultants have criticized this style for its inability to communicate effectively. For more information you can read my article on this subject, Style in Italian Technical Translations.

No one can teach another to write – just ask any professional writer. There is more to writing than simply obeying rules. Typically, students in Italian universities write little or nothing at all. Also, business writing classes are still not being offered widely in Italian universities. Thus, a degree in Italian language or literature does not really guarantee that the graduate can write clearly and persuasively in Italian.

Through years of translations, I have honed my writing skills learning how to apply principles and techniques of good writing to produce clear and persuasive translations. My regular reading includes journals of linguistics, style and business writing books, and trade magazines. In the article A Matter of Style: Effective Writing in Italian Technical Translations, I have collected some guidelines for translating concisely and effectively into Italian.

Whether your technical marketing project is an advertisement, sales or marketing brochure, newsletter, press release, slide presentation or web site, I guarantee that my translation will meet these requirements:

– Respect the English text, but avoid reproducing English linguistic conventions or syntactic structures in Italian.
– Avoid false friends, redundancy, legalese, and bureaucratese.
– Avoid clichés.
– Use a clear and graceful style.

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Do you also provide editing services?

Yes. However, before accepting an editing project I need to review the translated document. If a translation is poor, editing could take so much time, that it would be more cost-effective to retranslate the original document from scratch.

It happens. I have seen it. A company goes to great length to partner with Italian firms and to sell its products there. The company needs to translate its manuals and other material either in advance or after the sale, for example to comply with the European Union requirements.

The company chooses a translator who doesn’t meet all the prerequisites: native-fluency, technical background in both English and Italian, attention to terminology accuracy and consistency, writing skills. Then the translation comes back with a comment from the Italian partners along these lines: “We can’t use this translation” or, if the Italian partners took the time to edit it, the translation is full of strikeouts and corrections still to be applied. The company needs to start over.

But if the company had selected the right translator the first time, it wouldn’t need to pay twice for the same service. Eliminate the guesswork from your next translation project. Ask me and tap the full range of capabilities that will assure you of the best results possible: native-fluency, solid technical background in both English and Italian, utmost attention to terminology accuracy and consistency, and solid writing skills.

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What are your rates?

Rates depend on file formats and your deadline. The simplest formats, and thus the ones which costs less, are Word and PowerPoint. For PDF, FrameMaker, InDesign, HTML and other more time-consuming and complex file formats, rates are usually higher. Rush projects carry a surcharge up to 50%.

For any potential assignment, call me at 801-278-7757 or e-mail me at mail@robertocrivello.com. Describe the project, and I will quote you a price range. For a firm price quote, I need to preview the documents to translate or edit. You may e-mail me the actual documents or a link, for example, if the project relates to a web site.

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How long will it take to get my project back?

I can meet any reasonable deadline. In the translation industry it is customary to base speed on the number of words in a documents. This is not an accurate metric, since words are not all the same. A marketing or sales brochure, a newsletter or a press release needs to be translated using a different register from the one needed for a catalog or a user or operator manual. Thus, different types of documents of equal length may require different times to translate. As a general indicator, I can translate at least 15,000 words per week.

To handle larger projects with tighter deadlines, I have a small team of translators whose reliability and expertise I have personally verified. You will still have a single point of contact: me. I take responsibility for each project I work on, either individually or with my team, signing each translation I deliver, and once we agree on the deadline I guarantee that you will have the translation on your desk by that deadline. In 20 years of translating, I have never missed a deadline.

Quality Assurance Process:
All translations are reviewed by another member of the team. I will translate the most terminology challenging parts of the project. I will coordinate the team’s work, developing glossaries as needed, and deliver the final version. The quality and consistency of all pieces of your project is thus assured.

Standard which can be referenced: ASTM F2575.

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Technical material can be repetitive. How do you account for repeated text when quoting your price?

Besides the usual word-processing or publishing programs, like Word or FrameMaker, I use different translation memory programs as needed. I can analyze your files and evaluate the amount of repeated text. Repetitions are not included in my quote. Identical words or phrases can change meanings in a different context, so some re-translation may be needed. For this reason, the price savings is not always clear cut. But I do not charge for text that repeats itself: guaranteed.

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What happens if we make revisions to the English text after you have translated it?

Minor revisions to the English text made within 30 days of your receipt of the translation are included in the agreed fee. Substantial revisions might amount to a new translation project. However, I will only bill you for the new work.

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What about revisions to your translation, for example, by one of our representatives in Italy?

There is no time limit for any revision to my translation by a representative of your company in Italy. Depending on your preferences, I can implement all the revisions or implement them as appropriate to make sure they do not degrade the consistency of the terminology or substantially change the original meaning.

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How do I order your services?

By phone or e-mail. First, describe the project, and I will quote you a price range. For a firm price quote, I need to preview the documents to translate or edit. You may e-mail me the actual documents or a link (for example, if the project relates to a web site). You should provide any reference materials you have, for example, previous translations or web sites of your Italian representatives. I will review them and match the terminology and register or adapt it as you desire.

Once we agree on the delivery date and the price, I will start as soon as I receive your purchase order. You will receive the translation by the deadline. I assure you that you will be very pleased with the results.

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Don’t take chances for your next translation project. Tap the full range of capabilities that will assure you of the best results possible: native-fluency, solid technical background in both English and Italian, utmost attention to terminology accuracy and consistency, and solid writing skills.

For a free, no-obligation cost estimate, contact:

Roberto Crivello, E.E., M.E., Freelancer
dba Italian Technical Translations
High-tech, Industrial, and Technical Marketing Translations into Italian
Certified Member of ATA, E -> I
IEEE Member, STC Senior Member
Phone: 801-278-7757
skype: robertocrivello
mail at robertocrivello.com (please replace ‘at’ with the ‘at’ sign and close the spaces to get my e-mail address)

Copyright © 1998 – 2012, Roberto Crivello. All rights reserved.