Translation and Interpreting in 150+ Languages

Foreign Language Interpreting and Translation Tips

Every interpreter we assign is a professional and has extensive experience working under difficult conditions. But a little TLC can provide big dividends. Here are some of our best practices for translation and interpreting:

After hiring the best interpreter, the second most important thing is to brief him. Lawyers preparing for a big case will hire interpreters days in advance to master the subject matter and to practice their presentation. A draft of your speech, a copy of the PowerPoint presentation or even a company brochure delivered an hour before the event can make a big difference in the quality of the interpretation.

When using a consecutive interpreter, you can improve communication by pausing often enough to allow your interpreter and your listener to follow the flow of your ideas. Look at your listener as you speak and listen, but watch your interpreter out of the corner of your eye so you can pick up her signals. If you have a few minutes, compare notes and warm up with the interpreter, before you are on the spot.

It always takes the simultaneous interpreter a bit longer to translate into another language, especially when working from English. English meaning is usually loaded in the middle of a sentence, while other languages, such as German and Japanese, carry most of their meaning at the end of the sentence. That makes it harder for interpreters to get all your points across if you are talking fast.

Jokes usually don’t translate well. (Try to vet them with the interpreter beforehand.) Baseball or football cultural references may be lost on a foreign audience. While professional interpreters should be studiously neutral, they can be a useful source of information in a debriefing.

Sometimes bad things happen. If you are unsatisfied with an interpreter for any reason, call us so we can replace the interpreter as soon as possible.

What Makes A Good Interpreter

Just because someone can speak two languages does not mean that person can interpret. It takes plenty of training and constant practice. Even many highly skilled translators are hopeless as interpreters. Bilingual employees function better as facilitators than as interpreters in important bilingual meetings. Interpreting can distract from their regular tasks and put their status in question in certain cultures.

Checking Interpreters

Take the time to check the qualifications of professional interpreters. If no one in your organization speaks both languages, an interview may not give you both sides of the story. You must rely on credentials and an assessment of the person’s knowledge of your field and the advice of those in the know. Get references and test if you can. Personality is also very important. A hard-nosed deposition interpreter, trained to be exacting and contentious, may not be the best fit when you want to show clients around town. Sometimes even a short phone chat is enough to save you from disaster.


There is no single certification process for interpreters in the United States. The federal government certifies interpreters in Spanish, Chinese and Navajo. Some hospitals, and state and local courts have similar certification programs for a range of common immigrant languages. Unfortunately, the quality of these certified interpreters varies widely. The American Translators Association certifies only for written language skills, not for spoken. A few simultaneous interpreters are members of TAALS (The American Association of Language Specialists) and other organizations. Nomination is by existing members, which ensures that new members are equally skilled. Regardless of affiliation, experience is key.

Multilingual Publishing

Translation services for cross-media publishing systems give organizations a powerful way to manage and re-purpose multilingual content for delivery across numerous channels, including print, CD-ROM, web and mobile. Our cross-media experts know the editorial process and workarounds in the complexities of a multi-lingual XML-based publishing environment.

Content tagging using SGML or XML markup languages permits content in any language to be identified, stored, retrieved and reused with greater ease. SGML- or XML-tagged data can be used for the creation, management and maintenance of large collections of complex information, which is particularly useful for multilingual publishing projects.

SGML is platform- and software-independent, so the same source files may be used with a wide variety of operating systems and authoring and publishing environments over and over again.

Cross-publishing content has to be carefully planned for multilingual publishing success. We offer extensive experience in document analysis, data tagging, templating and java-scripted PDF files for multilingual interactivity.

Your legacy data can be converted from typesetting or word processing files to SGML/XML for database or file-based document management. Our translation teams can validate legacy data to ensure that the content meets the rules established by your DTD. We’ll also review the data before delivery and collaborate with authors and editors to clean up data in intermediate steps. Converting existing assets to SGML/XML prepares your information for cost-effective reuse, thus taking advantage of all current and future delivery channels.

What Is an Onsite Interpreter For?

  • Conferences and seminars
  • Law courts, depositions and EBT
  • Focus groups, special events, and VIP escort
  • Negotiations and business meetings
  • Training and HR
  • Media, on-camera or off, live or feed
  • Press conferences and public affairs

Terms for Multilingual CMS: Multilingual Content Management

Multilingual content management is the best way to keep translation and localization costs to a minimum. The ability to use database software to store, edit and organize multilingual content is the key to efficiency and accuracy for your publishing future. Multilingual content management software is ideally suited for content that is updated and republished frequently in a variety of formats.

Content Tagging

Content tagging using SGML or XML markup languages permits content in any language to be identified, stored, retrieved, and reused with greater ease. SGML- or XML-tagged data can be used for the creation, management, and maintenance of large collections of complex information. SGML is platform- and software-independent so the same source files may be used with a wide variety of operating systems and authoring and publishing environments.

Data Conversion

Data conversion is the process of changing an electronic file of content from one format to another (i.e., changing a word processing document to an XML-tagged document). Responsive Translation will help you to design templates that flow with a minimum of manual fixes in even the toughest languages.

Database Publishing

Database publishing means taking data that resides in a database and publishing it in the form of a catalogue, directory, price list, membership list, etc. If this is what you need to do with your data, regardless of whether you want to publish it in print or on the Internet, database translation through the use of translation memory tools like Responsive Translation’s Translation Bank is superior to other systems because we use multilingual databases to maintain consistency throughout a publishing program.

Document Type Definition

A DTD (Document Type Definition) defines the rules of behavior for your content. DTD documentation, or a tag library, explains each tag, its attributes and its relationships in detail for future users of the DTD. We can also modify standard DTDs or use existing ones.


SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) is an international standard for describing the structure and content of machine-readable information. SGML “documents” usually consist of text, graphics, and hypertext links. SGML identifies and names the parts of the information so that these parts can be managed and manipulated to create a variety of products as diverse as typesetting, indexing, CD-ROM distribution and translation.

For seamless multilingual publishing on demand, efficient data prep and analysis are the critical starting point. Our SGML/XML experts will study your content and work with your key people and users throughout the developmental process to establish meaningful components and define their attributes and relationships. We’ll help you to design a data structure that will work in your target languages. As a user of SGML, our experience in implementation is your asset for setting up the structure of multilingual content database and definitions


XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a simple dialect of SGML designed for use on the World Wide Web and in intranets. XML is a leaner, meaner, stripped-down version of SGML; every valid XML document is also a valid SGML document, but XML is an SGML subset, using only the most commonly used SGML features.

AV Best Practices

Responsive Translation has recorded voice talents in over 115 languages in the last two decades, for documentaries, music videos and commercial broadcasts as well as for corporate identity, training, instructions, and industrial video. We deliver masters in most tape formats and computer files for all major video and DVD authoring systems, including Scenarist, Sonic Solutions, Spruce, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, and the Mixed Signals DV-2000 subtitle generator. Thanks to our commitment to quality practices, we’ve earned the confidence of such clients as A&E, ABC News, CBS, Fox, Fuji Sankei, HBO, Miramax, MSNBC, NBC and New Line Cinema. Here’s how we do it:

Best Practice Before Recording Begins

  • We maintain version control.
  • Production is designed with localization in mind.
  • We use native speakers to select voice talent.
  • We only use professional scriptwriters for writing and editing.
  • We provide glossary or reference material to ensure the consistency and accuracy of terminology.
  • We prepare a pronunciation guide with a designated target-language liaison.
  • Client approves timed script before recording.
  • Talent rehearsed before session begins.

Best Practice in Session

Only professional, trained talent is used. What is more, only native speakers are used and they speak only in their own native dialect. A bilingual director is present to coach talent and check script against delivery. The client is on site, or listens in. For post production, play-back and check is done by native speakers.

Choosing Talent

Talent makes or breaks a translated script. A real artist can get to the heart of the script and bring it to life for his or her audience. They can create a natural and appropriate vocal accompaniment to the production which gives you the interpersonal connection that you need.

Our studios offer one of the largest selections of professional multi-lingual talent in North America. Please call us at 1-800-872-6752 to discuss your requirements. We can prepare a CD or send .wav files for a demo so you can select the talent that will give you exactly the delivery you want, by sex, age, presence, and delivery style. Union and non-union artists available, just let us know.

Recording to Match Your Requirement

Responsive Translation offers a complete range of multilingual recording services for most media and formats. Check out the information below to find the technique that is best suited to your requirements.


If you have editorial latitude, a straight read is the most effective way to tell a story in another language. The talent can record first and then the film/animation is cut to this dialogue track. Alternatively, the voice talent can record to a production video track. Without the rush of English-language timing, natural pace can be maintained for maximum impact. This is often an option for digital media producers. Savings in recording costs are usually outweighed by additional editing expenses.

Read to Fit Narration

Reading in the “UN Style” is the most commonly used method for localizing English-language productions. Source language audio volume is lowered so that lip movements make sense and don’t look like a bad dub. The target language is overlaid at a higher volume to ensure comprehension.

On-screen voices should be provided by talent of the same sex. The narrator can generally provide the voice of individual speakers on screen, if of the same sex, without confusing the audience. Two or more persons speaking on camera in the same scene generally require more than one talent to avoid listener confusion.

Lip Sync

Dub or lip sync is when the script is written to match lip movement. These techniques are vulnerable to the “Hercules effect,” are very expensive to produce well, and are usually done only for entertainment programming.

Live Interpretation

Live interpretation is far less accurate and cannot be cued, but it is the ideal solution for live feeds from conferences and news.

Voice Prompts

Responsive Translation is one of the world’s leaders in the provision of international voices and translations for telephony applications and machines.

Why a Multilingual Website?

If your site is available only in English, you are reaching less than half of your potential web audience. Research shows that non-English speakers are likely to spend only a fraction of the money (25% IDC) on an English site as they would on a site in their own language.

Translation, and the localization needed to make it work on the web, is the only way to realize your global business potential.

A localized website allows you to enter new markets more easily, expand current markets, position your organization on the global map, reach new audiences, and inspire investors.

Internet Language Facts

Localization of your website comes at a fraction of the cost required to prepare your site in its original language. Based on our customers’ experiences, costs range from about 25% to 40% of original production costs.

Fifty-seven percent of all Fortune 500 companies have globalized their websites. By using our complete solution, many small and mid-sized companies no longer need expensive in-country solutions to provide in-country service.

Complete Multilingual Web Services

Because of our back-end service package, we have a vested interest in making sure your site is great in whatever languages you choose. The more international customers you have, the more likely our relationship with you will expand as you support a burgeoning international business.

The best multilingual sites start with great planning. Even if you’re new to the business, our webmasters are old hands. We are very interested in sharing our expertise with you to ensure the success of your efforts.

How to Improve the Quality of Your Non-English Telephone Conversations

You can improve the quality of your non-English telephone conversations by keeping these easy tips in mind:

Let the Responsive Translation know the language and subject of the call. We have interpreters trained in medical, insurance, financial and legal terminology, among other fields.

Brief the interpreter on the subject of the call. After introducing yourself, summarize what you wish to accomplish and give any special instructions or information. This will help the translator to help you expedite the call.

Keep time constraints in mind. Because telephone interpretation requires communication not only from one language to another, but also across cultures, a bilingual conversation can take up to two and a half times longer than it does in English. It is often helpful to prepare a list of questions or talking points in advance to keep the conversation focused.

Speak in the first person. Speak directly to the person you are calling, not to the interpreter. Do not have a private conversation with the interpreter when the other party is on the line.

Keep it simple. For increased interpreter accuracy, keep your statements short and simple. Pause frequently to allow the interpreter time to make your point to the other party. Avoid using slang, jargon, acronyms or technical terms that may not interpret well into other languages.

Clarify points right away. As you would in any conversation, you may have to clarify the points that a limited English speaker does not understand. If you need to clarify a point, ask the interpreter right away. It is difficult for the interpreter to both interpret and recall the conversation.

Keep lines clear. Clear lines make it easy for interpreters to hear and be heard, and are key for understanding and accuracy. For best results, use a regular hand-held receiver on a land line, or a good headset or speaker phone in a quiet location and avoid cell phones, VOIP and extended call loops.

Good Recording for Good Transcription

  • Do a sound check before beginning recording.
  • Transcription machines put a lot of wear and tear on tape. Use fresh tape.
  • Record on the “slow” setting for best audio tape quality.
  • Background noise can make dialogue inaudible, or require expensive digital augmentation.
  • Keep microphones close to speakers.
  • No audio-vox. Keep microphones on all the time, so not a single word is lost to transcribers.
  • Identify speakers and confirm the spelling of names, if possible at time of recording.
  • Multiple tracks for multiple speakers are usually used only in courtrooms, but help to reduce inaudibles caused by cross-talk (more than one person speaking at a time) no matter what the setting.
  • T-60 is best for standard tapes, since longer tapes are more likely to tear when being transcribed. Longer tapes are fine for executive and micro formats.
  • VHS is good for visual cues so transcribers can fully understand the context of speech. Audio cassette tapes are used with dictation machines, so that transcribers can more easily maintain focus and concentrate on accuracy.

Getting Good Transcription

Use native-speakers who understand the matter at hand. No guessing. Inaudible comments are indicated with an [inaudible].

Spoken grammar is often incorrect when written. Let your project manager know if you want a verbatim script with every “um” and “ah” or a version edited for grammar and clarity. In any language, spoken communication can sometimes be hard to follow when put into print. Listeners are highly tolerant of spoken error, since utterance is only one part of the communication package. A tortured phrase on the page may go unnoticed by the listener, who understands from social cues what the speaker really means.

Word-for-word transcription is less easily understood than the light edit often applied by transcribers. Repetition, restarted sentences and “ums” and “ahs” are sometimes left out of a transcript or translation. Sometimes these redundancies and hesitations are crucial to meaning and a diligent transcriber/translator will include them, or modify meaningless conversational place markers to make the intended meaning clear.

Catching the unspoken in another language can be more difficult. Since most transcripts are prepared for legal or broadcast use, they frequently represent conversations that are emotionally charged or sometimes are heavily ironic. This kind of emotional content can be included in brackets. In past projects we have used the draft version of Human Markup Initiative (HMI) for defining gestural, emotional and intentional aspects of spoken communication.

Transcribing Video Scripts

Translations to be used as scripts for voice-over or subtitles are time-coded when transcribed. Version control is maintained through the use of file names and date/time stamps on each page. We can translate directly from audio to control costs, but a transcript in the source language before translation allows for a more accurate check of the final product. Going straight to translation tends to increase the chance of error but is faster and less expensive.

Transcription in Formats of Your Choice

We work in all tape formats: micro, standard and executive, tapes. We work in most video tape formats, too: VHS, SVHS (Super VHS), Digital Video Cassette, 8mm (standardl), Hi8 (8mm), Digital 8, Beta, Beta SP, 1/4-inch, Digital Video, QuickTime, AVI, DVD and RealVideo. We support audio files in most digital formats including Windows PCM (WAV), 8-bit signed raw format (SAM), ACM waveform (WAV), Apple AIFF (PCM encoded data only) (AIF), CCITT mu-Law and A-Law (WAV), Dialogic ADPCM (VOX), DiamondWare Digitized (DWD), IMA/DVI ADPCM (WAV), MPEG3 FhG (MP3), MPEG audio (layers I and II), Microsoft ADPCM (WAV), Next/Sun CCITT mu-Law, A-Law and PCM (AU), Apple Quicktime, Raw PCM Data, Real Audio (RA, RAM, RMM, RM, etc.), SampleVision format (SMP), Sound Blaster voice file (VOC) and TrueSpeech (WAV).

How Do You Know If Your Translation Is Working?

Sometimes even accuracy is not enough. Marketing materials, press releases and ad copy fail if they do not persuade.

Our own translation quality assurance relies on in-country native speakers who are qualified to write for the audiences and markets they know and are supervised by a project management team that embraces customer requirements. Workflow supports the give and take required to make good translation great.

As an international business, we have years of expertise and insight to help our clients vet concepts and cultural context and to provide information so they can make the right choices in new markets.

Translation Check

We check, certify and back-translate multilingual materials whatever the source, so long as you have the files in both source and target languages. We can correct and certify translated content from any source by applying our quality assurance methods to the work of translators who are outside our quality control circle.

When we receive your translation, we check and mark it using the tracking feature for 10 different categories in MS Word. With each error, the correction and correction status is also included. Your document will be ready to go once you accept changes in the Word edit function, and you’ll have a detailed change file for your own follow up.

If your translation is less than 97% accurate—which is the point where it is less expensive to retranslate than it is to edit—we will suspend the project and recommend re-translation.

If you are able to provide a creative summary and information on your communication goals and audience characteristics, we can also provide a summary evaluation too.

Back Translation

A translation translated back into the original translation is called a back translation. This is commonly used by advertising directors who want to give their clients and creative team an idea of how their materials are working in the target language. It is also a useful method for checking errors and can be used to supplement or substitute a translation check. Call 1-800-872-6752 to discuss your project.

Best Practices for Translation

We hope you found our best practices about translation useful. If you need any more tips or best practices for translation, please contact us today.

Custom Projects

We have years of experience designing custom solutions for even the most uncommon linguistic requests. Contact us to discuss your next project. Chances are that we’ve already worked on something similar. Please consider our expertise as your planning resource. Contact us today.

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