Translation

What are your translation rates per page?

Translation rates are not generally set on a per page basis.  A "page" can contain anywhere between 200 and 900 English words depending on fonts and layouts, so pricing by page is really not practical.  Pricing in the translation business is usually done on a per word basis in the original language (or, in the case of Japanese, on a per character basis).  Pricing in this fashion means that you are paying for the translator's actual work.  This per word charge will be higher for documents of significant technical or legal complexity, and less for simpler content, which is why we ask to see the document to be translated, or a representative sample, before we give you our price estimate.  If we don't know what the document looks like we can only quote you a general range, say, 10-50 cents a word, which is probably not very useful information for you.

In some cases (for example: translating a box full of documents of varying density, type, and content for litigation purposes), it may make more sense to set an hourly rate.  Flexibility is the hallmark of JCC's management philosophy.  Tell us what you need, and we'll come up with the solution that makes sense.

Don't worry if you don't know how many words are in your document, just attach the file to an e-mail, or even fax it to us, and we'll do the word count for you and give you our estimate. For more information on our translation services and rates please see the translation page.

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How soon will my project be finished?

The simple answer is: as soon as we can.  At the time of our cost estimate, we will tell you how much time we would like to have, then we can talk and set the actual deadline depending on your requirements.  At JCC, we only promise what we can deliver -- as a result we regularly beat deadlines, and have never missed one.

The major considerations in setting deadlines are lead time, quality, and cost, and there are tradeoffs involved in the combination of those factors.  Simply put, the longer you give us to get your project done, the happier you, and we, will be with the results, and the less expensive it is likely to be for you.  The less time you give us, the more pressured the translators will be just to get it done, the more compromised the quality of their work may be, the less time we will have to proofread their work, and the more expensive it can be for you as there may be rush premium charges.

At JCC we pride ourselves in turning out some of the very best translations in this business quickly, and at an extremely reasonable price for the amount of labor involved. We pull off miracles here on a regular basis in terms of getting sizable projects out on tight schedules.  But still, some people call us with an impossibly short lead-time for their project.  Almost as if they think we can push some sort of magic "translation button" and get it all done almost instantly.  However, even we can't translate an 18 page contract in 2 hours, or a large technical manual in a day and a half.  Remember, there is a physical limit to what is humanly possible for a translator to do.  We can, however, form teams of 2 or more translators to work together to shorten the time-line, if appropriate -- just be aware that using more translators over a shorter period can mean compromises in the consistency of the final product.

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Do you do computer or machine translation?

No.  None of the translation software we've seen does even a passable job of translating between Japanese and English.  I understand Spanish-English machine translation is getting better, but even that is quite inferior to what humans can do.  People, with all of their flaws, do this job far better than any machine can because, after all, language with all of its nuances and shades of meaning is a very human thing.  There is, in the end, no instant magic in translation -- it is intellectual labor.  We may use translation memory software for our translators when working on a large number of documents involving a lot of repetitive material, both to speed up the translating process and to help maintain consistency across documents and translators, but that is just about the only mechanical translation aid we use.

On the whole machine translation just does not work well in any situation where accuracy is at a premium, and we refuse to give our clients the shoddy, and often comical, translation work that it produces.  The manager of a global translation company once confided in me that he had to start offering machine translation services because his clients demanded it in the misguided belief that anything a computer does is more accurate than human output.  He said that for computer/machine translation his company runs the document through the translation software (the best one on the market), and then has human translators and editors go over each and every word to make corrections.  This almost always ends up taking just as much time and money as it would have without the 'automation', if not more.  To quote the same guy, "it's the stupidest thing in the world."

Let me quote someone else in our industry who put it very succinctly:  "At its very best, machine translation is good enough if all you want is to get the gist of someone else's message -- say, to basically decipher a foreign website.  But if it's your message you are having translated to communicate what you have to say to people in another language and culture, keep the translation software as far away from it as you can."

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Do you do editing or proofreading work?

Every translation that comes through this company is proofread and edited here in our office before being sent out to the client.  The extent of this editing depends, of course, on the time constraints of the project itself, but we are usually able to do a pretty thorough job.  We have also edited books, guides, manuals, manuscripts, and other materials that are already in one language or another, and done proofreading on them.  This type of work is usually charged on a per hour basis.  For more information on this, and our other editorial services, please see our consulting services page or the consulting FAQs.

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Why does translation cost so much? All you do is rewrite what's already there...

First of all, translation is much more than just transcribing what's already on the page, or simply replacing all the words there into words of another language.  That's pretty much what mechanical translation does, and why it produces work of such comically poor quality.  There are matters of precise meaning, tone, style, syntax, idiomatic phrases and expressions, culture, and technical language and jargon that must be taken into account.  It takes someone with experience in close reading and writing in both languages to deal with these things properly.  This is especially true when one is working with languages as different from one another as Japanese and English.

The Japanese language has no articles, no plurals, the subjects are often left out of sentences, and the syntax is entirely opposite to English, with the verbs and their modifiers coming at the end of the sentence; amongst many other differences.  Then there is the matter of Japanese writing, which uses three "alphabets" simultaneously, including literally thousands of pictographic characters.  Words or concepts in one language may not have an equivalent in the other language, which often makes it necessary to restructure or rewrite whole sentences to fully describe all of their connotations. A translator has to deal with all of these issues while still trying to preserve the meaning, tone, style, and content of the original.

It's a tricky and labor-intensive business, which is why it really takes a professional to do it well, and why it costs money to have it done right.  At JCC we keep our prices down by specializing solely in the Japanese and English languages.  In fact, we do better work than the large multi-language houses at a lower price.

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Do you have translation specialists in my field?

Yes and no -- no matter what your field is.  For example, if we are talking about derivative financial products, yes, we have people who have a strong finance background and an MBA, or, if the subject is metallurgy, we have people with degrees in science or engineering, all of whom have the resources and research capabilities to augment their knowledge and handle projects in those areas.  But no, people who have written doctoral dissertations on creative financial products or aluminum alloys generally do not choose translation as their profession.

There aren't very many translators who work exclusively in one narrowly specialized field.  Most of our translators, however, have several fields in which they are experienced and fully capable, and in which they have a good grasp of the content and terminology involved.  All of our translators have been previously employed in a different field of some sort, and some even hold advanced professional degrees.  This is why coming to a professional specialized agency like ours really makes sense -- we know our translators and have a very good idea of their capabilities because we literally speak the same languages they do.

So, JCC won't have a history student who doesn't even own a car translating your automotive service manual, simply because he's fluent in another language -- as happened with a friend of ours at a major language service firm.  We will choose the best person available for your project, and then proofread and check his/her work before we send it out to you.

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What is the best format in which to submit our documents for translation?

The very best way to send your translation material to us is in the form of an electronic file (MS Word preferred) attached to an e-mail message, to jcc@japancc.com.  A clear, clean copy of the documents may also be faxed to us at: (212) 759-2149 ('fine' mode preferred, especially for documents in Japanese), or can be mailed, overnighted, or otherwise delivered to us at the address on our contact page.

Remember that we cannot give you an estimate of the final cost of your project until we have the documents (or a representative sample) in our hands, and we will not proceed with the translation until we have your signed acceptance of our estimate.  For further information on the translation procedure see our translation page.

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What else do I need to do to get the most out of my translation?

Be organized and talk to us.  Tell us what kind of document you need translated, for what purpose, how much of it there is, and how soon you need it.  In short, help us to help you.  Give us your cooperation, the proper well-organized material, and enough time to get the job done right, and JCC will do so.


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