Creative translation solutions: Making the most of your translation budget


December 20, 2015 by atacompass

A US-based precious metals investment company was considering investing in a mine in West Africa. However, they were concerned that the mine’s environmental standards might not be acceptable to their largely American investors. The mine’s environmental documentation was easy enough to obtain, but filled hundreds of pages of text—in French. The investment company did not have any French-speaking staff, and were dismayed to learn that fully translating the documentation using a standard work flow would have exceeded not only their budget, but the time they had allotted for their due diligence.

After consulting with a local translation company, the investment company hired a translator to come to their offices for two days and review the environmental documentation with their Environmental Specialist. This allowed the translator to focus only on the topics of interest to the investment company and summarize the content of the documents. The Environmental Specialist was also able to help decode the complicated technical language in certain sections of the document, which would have required a highly specialized translator if it were for publication. In less than 15 hours of work, the investment company had all the information it needed to make its decision.

A US-based documentary film company wanted to make a short film about a breaking news event in France and its relationship to current events in the US. The cost of sending a film crew and interpreters overseas was prohibitive, but the company was determined to find a way to obtain some live interviews with Paris residents. After doing some online research, the company contacted a small documentary film studio in France, which had recently filmed just the type of interviews the American company was looking for. The American studio was able to purchase videotapes of these interviews at a fraction of the cost of sending a film crew to France.

However, the film company still had the language barrier to overcome, since the people in the videotapes spoke French, unlike the American producers. Usually, audio or video media is first transcribed into its original language, then translated into the target language. However the film company had no use for a French transcription, as the interview clips would be dubbed into English for a US audience. Through a cultural consulting company in their area, the filmmakers found two translators who were able to listen to the French interviews and translate them “on the fly” into English, eliminating the French transcription step. The film company then had an English script that could be immediately used to dub the French interviews for its film.

The traditional translation work flow—sending original documents to a translator or a translation company and having them translated, edited and proofread, then sometimes laid out for publication and proofread again—is still the best fit for many projects, especially those that are for publication or distribution. But when deadlines are tight, or when the project doesn’t require a publication-ready translation, you’ll find that your local translation provider may be able to provide you with creative translation solutions that save you both time and money.

Written by Corinne McKay, CT; an ATA-certified French to English translator. McKay was elected to a three-year term on the ATA Board of Directors in 2012.

One thought on “Creative translation solutions: Making the most of your translation budget

  1. Another poignant piece from The ATA Compass that spotlights the ways translators and LSPs have helped clients break down the language barrier without breaking the bank. Thanks, Corinne!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 183 other followers

© American Translators Association and The ATA Compass, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the American Translators Association and The ATA Compass with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Reprints may be used with permission from The ATA Compass, published by the American Translators Association ( Requests for permission to reprint articles should be sent to
%d bloggers like this: