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 Frequently Asked Questions


I’ve never worked with a translator before. What’s translation all about?

Forget the instruction manual that came with your toaster that makes absolutely no sense. Forget the product description that has more holes in it than the Swiss cheese it’s attempting to sell. Forget the odd-sounding subtitles that sort of make sense if you think hard enough.

Forget Google Translate and forget taking equivalent words from a bilingual dictionary and constructing a sentence the way you would in your native language.

What translation is about, at least in the fields I work in, is communication. It’s about moving beyond a word-for-word representation and focusing rather on the meaning, the intent and the message of a text. It’s about communicating all that to a target audience in another language, with a different culture, a different mindset and different expectations.

You want your clients to see the quality of your products and services. You want them focused on why they should choose you or your business. You want them to feel at home, and you want them to associate everything you show them with quality. So make it easy for them! With a properly translated text, make sure your clients are hearing what you’re saying, in a way that sounds natural to them.

You will have spent time, effort and money on producing excellent marketing and advertising content for your domestic market. My job as a translator is to help you adapt that content to reach an international audience without losing sight of the target.

Why don’t your translation prices include VAT?

The kind of translation work I do is aimed more at businesses and legal entities rather than private individuals or retail customers. It is therefore often more helpful to know the cost before VAT.

What’s more, the majority of my translation clients are international. Within the EU, cross-border VAT rules apply, so I always invoice exclusive of VAT. It is then up to the client to handle their own VAT accounting according to the rules in their country.

You mention translation from French and Portuguese into English. Do you also translate from English into French and Portuguese?

Generally, no. My focus is on translation into my mother tongue. However...

There are many approaches and paths into translation. My motto is, if it works, it’s right. What I mean is, if you are able to provide the same quality as a talented native speaker and guarantee nobody would ever know the text was written by anyone other than a talented native writer, it’s fine by me.

However, personally I would not make that guarantee, and I feel it would be arrogant and irresponsible to do so. Perfectly understanding a language and perfectly producing it are two very different things. When I lived in France, I could quite happily convince people I was French. But it doesn’t matter how proficient my French is, there could always be some small thing that isn’t *wrong* but that also doesn’t sound like a perfect fit to a native speaker. And you never want your clients to focus on that. You want them focused on the quality of your products and services.

Now, obviously, there are different levels to this, and a little common sense needs to be applied.

If you ask me for a translation of something intended only for your own understanding, or if it is something like a menu or a poster for a local business looking to make their French or Portuguese customers feel welcome, yes, of course I can help you out with an accurate, idiomatic translation.

But the majority of my translation work over the past decade has been for large corporations and major brands. And when you’re working on an international advertising campaign or anything else that will officially represent an entire company on a global scale, you need to be writing in a language that you know inside out, from birth.