Tips for Getting a Quote for Your English to Spanish Translation

The first step in forming a relationship with a potential translation agency is getting a quote for your project or document.  Translation agencies are experienced with asking the right questions so they can provide you with an accurate cost estimate.  Many agencies’ websites allow you to submit your document and query via an online application.   Some preparation on your end will make the process much more streamlined. Below are some questions you should be ready to answer when requesting a quote: 

  • What is the source language and into what language will the document be translated?
  • How complex is the document to be translated?
  • What file format do you require for the final translated document?
  • What turn around time will you require?
  • What is the word count of the document?
  • Do you require a certified translation, such as those for immigration purposes?
  • Will you require any value-added services such as Desktop Publishing or complex formatting of graphs and tables?

 In turn, the translation agency will give you a cost estimate based on the above factors.  Don’t be seduced by bargain basement quotes, as the adage “you get what you pay for” applies to translations.  A reputable translation agency or freelancer will charge more for highly technical or complex document translation because of the level of expertise required.  And agencies may apply a surcharge for formatting the document so that it mirrors your source language document.  In this case, be prepared to send the agency all images and tables so that the agency can return a print-ready file. Depending on the file format of the original, you may not be able to tell the translation agency the word count.  If you only have a hard copy or scanned copy of the document, agencies will price the project based on either the final word count of the translation or the number of pages.  In this case, the final cost may differ from the initial estimate offered.   Your chosen translation agency should be able to work in various file formats and many are able to provide value-added services such as those mentioned above.  Being clear about what you require in the end product and being open to dialogue with the agency will facilitate not only pricing but also the entire translation process.

Clear Communication with Your Freelance Translator

A qualified English to Spanish translator can save your business time as well as bring in new clients with their document translations. But keeping your communication streamlined and clear will expedite any translation job you contract them to work on.

Below are some tips on getting the most out of your working relationship with a freelancer English to Spanish translator:

  1. Remember, you are the expert on the material to be translated and they are the experts in giving you the end product. You have to put your trust in your translator because you can’t check the accuracy of the final document.  Therefore, hiring a freelancer knowledgeable in the subject matter should be your first priority.
  2. Provide your translator with the final document to be translated, not a draft. If you alter the document midstream, then you may be opening yourself to extra charges depending on what is in your contract with the freelancer.  Not to mention, the translator may have already rendered most of the English document into Spanish, which wastes time.
  3. Keep the lines of communication open! Just as you appreciate a freelancer who checks in about her progress, make sure that communication goes both ways.  Ensuring a timely response to any emails or calls with questions will allow the translator to continuing working.  What may seem an unimportant question to you could hold up a translator as she waits for an answer.
  4. Explain your needs and expectations at the beginning. The nature of freelance translation requires that translators be flexible, but there’s a point where unclear communication can cause a project to crash.  This could ultimately wreck a relationship with a trusted English to Spanish translator.  Head off a communication breakdown by explaining what you expect before starting a project, and make sure that your translator has all her questions answered so that she can start work.

Of course, even translation projects that seem simple at the outset can turn complicated.  But by keeping courtesy, clarity, and communication a focus of your partnership with a freelancer, you will reap the rewards of powerful, accurate Spanish translations.

Translations for Nonprofits in a Bad Economy

If you work for a nonprofit, you’ve seen the funding from both private and public sources diminish as the demand for the services you provide increased in recent years.  Your constituents may be mostly Spanish speakers or you could serve people with a wide range of linguistic backgrounds.  Any good nonprofit will have bilingual or multilingual people on staff to serve their non-English speaking clients.  But when your development staff or grant writer solicits new funding, do they build in a line item for translation costs?

If this doesn’t happen, your organization should evaluate why not.  Do either of the following reasons for not having translation as a built-in cost sound familiar?

We have bilingual people on staff who can also translate documents.

In many cases, your bilingual employees may be able to produce a fairly good translation from English into Spanish.  But as funding dollars decrease, your already committed employees may be stretched too thin taking on other tasks to keep the agency running.  Asking them to translate something because they speak two languages may be pushing their skill set and stressing an already busy employee.  And while they may be fluent in Spanish, if they don’t have a background in translation, they will not give you the high quality documents that the people you serve deserve.

We’re trimming the fat from our budget to deal with the bad economy.

Of course keeping the lights on and programs running is a priority to any nonprofit.  But if those you serve speak any language other than English, outreach and education in the language they understand best should be critical to your agency’s vision.  If you need documents in Spanish to be able to reach out to clients, then providing the highest quality translations should be central to your approach.  If Spanish speakers can’t understand the services you provide or information you share, then you are ultimately undermining your agency’s mission.  By keeping translation services as a line item, you will ensure that you are connecting with your target population.

Many translation agencies want to assist nonprofits in continuing the important work they do and support agencies with discounts.  While outsourcing English to Spanish translations may seem like an avoidable cost, your agency will see the fruits of this investment in your improved ability to connect with those you are charged with serving.

Transpanish offers discounts for Nonprofit Organizations.

Providing Financial Services to the “Unbanked”

An article from the website Hispanic Bank Marketing cites that roughly 56 percent of Latinos are currently “unbanked,” meaning that they do not use financial institutions to keep their money safe and grow their savings.  Why such a high percentage?  The usual suspects of distrust, lack of accessibility, language barriers, and lack of understanding about how financial institutions can help come into play.

So what can banks and credit card companies do to reach out to this growing demographic in such a way that builds trust and shows Latinos how using financial institutions can be beneficial?

1. Having Spanish translations of flyers, publicity, forms, and contracts is always an excellent start.

2. Since online banking is becoming easier every day, a bank should have an easily navigable website available in Spanish.

3. At least one fully bilingual staff person should be available to answer questions, process transactions, and open accounts.

  • 4. Banks and lenders may want to consider providing financial literacy training in community settings (such as at churches or community centers) with the aim of educating potential customers rather than selling products.
  • 5. Once a bank representative finds a group to provide onsite financial literacy training to, she can offer add-on services such as one free credit counseling session at the bank.

Many Latino immigrants arrive in the U.S. with alternate ways of saving money.  An example of this is the Mexican tanda which allows a group of people to pool their savings over time so that each receives a large lump sum, then used to make a larger purchase or down payment.  And though remissions to family in one’s home country are decreasing in this economy, many Latinos continue sending potential savings back home. 

Most likely the latter situation will not change, and is indeed an important part of the Latino immigrant experience.  But by working with Latinos who are uneasy about putting their savings in the bank or nervous about cutting into their remissions, financial institutions can educate Latinos about alternate ways of savings and creating a long term safety net for their families both here and abroad.

Cutting Translation Budget: Good Business Move or Not?

In these tough economic times, many business owners are shaving their budget of unnecessary expenses.  This week, Transpanish’s blog post will talk about the effects of cutting your translation budget.

If your business provides a product or service, cutting your translation budget might actually harm your bottom line in the long run.  This is especially true if you are located in an area with a large number of Latinos.  The Pew Hispanic Center recently released a report about the explosive growth of Latinos in counties where there formerly weren’t many Spanish-speakers.  By checking out the Center’s maps, you can see which areas of the country are expected to see further growth.

Making a commitment to providing quality translations of your marketing materials may foster connections in the Latino community and bolster sales.  If you offer Spanish translations of your documents, you will reach this rapidly growing demographic.  As overall spending decreases, doing outreach to the Spanish-speaking population will spread your sales into new territory.

Many business owners may look to cut costs for Spanish translations by looking in-house, especially if they have bilingual staff.  Is this a good idea?  Probably not, unless your staff also has a background in translation.  Working with a reputable translation agency will ensure that your Spanish translations are accurate and compelling.  This ultimately brings in more business than a sloppy translation done by an already busy staff person.

But contracting your Spanish translations out doesn’t have to be a pricy affair.  A good Spanish translation agency will have translators who can produce quality translations quickly and carefully.  And the longer you work with the same agency, the more familiar that agency becomes with your business and its documents, ultimately reducing overall cost.

Another excellent way to cut costs while maintaining high-quality translations is to ask your translation agency if they have any special offers or if they give a discount for repeat business.

Keeping your translation budget intact and working with a translation agency that prides itself on accurate and economical document translations might give your business the boost it needs.  If you operate in an area with a growing Latino population or have a web presence, documents translated into Spanish can be the business boon you need to survive the flagging economy.

Translations for U.S. Immigration Done Right

Whether you are an individual applying for a family-based visa or an employee bringing over foreign-born workers, you will need some official documents translated into English for the immigration petition.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) requires that you provide a “certified translation” of important Spanish documents.  This Transpanish post talks more about what exactly a certified translation is.

The paperwork you need to fill out when petitioning for a visa for a loved one or worker can be overwhelming and seemingly endless.  But having a translation agency translate your documents from Spanish to English can take some of the pressure off.

Here is a list of some documents USCIS may ask for that you will need to have translated:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Police records
  • Diplomas
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Change of name documents

You will need to include a copy of the Spanish language original, the English translation, and a separate page certifying that the translation was done by someone proficient in both Spanish and English.  While you may speak some Spanish, if it’s not your native language, having a professional translation agency take care of translating these critical documents will ease your mind.  A good translation agency will be able to provide an English translation of your Spanish documents that uses accurate terminology.  And spending a little extra money for your translations will save you the stress of fiddling with document formatting.

Putting together a packet for an immigrant petition is a headache in and of itself.  By contracting out your Spanish to English translations, you can concentrate on making sure that the rest of your paperwork is perfect and accurate. Professional translators will ensure that your Spanish to English immigration translations are accurate.  They take pride in knowing that their translations will be a perfect addition to your immigration petition. Let your translation agency help you make sure that your loved one or potential employee has the best chance possible for being granted a visa.

Nearing Election Day, Latino Vote Becomes Critical

In the spring and summer of 2007, organizations working with immigrants made a huge campaign to encourage people to apply for citizenship for two reason: to beat the monumental fee increase in the end of July 2007 and to get America’s newest citizens ready in time for November 4th.  More than a million applied for naturalization in 2007 and another 480,000 in 2008 (Source: Cox News Service), making this the most multicultural election in history.

And despite the English Only proponents, states are beefing up the ranks of poll workers with language skills because of the Voting Rights Act.  This act requires that certain states and jurisdictions translate ballot materials into other languages and provide interpretation services in some cases.

Latinos typically lean toward blue, and judging from a survey by El Tiempo Latino, this year will be no different.  The survey found that of the 502 interviewed, 85.2% said they’d vote for Obama and the remaining 14.8% for McCain (Source in Spanish: El Tiempo Latino).  The National Post also found that Latinos are overwhelmingly in support of Obama, but with a ratio of 2 to 1. This article also states that Latinos have an affinity for Obama because his top three issues are those most important to Hispanics: the economy, the war in Iraq, and immigration reform.

But many asked after the debates: where is the dialogue on immigration?  Why aren’t they talking about it since it’s such a hot issue for those across the spectrum, especially when the Latino vote is so critical?

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, the candidates indeed are talking about immigration.  Just not in English.  Both candidates have been airing Spanish-language ads speaking to the immigration issue so as to gain the crucial Latino vote without alienating the general public (i.e. non-Spanish speakers) about this highly contested topic.  While the article has a decidedly McCain slant to it, the overall question of why both candidates remain tight-lipped about immigration in English but are spending campaign ad dollars to sway the Latino vote is an interesting one.

Latinos and Real Estate

As people in the United States of all socio-economic classes worry about financial problems, Latinos are disproportionately getting hit with foreclosures on their properties.  Why are Latinos losing their homes to foreclosure at a faster rate than other demographics?  The upsurge in subprime mortgages (mortgages with high interest rates and tenuous ethics meant specifically for those with bad credit history) is the main reason that Latinos are increasingly facing the threat of foreclosure. Whereas once Latinos with bad credit would have the option to either come up with cash or not purchase a property, subprime lenders began to target minorities with bad credit, knowing full-well that their customers would barely be able to make the payments.  Consumers, never thinking that they would be able to own a home, were lulled by the promises of these lenders.  A report by United for a Fair Economy called State of the Dream 2008: Foreclosed offers reasons for the damage, and suggestions for moving forward.    Why are Latinos so affected by the fallout from this lending nightmare?  Some of the reasons are: 

  • Lack of understanding about the process to become a homeowner (nearly 4 in 5 are first-time homebuyers and don’t have the collective wisdom of family and friends to guide them).
  • The tendency to go with people they know for assistance and if a predatory lender is the only one in the neighborhood, that’s the only recommendation they can get.
  • The only choice often is to go with a subprime mortgage or not to buy at all.
  • The lack of alternative measures of financial responsibility, such as wiring money to home countries monthly or lengthy histories of rental payments.
  • Not having financial information explained in Spanish and not having real estate documents translated into Spanish.

By providing real estate consultations and financial advice in Spanish, real estate agencies and lenders can work to help Latinos avoid foreclosure in the future.   

Transpanish offers 10% discount in Real Estate Translations.

British English vs. American English

British and American English are the two major forms of English in the world, and the Canadian and Australian dialects follow behind in number of native speakers.  While native English speakers generally have no problem understanding the English of those from other English-speaking countries, there are some difference between the written and oral forms of American and British English, the most easily recognizable being the following: vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation.  There are also some grammatical differences which might not be as readily apparent if one is not paying close attention.

Below is a brief description of the major ways in which British and American English differ:


There are entire dictionaries devoted to the differences in vocabulary between British and American English, and many dictionaries list whether a term is used in Britain or America.  A few examples are:

American English   |   British English

Apartment                        flat

Elevator                            lift

Trunk                               boot

Vacation                           holiday

Click here for a fun tool to show you some of the vocabulary differences.


The spelling differences fall into a couple of major categories: miscellaneous spelling differences for some words, differences in spellings of words derived from Latin and Greek, and words with difference spellings and different connotations.

The spelling differences that many are most familiar with are those that come from the differences in words derived from Latin or Greek, such as color in American English and colour in British and realize in American and realise in British.

For a comprehensive breakdown of the various spelling differences, peruse Wikipedia’s entry.


The most notable difference between British and American English is that of pronunciation. These fall into two major categories: accent and pronunciation of individual words.  The pronunciation differences can further be broken down into regional differences in America and differences among the countries of Great Britain.

For a list of links to follow to check out the differences between British and American pronunciation, click here.

Implications for Translators

If you translate into Spanish from English, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to work from a document in either American or British English regardless of your country of origin.  However, some clients request that a document be translated from Spanish into either British or American English.  Because of the very subtle grammatical differences, it wouldn’t be wise to translate into an English dialect that you are not intimately familiar with.

If you are a client who needs to have your document translated into a specific dialect of English, make sure that your translator is a native of the country which you will target with your translation.  If this isn’t possible, then make sure that the translator you entrust with your document is either currently living in the country (i.e. an American translator residing in England) or has lived in the country for a substantial amount of time (i.e. a Brit who went to college and worked in the U.S. for several years).

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

We are right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th.  These 31 days are meant to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the U.S.’s largest linguistic and ethnic minority.  The month-long homage to the contributions that Hispanics (those who trace their roots to Spanish-speaking countries) appropriately begins on September 15th, which is Independence Day for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.  Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16th and Chile’s September 18th.

President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed the week that includes September 15th and 16th to be National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and in 1988, the observance was expanded to an entire month.  Each year there is a theme, and the theme of 2008 is Getting Involved: Our Families, Our Communities, Our Nation, which was chosen from the top five suggested themes.

Local and federal governments, private industry, community organizations, and media all contribute to the offerings throughout this month and the Internet is a great resource to learn about the impact Hispanics have made on this country as well as events that are happening across the country.

The U.S. Census Bureau provides a great set of statistics on Hispanics in the U.S. in honor of this month in such categories as Population, Businesses, Families, and Jobs.  To read the stats and find links to the original sources of information, click here.

The Smithsonian Institute’s list of teaching resources gives a broad set of tools to begin exploring the range of ways that Latinos have contributed to our country.

AOL’s Latino Tu Vida channel is a portal to popular Latino culture with quizzes, info about Latino celebrities, and recipes.  To sample these eclectic, entertaining offerings, start here.

These three links are just the beginning to exploring the rich and diverse culture that Hispanics bring to America.  With two weeks left to the month-long celebration, try to attend one of the many celebrations and educational events happening across the country.

More resources:

Hispanic Community in US

Spanish Language