Can you answer these questions about your translation project? (FAQ)

When you have a translation project ready to go, here are some of the questions you’ll likely be asked — certainly by me, but also by other translators. In most cases, translators need to see the documents before giving you a quote, but even with the documents, we need your input to provide a translation that meets your needs.

(1) What is the language of the source document and/or what country is it from?

(2) What kind of text is it (for example, personal correspondence, medical record, birth certificate, school transcript)?

(3) What format are the documents in (paper, scan, PDF or other electronic file) and how do you intend to send them (mail, fax, e-mail attachment)?

(4) What is the subject matter?

(5) How will the translation be used? Is it for a specific institution, application, or audience?

(6) What is the approximate volume of the material to be translated (number of words, lines, or total number of pages)?

(7) Is there any handwriting in the document? Latin alphabet or Cyrillic? Can you read it?

(8) Is the document fully legible (or a fax of a fax of a fax)? If it is difficult to decipher, do you have any preferences for handling illegible or partially illegible passages? (Normally these are indicated as “illegible” in brackets.)

(9) Are there any charts or graphics that must be reproduced in the translation? (There’s no need to describe the formatting of birth-marriage-death certificates or school transcripts.)

(10) When will the materials be available?

(11) When would you like to have the completed document(s) in hand?

(12) If these are official documents, do you require a certification of accuracy, notarized originals, or other special handling?

(13) Does the project involve ongoing or recurring assignments?


  1. dbaplanb

    Hi, Steven, these are also important questions, especially for agency clients. (Sometimes it’s the answers to these questions and not the ones I listed that determine whether I’ll accept an agency job.) But if the client is an individual, we should not be asking them what the payment terms are. When I hire a lawyer or a plumber or tree service, they don’t ask me when I’d like to pay or in what currency! We should be setting those terms for direct clients, they expect that from us. On the other hand, if the client is a law firm or university professor, or someone acting on behalf of a company (not a translation agency), I think stating our terms and then asking for a contact in the finance department is a good idea — then hash out the nuts and bolts of getting paid with the finance officer, which could very well involve all five of these questions. Thanks for reading!

  2. Steven Bammel

    This is a good list of questions. I would add a few more, too:
    1. What are your payment terms?
    2. How will you pay me (check, wire transfer, direct deposit)?
    3. What currency do you want me to bill you in?
    4. Will I have to figure out and navigate a complicated online billing system in order to invoice?
    5. What other paperwork will I have to sign or provide in order to get paid?

  3. Pingback: Can you answer these questions about your translation project? (FAQ) | The Savvy Newcomer
  4. Pingback: Weekly translation favorites (Sep 2-8)

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