The Language Exchange
The Language Exchange">
PO BOX 750
716 E. Fairhaven Ave.
Burlington, Washington 98233

Translation and Interpreting Services FAQ

Translation & Interpreting Services – Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What about Machine Translation?

A. Machine translation feebly approximates live language. It cannot accurately translate cultural concepts, semantic (meaning) phrases that belong to specific contexts such as law, sports, medicine, theatre, literature, business, insurance, banking, music, education …the list goes on and on. Machines can do translation of rigidly limited pairs of words with unambiguous meanings and with set syntax. Language is dynamic and fluidity is geographical, demographic and contextual. It’s complex!
Languages evolve and you want your translation to be vital and readily understandable to the people you have in mind. Only humans translate language accurately and fluidly. Don’t hang your organization or enterprise out to dry with amateur or artificial translations. You deserve respect and relaxation after getting a translation done!

Q. What are you like to work with?

A.We are professional and west coast friendly. We have specialized in translation project management and linking people to interpreters since 1986. We are the hub of teams of professionals located here and there who love to work with us for our steady and casual rapport. You can email us (or call) with questions, changes, worries and thank yous. We meet deadlines and put high quality work first.

Q. Does just one person do my translation?

A. Every translation is ‘triaged’ by a project manager who assigns it to one or more experts in that language and field. The translation is later checked by a professional translator working in the opposite language direction of the original translation. So an English to Russian translation gets a technical and quality review (proofed and edited) by a Russian to English linguist. Who does formatting and desktop publishing depends upon the project.

Q. What is the difference between “interpreting” and “translation”?

Translation is written language, interpreting is spoken language.

Q. How long does translation take?

A. In some instances it can take just as long to translate a document as it does to write it in English. It is best to allow 3-5 business days for most documents, longer for larger files.

Q. How much does translation cost?

A. Translation pricing is generally billed at a “per word rate”, this means you are billed by the word versus by the hour. We are happy to provide quotes free of charge

Q. How do I get a translation quote?

A. The best way is to email us the document(s) you would like translated and then we will respond with estimated turn-around time and cost. You may also FAX to our dedicated line: 360-755-9919

Translation 101

Translation is the written language from and into foreign languages. It is very common for people to get translating mixed up with interpreting. Translation is the written form and interpreting is the oral form. It is also common for people to think that anyone who can interpret can translate and vice versa. This is not the case.

Translation is its own profession, separate from interpreting. The reason for this is simple, can you think of anyone in your life that speaks perfect English and yet can’t read and write equally well? In addition to understanding both languages a translator must also be familiar with common terminology, punctuation, spelling, syntax (the arrangement of and relationships among words, phrases, and clauses forming sentences), abbreviations, slang, etc.

Syntax is a reason why computer translation doesn’t work. Because computers translate literally, word-for-word. Rather than translation of the underlying meaning segments. Colloquial expressions, such as “You’re on fire!” – meaning “You’re doing a great!” – are also missed in computer translation.

Literal translation does not capture meaning given by word order (syntax). Nor does literal translation give the flow of colloquial expressions and emphasis found by a reader of the text whose native language is that of the text.


1. Will the translator be translating into their native language?
2. How do I know that the translation will be accurate and is it guaranteed?
3. How do you decide which translators with whom to contract?
4. Can you handle monthly or yearly updates to my materials?
5. Is my material for translation kept confidential?
6. Do you use human translators or machines?
7. How will I be billed for services, by the hour or the word?
8. Which Chinese or Spanish dialect?

The above are good questions to ask of the translation company you are interested in working with. There are not set industry standards and so the answers you get may vary. The following are the answers that we would give to you.

1. The most accurate translations are done by translators going into their “mother-tongue’ or native language (the language you are going into is called the target language).
2. We ensure accuracy by having the materials proofread by a different translator, and then the project is given back to the original translator to accept the changes.
3. Translators are contracted with based on certification, education, experience, and quality of work.
4. We can provide updates as needed to previously translated material.
5. We have confidentiality agreements with contracted translators (similar to HIPPA) and materials are kept under lock and key with limited access while in our office.
6. Yes, we use human translators only.
7. Our services are charged by the word with proofreading and editing included.
8. In order to determine which Chinese or which Spanish dialect, we ask you to identify the target audience. If you were using the materials in Argentina, the Spanish would be slightly different than if you were using the materials in Mexico.


1. Anyone with two years of high school language (or anyone who lived in another country for three years in early childhood) can translate.
2. There is no difference between translation, transcription and interpretation.
3. A good translator doesn’t need any reference literature.
4. Translators will soon be replaced by computers
5. Translators don’t need to know how to spell, since they can use the Spellchecker on their computer.
6. A good translator gets it right the first time, without any editing or proofreading.
7. Good translators are a dime a dozen.
8. If you can type in a foreign language then you are an accomplished translator.
9. Translation can translate both ways just as easily.
10. A 100-page technical manual that took four months and three persons to write can be translated into another language by one translator in two days.


From a French prescription bottle – “Adults: 1 tablet 3 times a day until passing away”
From a hotel sign in Milan- “No ladies in the bra-she’s lounge only”
From a bar sign in Hong Kong- “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS-Live shoes daily”
From an ad in Calcutta- “We are doing bridal make up for gents and ladies”
From a greeting card in Japan- “Happy wedding on your marriage”
From a building sign in Hanoi- “Brain for rent”
From a label on French cheese- “This crud is from the finest milk soley from the cow’s of the Brie region.”
And some menu items from around the world- Children sandwiches, Fried vegetarians wrapped in egg white, Lumb and ladies finger stew, Fried fisherman, Shrimps in spit, Bacon and germs, Pork condom bleu, Grilled potties, Chocolate clam chowder, Lobster thermos, Horse-rubbish sauce, Coca-Cola pepsi, and my personal favorite, Ham on penis.