Why is Finnish translation more expensive than Turkish?

Posted on March 12th, 2014 by Alexika

This is an update to a Blog post from 2011, and is prompted by a great question from our client Philip; why is it more expensive to translate from Polish to English compared to English to Polish?  Thanks are also due to our client Alistair for the original question – we translate engineering manuals for Alistair into various languages for his exports around the world. Alistair’s question was: why is it more expensive to translate into some languages?

Our answer to both questions is that there are really 3 key factors at play here:

1. Supply – relative to demand. Some countries produce many qualified professional translators and many of these people go on to join the profession. In larger developed countries such as UK, Germany and France there are many qualified translators competing for the work, and rates are under competitive pressure.  In smaller countries such as Finland, there are fewer translators from a smaller population, and less incentive for these fewer translators to specialise in one particular area e.g. engineering.

Translators always work into their mother tongue. There are many more professional translators of English into Polish (for example) than there are of Polish into English. There are few university courses for the latter to produce the translators in the first place.

2. Demand – relative to the supply. Of course high demand for the translators leads to higher rates and vice versa, fairly straightforward for German, French, English – although it’s a more relative thing in translation e.g. the relatively few specialist professional translators in Finland can be in relatively high demand.  This is complex because it is also driven by the demand for subject specialism e.g. engineering translation, legal translation.

3. Wage demands in different economies – When translating out of English, we always need to work with native speakers of the target language, usually based on their own country. In high wage economies such as Finland, they demand high rates of pay (otherwise they would do other work), in lower wage economies such as Turkey they demand lower wages. In some cases this affect outweighs supply/demand factors altogether – e.g. in India where very professional translators can work for lower wages.

So it’s basically down to the meeting of the classic demand and supply curves so loved by students of economics – P being price, Q being quantity:


But we would welcome thoughts on this – do you see the balance differently? Which key forces should we also mention? In economics terms, a translation company is working with several related markets – but actually the forces working on the market for each language combination are different. Therefore rates for different language combinations – and subject specialism – do vary.


Spring Newsletter

Posted on February 12th, 2014 by Alexika

Please read our Spring newsletter – the web version can be accessed by clicking here.



Truffles, translation and trading abroad

Posted on January 29th, 2014 by Alexika

It was an early start for Mark Robinson and Gemma Cooper last Friday, as they set up Alexika’s stand for the Funding and Export Advice for Growth 2014 event, organised by Bradford Chamber. The aim of the breakfast event was to help businesses get the advice they need to enable them to export successfully.

When it’s done well, exporting can contribute hugely to a company’s growth, but for those that are new to it, exporting can seem incredibly daunting. The challenges can seem endless – from financial and tax implications to transportation and logistics – and that’s not to mention the language and cultural barriers. It’s not surprising that companies often don’t know where to start.

That’s where this event came in handy. With access to a variety of export experts – including UKTI, the Manufacturing Advisory Service and the China-Britain Business Council – the event was ideal for anyone looking to break into international markets or enter new ones. An expert presentation from the sponsor, NatWest, was followed by a 30-second pitch from each of the experts. We can’t be sure whether it was Mark’s succinct sales pitch or Gemma’s hand-crafted chocolate truffles that encouraged people to seek out our stand…

Check out our stand!

All of this was packed into a two-hour morning session, leaving the attendees plenty of time to start turning their export dreams into reality on their return to the office.

As one of the expert organisations, Alexika was on hand to talk to would-be exporters and those already exporting about the need for professional translation when trading abroad. As discussed on an earlier blog post, assuming that your target market can speak English is not always correct. Even if that person does speak English, wouldn’t it be better to communicate in his or her own language? Research has shown that English may be the lingua franca of the business world but buyers are more likely to buy when they are approached in their own language.

Our translation service can help exporters with this particular challenge, as we translate all manner of leaflets, brochures and websites.

If you’re an exporter and need to discuss your translation requirements, please get in touch via our Contact Us form today.




Our top 10 translation myths

Posted on January 16th, 2014 by Alexika

Whilst translation is one of the oldest professions in the world, it remains one of the least understood. In social situations, it is regularly necessary to explain what we do and how we add value our clients’ business lives.
This has led many commentators over the years to publish their lists of ‘translation myths’ – and we thought we should publish our own top 10 translation myths! Here they are:

1. Being bilingual means that you can translate. No, professional translation means taking the language to a different level, to the point where the final text reads like it is written in the target language. Bilingual people cannot do  this without learning techniques and plenty of graduate linguists fail exams in translation. This is why we say that translation is generally a post-graduate profession.

2. The words ‘translator’ and ‘interpreter’ are interchangeable. The BBC is the most common culprit for this one! A translator works with the written word whilst the interpreter works with speech. There are some very clever professionals out there who can do both to a high level but, generally speaking, the skills are different and people will choose one or the other as a career path.

3. Translation is a niche market, something of a cottage industry. We refer to the numbers on this one – according to respected industry consultants Common Sense Advisory, the market for outsourced language services in 2014 is worth US$42.2 billion. In Europe, the market is estimated as being worth US$20.8 billion.

4. Machine translation is taking over from human translation. Think of it as a scale – at the one end there are the (very useful) free translation services such as Google translate, perfect for getting an instant gist of a text. At the other end of this scale, you need to entrust a text to a professional human translator to have an accurate and reliable target translation. Demand for both types of translation is growing.

5. Translators can work in both directions. Very rarely is this the case, maybe if someone has grown up in a perfectly bilingual environment – but even then most people have a bias. Almost without exception, professional translators will work into their mother tongue only as this is the language in which they can write fluently and capture the nuances of the subject.

6. Translators speak many languages. This is another of the common questions in social situations – how many languages do you speak then? The answer for most professional translators is that they translate from one or maybe two languages into their mother tongue. The important skills are to do with having deep knowledge of a few languages and cultures rather than superficial knowledge of many.

7. Translation is instant. We are sometimes asked to translate texts in less time than it would have taken to create them in the first place! It takes time to research a text. It takes time to refine a translation and polish the words to the required level. A translation company will ensure that the translation is proofread by a second linguist. Working on the basis of 1500 words per day is a realistic level of output.

8. A translator must live in the country of his/her target language. Actually it is not always the case now that a German translator must live in Germany for example. There are constant opportunities, on the internet and elsewhere, to maintain a mother-tongue language. But professional translators are constantly updating their language skills and specialist subject knowledge, wherever they are.

9. If you are a translator, you can translate anything. That sounds lovely, doesn’t it! In fact, all professional translators specialise in particular subject areas. A translator might opt to become an English to Italian legal translator for example. That translator will then ensure that their knowledge of English and Italian legal terminology is constantly updated. But they won’t be able to translate in the field of chemical engineering!

10. Translation is a low-technology profession. Well, we are not using machine translation but there is a myriad of tools out there for professional translators. The use of CAT (computer aided translation) tools such as translation memory can be essential for providing the best service that clients deserve. Translation companies use the latest project management systems to ensure that multiple deadlines are met. Those working in the translation profession need to be extremely IT literate in addition to having high level language skills.

So fellow translators – does this list tally with the questions that you are asked by clients and in social situations? Would you substitute some of our top 10 with your own? We’d love to hear from you.

P.S. The peculiarly British (and American?) trait of assuming that everyone speaks your language if you shout loudly enough is another subject! Please see our separate Blog post: NO! They don’t all speak English….

Mark Robinson


Alexika at Advanced Engineering Show

Posted on December 11th, 2013 by Alexika

Earlier last month saw the annual Advanced Engineering UK exhibition at the NEC, Birmingham. Crammed full of innovative exhibitors, this is a show not to be missed for anyone with an interest in the field. What’s even more appealing (not counting the free entry on pre-registration of course!) is the fact that it is not only one show, but five all rolled into one. It’s proved so popular that this year saw a 30% rise in attendance, boasting a record number of attendees. Phew… It’s a wonder that Alexika’s Gemma Cooper coped with all this excitement when she attended day two of the event!

With exhibitors from the five areas of Aero, Composites, Automotive, Auto Electronics and Printable Electronics for Industry coming from all parts of the country and even further afield, the event certainly did not disappoint. This chap to the right even looks as though he arrived from another planet entirely… As I’m sure you’ll agree, it was evident that a great deal of preparation and planning had gone into creating the stands.

Being a translation supplier to various clients across the industry, we were keen to see the machines “translated” (pun intended) from documents into real-life. It was also great to see some familiar faces and make some new acquaintances. Speaking to so many professionals enhanced our knowledge of the industry, which we can draw upon when providing our technical and engineering translation services across our many specialist languages.

Let us know if any of you attended the event too, and have any stories to share. We’d also be delighted to hear from anyone thinking of attending next year’s event! Email your thoughts to Gemma at gcooper@alexika.com.


Gemma Cooper



Alexika donation to Translators Without Borders

Posted on December 3rd, 2013 by Alexika

Instead of sending Christmas cards, Alexika has again made a donation to our adopted charity of Translators Without Borders (TWB.) This is a not-for-profit association set up to provide pro bono translation services for humanitarian not-for-profit organisations.  TWB has provided translations for organisations such as Action Against Hunger, Oxfam and Handicap International.

We received the following message from the TWB Program Director:

Dear Friends of Translators without Borders,

As an American, I cherish Thanksgiving. As an American living abroad, I am working today and only dreaming of turkey and sweet potatoes (with marshmallows!), but I also am driven to mark the day by giving thanks. As such, my short note to you today.

Translators without Borders is making a difference in the world. We are getting critical healthcare information to mothers in India and health workers in Kenya. We are making sure repair manuals are in the local languages in Zimbabwe. And we are helping first responders and medevac teams in the Philippines find those who need help and speak Cebuano, Waray-Waray or Tagalog.

The head of the UN OCHA communications team responding in the Philippines wrote six simple words to me this week: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Our work is making a difference, and translation is being recognized as a critical piece of humanitarian aid.

I now pass those words on to you. We could not do it without your support.  Whether you donate funds, time or energy to our efforts, you are helping us make a difference. We are in this together - we are a community that collectively recognizes the importance of language in the overall improvement of people’s lives.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

From my home to yours,
Rebecca Petras

Program Director
Translators without Borders



Tour de France to pass Alexika office door

Posted on November 27th, 2013 by Alexika

It has been confirmed – Le Tour de France will pass the Alexika office door in  Addingham in West Yorkshire in July 2014! We are very excited to hear that Wiggins, Froome and Co. will race past at around 30km/hour (we are on a slightly uphill road) on Sunday 6th July, day 2 of the ‘Grand Départ.’ We even more excited to learn that they might pass the door in Addingham on Saturday 5th July (day 1 of Le Tour) too, with the final precise route to be confirmed.

Some staggering facts about the Tour de France from the Le Tour Yorkshire web site:

  • It is the world’s largest annual sporting event
  • A worldwide television audience of 3.5 billion watch the race annually
  • Over 188 countries around the world televise the event
  • 1200 hotel rooms are reserved every night of the Tour for teams, staff, press and tour personnel
  • 2 million people are expected to watch the tour as it pass through Yorkshire (and the population of Yorkshire is only 5 million!)
  • It has been estimated that 30,000 people each day might line the streets in our town of Addingham alone

It will only take a few seconds for the peloton to pass but the there will be so much more to see – for several hours, the caravan will pass through. The caravan is a terrific spectacle and a great family attraction. A procession of elaborate floats and vehicles precedes the racing action, 180 in all distributing 15 million items to fans at the roadside across the 3 weeks of the Tour. It is a great way to catch yourself a souvenir of Le Tour.



Our office on a quiet morning - looking forward to 30,000 visitors...

Our office on a quiet morning – looking forward to 30,000 visitors…


Top World Business Languages – update

Posted on November 22nd, 2013 by Alexika

We know for sure that doing business in the language of your client is one of the keys to international business success – and we are always on the lookout for empirical evidence to support this. So we are indebted to language industry consultants Common Sense Advisory (CSA) for issuing a new report on the top world business languages.

On a (soon to be updated!) page on our web site, we quote a 2008 IMF report based on a calculation of Gross World Product (i.e. GDP – Gross Domestic Product – but for the whole world.) According to this IMF study, the top 15 languages can grant access to countries that make up more than 90% of GWP.  The study shows that the top 5 business languages of the world are as follows:

Table: Top Business Languages by Percentage of GWP – Source IMF 2008

Rank Language GDP(in $US Billions) % of GWP Cumulative% of GWP
1 English $           21,276 34.9% 34.9%
2 Japanese $             4,911 8.1% 43.0%
3 Simplified Chinese $             4,509 7.4% 50.4%
4 German $             4,393 7.2% 57.6%
5 Spanish $             4,170 6.8% 64.5%


Now in 2013 Common Sense Advisory have provided a new empirical study based on a World Online Wallet (WOW) – defined as ‘the total economic opportunity, both online and offline, calculated by associating a share of a country’s GDP to all major blocks of that society.’ So the calculation is not quite the same the 2008 IMF study but it is fascinating to put the two studies together. The Common Sense Advisory work has the following as the top 5 business languages of the world:

Table: Top Business Languages by Percentage of WOW – Source Common Sense Advisory 2013

Rank Language WOW (US$B) % of WOW Cumulative% of WOW
1 English $           16,193 35.9% 35.9%
2 Japanese $             4,744 10.5% 46.4%
3 German $             3,467 7.7% 54.1%
4 Spanish $             3,447 7.6% 61.7%
5 Simplified Chinese $             3,214 7.1% 68.8%


So despite the passage of time and (imprecision of and) difference in calculation methods, English holds remarkably steady at around 35% i.e. 35% of business in the world is done in English. Around 65% of business is conducted in one of the top 5 languages.

Look out for an updated version of our web page for deeper analysis. CSA’s report can be purchased in full from their web site. Comments would be very welcome – do you think that we are making a valid comparison between these 2 studies?




Congratulations to UKTI Yorkshire

Posted on November 19th, 2013 by Alexika

Congratulations to UKTI Yorkshire (UKTI being a government department – UK Trade and Investment) on the ExploreExport event held in Leeds in the North of England and other UK venues last week. Leeds is our local city and the event there was particularly successful, attracting more participants than the equivalent event in London.

A remarkable 70 markets were represented from Algeria and Angola through to the USA and Venezuela, and exporters could come along and discuss their business strategies with market experts. From the conversations that we had, the event attracted a broad mix of new and existing exporters across the manufacturing and service sectors.

UKTI say that UK products, services and expertise continue to be in demand across the world. Their own services include help with participation at selected trade fairs, outwards missions and providing bespoke market intelligence.

Incidentally the venue, The Queen’s Hotel, in Leeds is always an interesting one. It is easy  to imagine yourself in a word of 1930’s glamour, and the ballroom – in which the event was held – is quite spectacular. But it worked very well for a business event.

So congratulations to UKTI and UKTI Yorkshire on a excellent event, and we hope that it will will lead to increased international trade from the region. Below is a picture of Alexika’s Mark Robinson, Gemma Cooper and Becky Taylor at our stand, and we are already looking forward to the next event.



Germany’s Bild newspaper: Germans speak poor English

Posted on November 11th, 2013 by Alexika

Bild, a mass-circulation tabloid newspaper in Germany, can be a great source of snippets of news and a great reflection of a body of opinion in the country. It is always worth a quick read!

A front page story last week related to language. Only short, an English translation of the article in full is:

Adults Speak Poor English

Düsseldorf: The knowledge of English amongst adults in Germany is only average. In a comparison of 60 countries, Germany was only ranked 14th. The leading nations are Sweden, Norway and Estonia followed by Austria, Poland and Belgium. In last place is Iraq. (EF Education First)

This short article raises several fascinating questions:

- why is the article on the front page at all? The concept that Germans speak poor English (and 14th out of 60 is not so poor) must be a major concern. The implication is that speaking English is key to success in the world and in business. But……Germany punches vastly beyond it’s weight as an exporter to the point where the surplus is verging on embarrassing. Surely there is not a problem here?

- The countries quoted as leading in the field are generally smaller and fewer people in the world speak their language. So…..they would speak more foreign languages wouldn’t they! The 5 million Norwegians have more of a need to communicate outside their own country than 80 million Germans. Germans should therefore not expect to be as good linguists as Swedes and Norwegians as the incentive is not so great?

So, as someone who always enjoys spending time in Germany, it was interesting and surprising to see this story given such prominence. This implied linguistic insecurity seems entirely unwarranted. Incidentally the next story, given an equal amount of column inches, was that Germans are expecting to spend a record amount on Christmas presents this year – the average budget is expected to be €273 , an increase of €43 over the previous year.



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