How to reduce costs in the translation process



In this blog article, we explain how a professional translation partner can reduce the cost of investment, and how the customer can contribute to this.

When a company’s annual translation volume increases and reaches millions of words or thousands of pages, it’s only natural that cost-effectiveness becomes a concern. How can you reduce the total cost of translation? What can you do, and what can your translation partner do?

Technologies offered by a professional translation partner

Translation service providers use many technologies, which are particularly useful when the translation volume becomes high. Some of these tools save money, while others save time—and the best ones save both money and time. The suitability of such tools for different translation needs varies. In what follows, we present the most common technologies used by a professional translation partner.


Comprehensive translation memories

A translation memory is the best-known and most common tool used by professional translation partners to reduce costs. A translation memory also saves time. Completed translations are saved in the translation memory and can be used in future translation projects. The benefit is highest when similar texts are translated frequently. Technical documents and software are good examples. As such texts are highly repetitive, the translator can work much more efficiently when part of the text can be retrieved from the translation memory or only needs a little editing. The translator can focus on ensuring that the sentence or piece of text retrieved from the translation memory fits the new context.

Using a translation memory can reduce the total price of a translation project by a few or several dozen percent.

The more translations a translation memory contains and the better it has been maintained, the more valuable it is. In practice, this means that the translation memory contains an increasing number of translated sentences with sufficient context information. The benefit multiplies as the need for manual work decreases, while the translation memory becomes increasingly comprehensive.

However, the same translation memory is not suitable for all translations. For example, a translation memory consisting of translations of manuals is not useful when translating companies’ annual reports, and vice versa.

The cost-effectiveness of a translation memory materializes when creating a cost estimate for a translation project. The material to be translated is analyzed against the translation memory. The price of sentences that can be retrieved from the translation memory is lower, because they require less work from the translator. This is reflected in the total price of the translation project. In Acolad’s quotes for translation work, the price reduction arising from the use of a translation memory is indicated clearly in each translation project.

The savings shown in the chart below are based on a statistical analysis of historical gains provided by Acolad’s translation memories, showing the best possible scenario for the selected projects.


Developing machine translation

Machine translation is a strong alternative when, for example, large amounts of text must be translated in a very short time. Machine translation is one of the applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning: the structural models of the target languages are taught to the translation engine through vast amounts of model translations. Modern neural network translation engines, in particular, learn to translate ever more accurately the more they are used and taught.

In machine translation, however, the challenge is that the translation engine doesn’t understand the deeper meanings of the text or its context. For this reason, the translation engine may completely misread the context and insert an incorrect translation in the text, or its interpretations of texts using multiple meanings may be wildly inaccurate. In addition, the language model doesn’t always work perfectly: the words in the translation may be in the wrong order, but the text may still be understandable. For the time being, translation engines can seldom challenge people in translation quality.

However, they may save considerable time and money. This is because human input is not needed, as long as the translation engine has been taught to produce text that meets the criteria.

Translation engines are already being used extensively to translate user documentation and frequently updated content. They can be used, for example, to translate user reviews into other languages in online stores. This enables customers around the world to read reviews in their own language. The quality of the translation may leave something to be desired, but the text is understandable and conveys the key content of the review.

Term banks ensure consistent terminology

Multinational companies need their internal and external communication to be translated into multiple languages. Sometimes it’s challenging in multilingual communication to keep the terminology consistent within the company, not to mention external marketing and sales communication. A company-level term bank usually solves these challenges. It serves the company’s own employees, as well as communication and marketing partners and translators.

Consistent terminology across the company or group of companies reduces the risk of misunderstanding and unclear communication. When high-quality content is ensured as early as the creation phase, translators can ensure consistent terminology by using the same term bank. Read more about the terminology solution we developed in cooperation with ABB.

A seamless translation process through integration

The translation needs of companies operating in multiple markets are usually continuous and frequent. In such cases, the translation management system or online customer portal used by the service provider is not necessarily enough. Challenges of this type can often be resolved through integration.

Ideally, the files to be translated are transferred smoothly from the corporate customer’s system to the translation partner’s management system—and are returned, translated into the desired languages, to the customer’s system.

Typical examples of system integration include the integration of a content management system (CMS) or product information management (PIM) system into the translation partner’s translation management system. The ultimate goal is to streamline the order process and make it as easy and seamless as possible. Even in this case, the most significant cost reduction is in time. Translation orders can be processed rapidly, and completed translations can be resubmitted to the customer’s own systems. Depending on the depth of the integration, this may also save time by reducing the number of approval processes. Read our blog article on integration solutions for e-commerce.

Another option for integration is saving the translated material in the cloud for the customer’s validation team or country-specific quality controllers to retrieve and work on. This eliminates one phase from the customer’s process.

Integration often means process optimization during the order phase. The corporate customer optimizes its purchase approval process and order process to ensure maximum flexibility. This enables the process to run as smoothly as possible once a need for translation arises. Intermediate phases requiring approval can be eliminated from the process. As a result, there is more time for other work.

Know your company’s translation needs

The best way to ensure reduced costs is company-wide awareness of translation practices. Companies may have several globally operating departments, and the translation needs of such departments may vary widely. If common practices have not been determined and communicated, the departments do as they see best locally. For example, the marketing department may order its translations from a translation agency favored by their advertising agency. A branch office in another country may favor a local translator. In such a case, the benefits of integration and process optimization never materialize. Translation memories may not be used at all, and the local process with its approval practices requires input from several employees.

By using translation technology and streamlining the translation process, it may be possible to reduce costs by between 30 and 50%.


As the examples above show, there are many opportunities to reduce costs during the quote-to-delivery process. Some technologies offer immediate cost savings, while other cost reductions materialize in terms of time. With a streamlined translation process, employees don’t need to spend time on anything unnecessary.

Does your company have continuous translation needs? Contact us, and our experts will help you find the solutions that best suit your company. Read here about a customer case in which we served as a translation partner for Alfa Laval.

Read more about our translation service