Celebrating the role of the professional human translator

With the advances in machine translation, AI and machine learning, we’d be forgiven for thinking that the role of the professional human translator is becoming increasingly marginalised and under threat. At the same time, as linguists and professionally trained translators, we understand the art of translation better than anyone, the processes involved, the cognitive skills required and the linguistic flair needed to create a translation that doesn’t in fact read like a translation, but rather like a natural sounding text that has been crafted by a native speaker.

Understand your role

It is an inevitable truth that everything that can be automated, will eventually be automated, and the translation industry is no exception. There are certain types of translation that are either already automated or will be in the years to come. But the role of the professional human translator isn’t dead, in fact, we are still very much at the heart of the industry.

And we are by no means demonising automation or the advance of technology – on the contrary, we love technology and the new ways it empowers us as translators. We recognise that there is a role for every translation type, whether that’s human, machine, or a hybrid model like post-edited machine translation. We know that, in certain instances, machine translation has more merit than a human translation, such as real-time translations of user-generated content.

But we also recognise that with these different translation models emerging, the general perception about what a human translation should look like, and what it should cost, is shifting. We have a duty to ourselves to promote our specific ‘market segment’ of professional human translation. Every single translator, whether you are just starting out or have years of experience, whether you are a freelancer or employed, whether you translate for direct clients or agencies – we all need to educate those around us about the different translation types that are available and their individual virtues.

Educate your audience

For a potential customer who has never before bought a translation, they might well ask themselves: with free translations so readily available at the touch of a button, why should I even consider paying for translation at all? It’s a fair question, and it’s our collective job to educate them about what type of translation should be used for which type of content, and when it is really important to work with a professional human translator.

For example, if your client is a marketing, localisation or export manager of a successful brand who has worked extremely hard to define and build a brand personality, and has perfected the way they communicate with their customers, then using a professional human translator with experience and a flair for communicating effectively is imperative in order to correctly localise their messages for each of their target markets. The same goes for any content that is creative, has personality and tone, or is heavy in colloquialisms or metaphors.

Promote yourself

We think it’s important that we, as professional human translators, clearly identify ourselves as such, that we differentiate our work from automated output and that we celebrate our contribution to our clients’ international strategies. That’s why we have developed these simple, easily identifiable translation icons, so that we can promote ourselves and position ourselves as providers of professional human translation within the translation market place.

If you are a professional human translator  and proud of it, then join us in celebrating the importance of professional human translation in our industry today, and help us spread the word.

Download your free translation icons

Download your free translation icons today! We have made these translation icons available in a variety of colours and sizes to suit your own brand – you can add it to your website, email signatures, social media or professional online profile.

A big “thank you” to the talented illustrator James Birks who created the icons for us!

If you would like to download the icons and use them on your website or content, all you have to do is fill in a short form, agree to the Licence Agreement, and we’ll send you a link where you can download the files. Ready? Go to the Downloads Page.

Human, machine or hybrid: choosing the right translation type for your content

With the advances in machine translation and machine learning, we are experiencing a shift in the general perception about the need for human translation. With free translations so readily available at the touch of a button, why should we even consider paying for translation?

It’s a fair question and it’s easy to understand why some people are starting to believe that it’s only a matter of time before we won’t need human translation at all.

However, if you are a stakeholder in a successful brand, and have worked extremely hard to define and build a brand personality and have perfected the way you communicate with your customers, then you will know, all too well, how important it is to correctly localise your messages for each of your target markets. And, for this, you need professional human translators with experience and a flair for communicating effectively in your particular market.

It’s this experience and flair that will, arguably, always be out of reach for machine translation, regardless of AI capabilities or processing power.

The role of the marketeer is to constantly develop new and engaging ways to communicate their messages, to captivate, educate and inspire their audiences, and in so doing the way they communicate is constantly changing. And as a consequence, language is constantly evolving too. Machines, over time, will identify these changes and adapt to them, however it’s unlikely they’ll be able to develop innovative, engaging, and most importantly, culturally accurate (and up-to-date) translations by themselves, anytime soon.

Which translation type is for you?

Certainly, in the world of creative marketing content, the role of the professional human translator is imperative. However, that’s not to say there is no role for machine translation. In fact, in some situations, it may be the best way to go. What’s important is knowing which situation requires which type of translation.

For example, if your source content is non-marketing, simple in terms of grammatical structure, has short sentences and is literal, i.e. doesn’t contain idioms, clichés or colloquialisms, then machine translation may be ideal. Firstly, it will be free. And secondly, if the content is low value or has low visibility then if there are errors or inconsistencies, there will be little impact on the reader or the brand.

You could also add a proofreading step to your machine translation. This process is often referred to as post-editing machine translation; we simply call it hybrid translation as it involves both machine and human input. This proofreading step should be carried out by a professional human translator or linguist. It should result in error-free output similar to that of professional human translation, but it may not necessarily be idiomatic or ‘on brand’. This may be sufficient as a low-cost solution for low-value content that perhaps has slightly more visibility or may have more impact on the reader or the brand.

However, if your content is creative, has personality and tone, or is heavy in colloquialisms or metaphors, then you should use a professional human translator. Ideally, there should be a ‘learning period’ at the start of any localisation project where the content creators and the translators work together to define the brand personality for each market and build a style guide and glossary. There should also be an ongoing dialogue between the two parties to discuss specific translations as and when they arise. Just like a copywriter writing for a new brand, a translator needs time to understand the market, the brand and its persona. This will ultimately be more expensive than a machine translation (or a machine translation with an additional human proofreading step), but the output will be of a much higher quality, the meaning better conveyed and therefore more ‘on brand’.

Manage your readers’ expectations

The important thing, from our point of view, is that the brands or content creators make an informed decision on the type of translation they require, and that the customer understands the type of translation they are reading.

For example, if a customer reads some poorly translated copy, from a brand they admire and are usually loyal to, then it could very easily damage their perception of that brand and could negatively affect their buying habits. However, if that copy was clearly labelled as machine translation, at least the customer would be warned and would perhaps be less critical of the translation.

The same goes for websites or social media platforms that process a large amount of user-generated content. It would simply not make sense to invest in professional human translation for user comments and replies. ‘See Translation’ features (on Facebook, for example) make much more sense as they are free and immediate. Users are generally aware that the output is a machine translation. Their expectations are low and being able to get the gist of a comment in another language is often all you need, so it serves a very specific purpose in a very specific context.

However, if a customer reads a beautifully written piece, from a global brand, which is labelled as professional human translation, they will appreciate the extra effort that has been made to connect with them in their mother tongue, and their perception of that brand will most likely improve.

Use these icons to educate your audience

Whether you opt for professional human translation, machine translation or a hybrid model, there is clearly a place for all three types. They are not opposites, nor are they enemies. They all can, and should, exist.

Companies shouldn’t be embarrassed about publishing machine translation or, even worse, try to pass it off as professional human translation. In our opinion, what’s important is that companies let their customers know what they are reading so they can manage their own expectations.

It is for this reason that we have developed these simple, easily identifiable icons, to help brands inform their audiences of the type of translation they are reading:

Professional Human Translation

This icon is based on a human figure, translating the English letter ‘A’ into the Mandarin equivalent. It can be used by brands on website pages or documents that have been translated by a professional human translator, to highlight the effort and investment that has gone into localising this content. It can also be used by translators and translation companies on their websites, social media accounts and business listings to promote themselves as professional human translators and therefore purveyors of high-quality creative translations.


Machine Translation

This icon is based on a simple robot figure, which represents all machine translation systems. It can be used by brands on website pages or documents that have, for whatever reason, been translated by a machine, warning the reader that there may be some mistakes or mistranslations, and that these are not the fault of the brand itself, but rather due to the limitations of machine translation.



Hybrid Translation

This icon, an amalgamation of the previous two, represents machine translation that has been proofread or edited by a professional human translator or linguist. It can be used to inform readers that the quality should be similar to professionally translated content, but it may not be idiomatic or completely ‘on-brand’.




To help companies and brands inform their customers and be transparent about what they are publishing, we are making these icons available as a free download. They can be added to websites and print or digital content, such as white papers, brochures and e-books, so they can be clearly identified as machine, hybrid or professional human translation.

We are also making these icons freely available to translators and linguists. We think it’s important that professional human translators clearly identify themselves as such, differentiating their work from automated output and celebrating their contribution to a brand’s marketing collateral. They can use the icons as a badge of honour and to position themselves as providers of professional human translation, hybrid translation or both, within the translation market place.

We hope that this will go some way to help remove the stigma attached to using machine translation and also help to celebrate the effort and expertise that comes with professional human translation.

If you would like to download the icons and use them on your website or content, all you have to do is fill in a short form, agree to the Licence Agreement, and we’ll send you a link where you can download the files. Ready? Go to the Downloads Page.

Marketing translation and return on investment

Marketing translation: the cost of (not) translating your brand

As modern consumers, we are constantly inundated with information. The rapid adoption of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and wearable tech, coupled with an increasingly reliable internet connection on the go, means that we are rarely off the grid. Digital content is coming at us from all angles and as a result, we have become very good at the art of ‘extreme skim reading’. As we try not to drown in content, we are learning to filter out anything that isn’t 100% relevant to us. We simply don’t have the time anymore to invest in reading something – anything – unless we feel that we really get something out of it. And we make that judgment call with lightning speed. In today’s fast-paced, content-rich world, 10 seconds is like a lifetime. So when your potential customer is reading your text (in whichever format you have delivered it, be it an email, a promoted Facebook post, your website, a Google Ad), you need to make it count.

When you create your English marketing materials, you have got it covered – you know exactly what works and you create bespoke messaging for your English-speaking target audience. But as your business starts to grow and you enter new markets for the first time, how will your English copy fare? Many international companies work with an ‘English first’ content strategy, where marketing content is first created in English (most often the company’s business language) and subsequently translated into other languages. In the beginning, a marketing translation is often more cost-effective and easier to manage and implement than engaging with content creators and marketing agencies in the new target markets.

In the translation industry, professionals often talk about localisation. The essence of localisation is to make the translated text as relevant as possible to readers in the target language. The aim is to speak to the reader in such a way that he/she wouldn’t even realise that the text is a translation. Why? There are two reasons:

Number 1: Familiarity

We tend to feel safer buying from a company who speaks the same language as us and who shares the same cultural values as us. In an e-commerce context, consumers face a lot of uncertainties when buying products or services from another country, so it’s only natural that they would be somewhat more sceptical about a foreign company. Is it safe to pay with my credit card on this website? What’s the return policy? What are my legal rights buying products from another country? Most companies will have all of this information very clearly laid on their website but your potential customer hasn’t even got that far yet. When he/she first interacts with your content, you want them to feel like they are in safe hands.

Number 2: Avoiding unnecessary distractions

You need to eliminate any elements that will cause your reader to pause unnecessarily, anything that will distract them from your core marketing message. For example, if you are only displaying prices in USD on your website, a German reader would have to convert the prices into EUR to understand if it’s a good deal or not. This means stopping, calculating in one’s head or checking on a currency conversion website. By that time, your prospect may already have lost interest (or simple hasn’t got the time) and has moved on.

In a world where people’s attention span is shorter than the time it takes to say ‘content marketing’, every interaction with your potential customers, however fleeting, must be interesting and inspire confidence in your brand. So when you get your marketing materials translated from English into another language, you need to get it right from the start. Of course, entering a new market is always associated with costs, including the cost of translation. But investing in a high-quality marketing translation is your best bet to ensure that your translated marketing copy will really resonate with your target audience, and that you will see a faster return on your investment in translation. In the end, it boils down to simple maths:


the cost of (not) translating your marketing content

Take your eco-brand abroad

Taking your eco-brand abroad

In honour of yesterday’s Earth Day we took a little time at AJT to indulge in conversations about one of our favourite topics: Earth-friendly living.

And that’s not just because Anja and I are Germans living in an area of outstanding natural beauty (also known as Cornwall :). But it is safe to say that growing up in Germany has provided us with an environmentally friendly state of mind and a consciousness for sustainable living from a very young age. Several bins at home for recycling and the discussion about whose turn it is to roll the wooden handcart filled with empty glass bottles and jars to the local glass containers was part of our family lives. So was the constant carrying around of cloth bags for shopping – buying a plastic bag is theoretically possible in Germany, but practically it is a bit of a taboo and has been for at least 25 years.

Even though the UK is lagging behind Germany a little when it comes to eco-friendliness, Britain has seen a lot of progress in the development of initiatives and brands that really care about the earth in the past decade. In the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, which evaluates how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues, the UK ranked 12th out of 178 countries showing a 3.48% improvement in the past ten years, while Germany comfortably rested in 6th place with an improvement of 1.89% over the past decade. These numbers show that eco-friendly innovation is growing fast in the UK and there are many reasons that suggest Britain could actually show Germany the ropes when it comes to making earth-friendly living even trendier. While Berlin is quickly developing as a hub for creativity and design, the UK still has an edge over Germany in most things aesthetic. NB: Our cloth bags in the 90s did not look half as cool as any of the designs you can buy in most fashion and health food shops across the UK today.

Breaking into the German eco-market with an innovative brand

German eco-brands are usually characterised by very high quality standards and plain or simple designs – a combination that is popular with German consumers. Still, there is a lot of scope for eco-friendly brands from the UK and elsewhere to mix things up and break into the German market. Here are just a few reasons why taking your eco-brand to Germany is probably a great idea:

  • Germany has a longstanding awareness of eco-friendly living and many Germans make eco-friendly purchase decisions.
  • Germans appreciate high quality products and are prepared to invest in sustainability and goods that last. A perfect example of this is Jack Wolfskin, a producer of high quality outdoor wear and equipment. They are so successful in Germany that spotting a group of people wearing Jack Wolfskin anywhere outside of Germany has almost become synonymous with “German tourists”.
  • Innovative designs and a creative approach to marketing will stand out in Germany: Imagine the possibilities of a high-quality product with a fresh innovative look and feel to it!

A great partner to help take your eco-brand abroad

Even though translating (unfortunately) doesn’t entail sticking our hands into soil on a daily basis, we love nature and strive to help making this planet a greener place. Working in the cloud means we use virtually no paper in our office and paying our translators a fair wage in turn enables them to invest in sustainable products and living. But most importantly: We love working with brands that care! Whether it’s natural skin food from our local skincare line Beyond Organics or responsibly sourced fabrics from cold water surfing company Finisterre – we are always keen to learn about new, innovative approaches to eco-friendly living and think out strategies to help clients take their messages abroad.

Get in touch with us to talk about all things earthy and how we can help you take your brand abroad.

Brand Cornwall goes global

Long gone are the times when the Cornish economic landscape was dominated by miners and fishermen. The last Cornish tin mine finally ceased production in 1998. These days, the Cornish economy is comprised of a colourful mix of small businesses in different, highly specialised fields. The main reason for this transformation: The internet. “Fibre broadband means we can send stuff around the globe in milliseconds”. The new Hub Awards 2014 video “Exporting Brand Cornwall” gives an insight into new and exciting business ventures in Cornwall.

With the world shrinking, Cornwall has become the home and a constant source of inspiration for many creative professionals. Whether it’s fashion, design, cosmetics or renewable energies – “Brand Cornwall has grown over the last 4-5 years”, says Tamsin Harris from Truro & Penwith College. And the benefits of working from an area of outstanding natural beauty reach beyond the River Tamar. The county’s reputation for innovation, good quality, an active lifestyle and sustainable living precede Cornish products and services in the UK and abroad. “Living in Cornwall gives us a lot of credibility”, says Mark Jones, Director of the outdoor brand Dritek and Co-Director of AJT. Amanda Barlow, creator of the organic cosmetics range Spiezia, agrees: “People in London hear the word Cornwall and it gives more authenticity to my brand. It’s a real asset.”

For most people living in Cornwall is a lifestyle choice. But it doesn’t mean a lack of career. It’s not only an aspirational, but also a very entrepreneurial place and people increasingly create their own dream careers. Modern innovation centres in Penryn, Pool and Truro and the expansion of Falmouth and Exeter Universities, with many graduates staying in Cornwall after finishing their degree, are only some of the reasons why innovation is flourishing in Cornwall. The creative freedom and space to breathe motivates people to do what they love. And when people do what they love, they are usually good at it.

Tempted to live and work by the sea? Check out our latest vacancy: English to French Translator (in-house position)


HUB Awards 2014 | EXPORTING BRAND CORNWALL from The MotionFarm on Vimeo.

Crative Translation

Creative translation: Your marketing message on everyone’s lips

“I have bumble bees in my butt”, I once told a friend. He couldn’t stop laughing. Apparently, unlike Germans, the English don’t get bitten by bumble bees when they feel restless – they have ants in their pants. Both seems equally uncomfortable. But knowing these little nuances of languages is the first step to really understanding a different culture.

A good marketing translation requires thorough knowledge of your target culture. It means that sometimes not only the sales text needs to be localised, but also the brand’s visual language. Can you imagine why the following German Waldbusch advert “2 Hemden zum Preis von 1” (buy 1 shirt, get one free) could be offensive to a British audience?

Creative Translation

Example of good transcreation

If you are launching your product or services into foreign realms for the first time, you should make sure your message sounds natural and professional in your target language. This is where creative translation or transcreation comes in. It means not literally translating a sentence or marketing message, but to use the carefully crafted original text as a point of reference in order to create equally enchanting foreign copy. A good example of a well-transcreated brand message is Haribo’s German tagline “Haribo macht Kinder froh und Erwachsene ebenso”. Literally translated it reads “Haribo makes children happy, and adults as well” – not very catchy in English. So instead the marketing team came up with “Happy world of Haribo”, which rhymes perfectly with “Kids and adults love it so” and has become just as widely known abroad as the original at home.

First impressions count

To get your marketing translation right from the start is crucial. It sets the tone of your entire international campaign and gives a first impression of your company to customers abroad. High quality copy will resonate with the target audience, whereas poorly translated sales text will fail to build trust in your brand. Ideally, your marketing copy should not only be translated in a clever and catchy way, it should also take into consideration the cultural context and language connotations of both your own and your target language and culture.

Vorsprung durch Technik

The German car industry provides us with prime examples of how culturally loaded language is – and how this can be fully exploited when taking your brand abroad. Both Audi and Volkswagen decided to keep their German slogans “Vorsprung durch Technik” and “Das Auto” in its original language. This is a marketing stroke of genius. The German slogans not only carry their brand across borders, they’re using the language as a signifier to export cultural connotations, or in other words, all those attributes Germans are known for: High quality, innovative engineering and reliability. When it comes to technology, “Made in Germany” is a quality seal that people trust in.

In some circumstances keeping parts of your marketing message in its original language can be just as important as an inventive and high quality transcreation of other parts of your sales copy. Would you like your marketing message to be on everyone’s lips soon – at home and abroad? Get in touch and learn more about our creative translation services.

Creative translation meets content creation

Here at AJT we love words. Whilst languages are our tools, words are our raw materials. We chip, chop and slice translated text every day and carefully craft copy that gives the original text a fresh foreign face.

We specialise in translating marketing copy in German, French and English that sounds just as creative in the target language as in its original – often our work is closer to that of an editor or copywriter than to that of a traditional translator. Now we really want to hone the art of writing and take our language services to the next level: AJT is going back to school.

Falmouth’s creative writing community right on our doorstep

Starting next week, Jenny and Anja will be part of the vibrant and creative community of the School of Writing and Journalism at Falmouth University. Being a Cornwall-based company, Falmouth’s writing short courses were a natural choice for us. Not only will we be studying at a renowned Arts university with excellent learning resources right on our doorstep, we are also lucky enough to be tutored by an expert in the field of technology writing: Professor Jason Whittaker is a former editor of the computer magazine PC Advisor and has published many articles and reviews in the realms of technology.

Translation and copywriting in German, French and English from a single source

We strongly believe that translation and copywriting go hand in hand and we would like to offer our clients a comprehensive package. Whether we’re translating, editing or writing: Our goal is to deliver great copy that engages the reader and helps our clients to reach new audiences abroad. Especially when it comes to creative marketing campaigns, the best results may be achieved with freshly pressed copy by native speakers who are experts in your target culture. Creative translation or content creation? Whether your company is taking a first glance across borders or is already established in foreign markets, we would love to talk to you about your localisation efforts.

Don’t let your marketing message get lost in (machine) translation

Have you ever wondered whether you could use machine translation to translate your website into other languages? After all, it would save you a lot of money and your website visitors would get ‘the general gist of your offering’. But is that enough to entice potential customer to buy from your website?

“Qualität kommt von Qual” – a popular German phrase for students of writing and journalism and one of those sentences that will never sound quite right in literal translation. Google Translator suggests: “Quality comes from torment”. The meaning is correct, but the word play is lost. This is a typical example of the limitations of machine translation.

Machine translation can be useful

That’s not to say that machine translation should be entirely disregarded. Statistical machine translators such as Google Translator work just like the search engine and source their translations from millions of documents on the web, albeit regardless of quality. It is a free and fast service, which will provide a general overview of your offerings in another language. The University of Bristol for example uses Google Translator to translate their website into various languages and gives a legitimate reason for their choice: “By having Google Translate on our website, we are signalling the fact that we want to reach out and communicate as widely as possible.”

When it comes to marketing copy, key messages could be lost

The real limitations of machines become obvious when it comes to the translation of marketing copy. Machine translators cannot usually translate phrases or metaphors, which are frequently used in creative copy, in a way that makes sense in the target language. They are not aware of the fine nuances of different languages and most importantly; they try to mimic, but do not really know any grammar. In its original language marketing copy is usually very carefully crafted to animate the reader and speak to its audience. This spark as well as the key messages could be entirely lost in machine translation. In some cases, a machine translation can even damage your brand. Imagine, for example, you’re the marketing manager of a dog-friendly hotel in the southwest of England and Google Translator turns your selling point into the German version of: “This hotel is a dog.” (Real-life example!!)

A high quality translation will present your company in the right light

To achieve the same high quality that your original copy has and really engage with a new audience and potential customers abroad, you will need a professional translation. A good translation will not only reflect well on your company’s image abroad. Customers will also be much more likely to understand, trust and buy your products or services. Professional translators ensure that your copy sounds just as creative and engaging in your target language and use their expertise of your target culture to bring your marketing messages across in the right tone of voice.

Quality doesn’t have to be “torment”, but it doesn’t come free either. Quality comes at a price and a high quality translation is as much a labour of love as your carefully crafted original copy. Professional translation is certainly an investment – but particularly for marketing copy, it also comes with a good ROI.

We translate your brand … and feed you wine and chocolate!

We’re happy to report it’s been a successful day at the Cornwall Business Fair 2014!

Our stand – sponsored by the fabulous team at Get Set for Growth – was very well attended, not least because of our special ‘taste off’, featuring French, German and English (Cornish actually!) wines and chocolates. We shall be crunching numbers tonight and announcing the winning country tomorrow – as well as the lucky winner of a lovely Cornish hamper 🙂

It was also a great event to officially launch our new website and branding, which was very well received indeed!

Thanks to all the people who came to our stand today – it was a pleasure meeting you all. If you’d like to find out more info about our translation services, or our experience with Get Set for Growth, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Get Set for Growth: A fantastic support program for growing businesses

We have recently been involved with the fantastic Get Set for Growth program, receiving 1:1 business support to help us manage our growth in a sustainable way.

We were really impressed with the level of expertise and the hands on support we have received in the areas of finance and marketing, and would recommend the program to any business looking at their growth strategy.

Together with Get Set’s finance expert we have been able to work through cash flow forecasting and look at all the different options of taking on additional staff. And with the help of Get Set’s marketing expert, we were able to really focus our service offering and establish an annual marketing plan.

Rather than providing purely general business coaching, this program really is all about the individual business and their unique needs with regards to achieving and managing growth.

Anja Jones Translation was recently featured on the Get Set for Growth website as a client, you can read the full story here.

Here is a short video that explains in more detail what Get Set for Growth do, and how we and other businesses in Cornwall have benefited from working with them: