Written by David Creighton
During your stay in the Czech Republic you will need documents translated into Czech, whether for official purposes or otherwise. Some basic issues surrounding translations are discussed below.
As elsewhere, translations here are usually performed by freelance translators. They work for agencies, their own clients or both. Sometimes they work in particular fields and may have gained their knowledge by working in the areas they specialise in, such as finance.
Quality is still an issue in the Czech Republic: many translations are still not checked by a native speaker, and there is still no body overseeing adherence to any quality standards. Any person can set up as a translator. The Czech Union of Translators and Interpreters (Jednota tlumočníků a překladatelů or JTP) is the professional body and trade union for translators in the Czech Republic, but its members do not need to undergo professional examinations or training to prove their competence.
Finding the right translator
Native speakers should translate texts into English for obvious reasons, but there are not many of those in the Czech Republic, with a large percentage of translations being carried out by Czechs. Unfortunately, standards among such translators varies widely, and the number of those who can write like a native speaker is small. Furthermore, if your text is quite specialised (and this is often the case), then the translator may not have the required expertise.
You can choose an agency or an individual translator. Some translators work closely together as a team but are not an actual company. If you require translations frequently finding the right person, company or group at the start is especially important. Whatever you decide, you should define the conditions at the outset (usually this does not involve contracts).
If you decide on an agency as your supplier, there are numerous firms to choose from, especially in Prague, and most are listed in the Yellow Pages (Zlaté stránky). The larger firms may be more able to cope with more demanding requirements, although a smaller, more specialised firm may be able to offer a more personal and better quality service. Find out about the agency before making a decision, and ask other ex-pats for their opinions.
Agencies rely on a pool of freelance translators, so the likelihood of finding a translator who knows about terminology and has an excellent grasp of the target language can vary dramatically, although native speakers do work for agencies too. Furthermore, a personal approach is important when dealing with a translator (e.g. terminology may need discussion), and agencies cannot specify who will translate the text – essentially they have to decide to whom the translation should be assigned on the basis of availability and the best person for the job.
You may wish to consider dealing with a translator directly, and you can find a list of translators in the Yellow Pages. The JTP (www.jtpunion.org) has a database of translators, and this might be better than the Yellow Pages, as you can obtain a bit more information about the translator from the website. Remember however that members listed on the JTP database do not need to give details of their experience.
You should ask various questions, such as: how much experience the translator has; how quickly he or she is able to work (6 standard pages is seen as the daily standard); is he or she comfortable with express translations (see below – some translators do not accept this type of work); and what computer packages the translator is familiar with. If the translator has studied at the Institute of Translation Studies of Charles University, an internationally recognised institution and unique in the Czech Republic, then you have a far better guarantee of quality, although it is not a 100% guarantee. There are, however, extremely good translators who have learned their craft simply through years of experience and continuous learning.
It might be suitable to work with translators you know personally or through word of mouth. You may also want to try translators who work together but are not a company, and working with such groups has definite advantages. “We are concerned about quality and consistency, “ says Miroslav Pošta, a member of such a group, whose members all studied at the Institute of Translation Studies. Finding the right arrangement may be time consuming, but on the other hand it can be the start of a long-term business relationship.
Translation rates and payment
In the Czech Republic translators are usually paid per page rather than per word. In this context page means a ‘Word´ document of 1500 characters without spaces (based on JTP recommendations), or 1800 characters including spaces. This is referred to as a standard page (normostrana in Czech). The number of pages that a translator can deliver in a specified timescale varies, and this will obviously depend on the type of text, text quality etc. Once the translation is done the translator will send you an invoice for the work.
Rates vary considerably, depending on the translator. They range from CZK 200 (or even less) to CZK 450, possibly more, for a standard page. Surcharges will be applied in certain situations, e.g. express translations (regarded as more than 6 standard pages per day), weekend translations or higher rates for extremely complex texts. Amounts vary, but there are recommended minimum rates, e.g. 50% surcharge for translations carried out on Saturday. Remember that the final cost is based on the number of standard pages in the target language.
As an ex-pat you will need the services of a court interpreter (soudní tlumočník: in the Czech Republic this term covers both translators and interpreters) at some point for translations of official documents such as birth certificates or certificates of incorporation.
The court translator, or court interpreter, may undergo special training; for several years now he or she has been accepted by the courts based on an exam, but this was not the case in the past. Quality is still not guaranteed, and some court translators are better than others. Given that court translators are normally translating into their native language this will not cause any problems for you, although bad court translations into Czech have been known. You can obtain a list of court translators at www.kstcr.cz.
As with non-official translations, there are rules regarding price per page, express translations and deadlines.
A comprehensive list of translators can be found in the Expats.cz Business Directory. Click here for a full list