Navigating the Translation of EB-5 Documents: Common Concerns and Insights
by Jason Gurvitz
Translations are one of the most misunderstood areas of international business, and the EB-5 industry is no different. Despite the enormous amounts of energy and resources invested to prepare an EB-5 project for presentation to foreign investors, regional centers, law firms, private developers, and consultants frequently make critical mistakes with translations of documents.
Getting started with the wrong translation can be disastrous. By avoiding a professional translation agency, a company may lose weeks or months of valuable time and money only to receive translations that are partially or completely unusable. Poor translations can not only distract investors from fully understanding the project, but may also scare off investors that wonder why they should invest in a company that cannot even properly translate its documents.
It is now common knowledge that the Securities & Exchange Commission and other regulators are paying very close attention to EB-5 offerings to ensure that they are properly conducted and that investors are not being defrauded. Perhaps the most important tenet of securities law is anti-fraud protection. The essence of anti-fraud securities laws is to ensure that investors are given all of the material information that a reasonable investor would deem important to consider when making an investment decision. If investors are being given information in their native language, companies should take efforts to ensure that those translations are proper. Of course, it should be made clear that the English version of the documents should govern, but it is nevertheless important for translations to be accurate and consistent with those English versions.
The Art of Working with Translation Companies
So how do you work with translation agencies? In this article, we’ll give you some useful insights that will help you pick the right translation agency and work efficiently with it.
First, understand that translation requires professionals. High quality translations, especially those required for the EB-5 industry, should not be done by a random person simply because they happen to be a bilingual cousin, neighbor, friend, associate, co-worker, or assistant. A qualified interpreter might not even be appropriate to handle translations. That last statement might seem shocking, but let’s explore the difference between a translator and an interpreter. A translator handles written documents. An interpreter helps two parties or groups of people verbally communicate in different languages, whether by phone or in person. Not all translators, even great translators or interpreters, are skilled at all areas of business translation. A translator may be qualified to translate highly technical engineering documents from NASA but may be unable to properly translate business and legal reports. While some professional interpreters can translate and some professional translators can interpret, they often specialize in one or the other. Therefore, it’s important to note that translators might not be qualified interpreters, and interpreters might not be qualified translators, even within the same industry. For example, an interpreter may be able to easily handle an EB-5 investor site visit, but might struggle to translate EB-5 documents for the same project.
Companies should also understand the mechanics behind translation workflow and pricing of translations. While translation companies might have general rates, in order to provide an accurate estimation of cost, the translation company needs to see the documents prior to providing a quote. Without first reviewing the documents and determining total word count, difficulty of the terminology, and overall delivery time required, translation companies cannot provide accurate estimates. You should be wary of those that immediately provide a quote without understanding all the factors involved in accurate and timely delivery.
Quality Translations are Priced Per Word
Quality professional translations are priced per word, not per page. There could be five words on a title page for example and an average of 450 words on others, so per word pricing is the only way to ensure total accuracy and efficiency in pricing and timeline. For larger projects with a variety of documents, a good translation company may be able to assign differently qualified translators to different parts of a project, thereby saving its client substantial fees.
Companies should also understand that translation companies may need to take into account the formatting of documents they are asked to translate. A simple chart, for example, may take minutes to translate and an hour to format. Therefore, the charge for formatting can greatly affect the time to complete a translation and the price of the translation. Documents with vast amounts of tables, numbers, charts, etc. that require recreation in the target language, but which have only a few hundred words, may take longer to complete than documents with many more words and no formatting.
Documents that originate in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Pages or any other program in which the source text can easily be typed over, are far easier to translate than scanned PDFs, which require total recreation from scratch. Many companies prefer to provide PDFs, but the extra work that a translation company must do manually to recreate text and formatting will lead to higher translation costs.
For transcriptions and translations of video and audio interviews and presentation videos, there is no fixed rate, as there are many factors that vary from project to project. These factors include audio quality, total number of minutes to transcribe, number of speakers, formatting of time code, if any, final delivery date, and whether the translation agency is required to add subtitles or voiceover to the video themselves.
In most cases, per word rates include translation, proofreading, final editing, and project management. Professional translation agencies should have several layers of quality control. In the EB-5 industry, professional translation agencies must ensure that the highly technical language of EB-5 translations is conducted by specialized EB-5 translators who are, in some cases, not only professional translators but also current or former lawyers or other experienced legal professionals.
Good Translations Takes Time
Good work product requires time. Give professional translators adequate time to prepare translations. To do a high quality translation requires highly skilled professionals who need enough time to carry out their trade. A company that takes the chance of hiring a budget translator needs to understand that there may be insufficient time to hire a different translation company to re-do the translation. A company that hires a translation company, even one that would ordinarily do a good job, but does not give it sufficient time to do a proper job, will not achieve the best results.
Understanding the time involved to complete a translation is very critical, not only for pricing, but for quality. It is almost always better for only one translator and 1-2 editors to work on any given large document, but time restrictions can make that impossible.
Most professional career translators can translate approximately 3,500 words per day with enough time leftover to review their own work. Professional editors can proofread and then edit roughly 10,000 words per day depending on the difficulty of the document. The sooner a client requires a high word count translation to be completed, the more likely that document must be split among other translators. The more translators there are who work on one document, the higher the chance of inconsistency in language flow and errors. Regardless of how skilled multiple translators are who work on the same document, there will undoubtedly be differences in the translation of exactly the same phrase between one translator and another. That inconsistency is generally resolved following a thorough revision by one or more editors. A project manager then works with the translators and editors to conform those pages so that the final translated document appears as if one person translated it. This method of translation is sometimes necessary for rush projects, but it not only increases the margin of error, but also the price per word, as costs of the expanded team must be accounted for.
Dialects Impact Translations
Another very important aspect to translation that companies often do not consider is the localization of a certain language. Many foreign languages are made up of many dialects and regional nuances that dramatically affect how translations are made. The terminology and jargon can vary substantially between regions, especially in a country as large as China or a region as large as Asia.
For example, Chinese characters may be written in either simplified or traditional form. Simplified characters are more common in China, but in Hong Kong and Taiwan, traditional Chinese characters may be more appropriate. A person who is able to read simplified characters might not be able to read traditional ones, and vice versa. Beyond just how characters are written, different regions throughout Asia, and even within China alone, may use different phrases or terminology to describe the same thing.
Though Chinese nationals dominate EB-5, there are other countries to consider as well. When translating for Spanish, there are differences between Castilian Spanish, Mexican Spanish, and Argentine Spanish, just as there are differences between French used in France and the French used in Quebec, Canada. This highlights the risk of having that friend that happens to know Castilian Spanish translate something that is intended for marketing in Mexico. The casual friend would not likely have the same experience as a career professional translator with hundreds of thousands or millions of words of translation under his or her belt. Professional translation agencies understand this dynamic and will choose the right translator for the job.
Making the Best Choice
EB-5 companies should look for translation companies that work in a professional manner through a mutual understanding of all factors involved in the translation. Do not make a decision based on price alone. Look at the background of the translation company and their qualifications. Do they have experience in the type of translation you need? Do they have references and a good reputation? Do not be afraid to ask for the resumes and backgrounds of the translators and editors that will be working on the translation project. Ask about the translation workflow to understand whether there are a series of quality control checks being performed as the translation is being completed. A good translation company will take the time to understand the needs of its client’s translation project to customize a timeline, budget, and quality that suit the client.