Berlin Translate, as the name suggests, is a translation agency based in the German capital, offering certified translation services by sworn translators and specialist translations by native speakers. A 2019 German Business Award winner, the agency has offices across Europe and works with a network of translators around the world. I spoke to agency founder Florian Ravaux.
Hi Florian, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your translation agency, Berlin Translate, and the work of your team. Can you start by telling us something about Berlin Translate, how it started, and the services you provide.
We started a bit by chance. Originally French, I was an expatriate myself in Berlin and I needed to find my place and balance between my French origins and my new life in Berlin. At the same time, I felt a need for translation.
Setting up our translation agency has allowed me to pass on my personal experience as an expatriate, my love of foreign cultures and languages.
What brings a native Breton to Berlin? And what made you apply your expertise in European law to the world of translation?
During my law studies, I fell in love with a German girl who came to do her ERASMUS at my university. When she left, I could no longer live as I had before and I decided to join her in Germany. I thought I would deepen my knowledge of German and work in European and Franco-German law.
Although your agency offers translations in a wide range of language combinations and for many different types of text, what make you specialize as a certified translation service provider, or at least to focus on certified translations as a specialism?
We mainly translate official documents. This is the DNA of our agency. We want to help and encourage people to live abroad and facilitate the exchange between cultures.
Basically, we are very interested in why people need to translate official documents: the need or desire to get out of their own culture.
For the sake of clarity, what is a certified translation, and who is qualified to provide them?
A certified translation is an official translation made by a sworn translator.
It is a form of translation that is required for the translation of official documents such as an identity card, a diploma or a death certificate. A certified translation can be recognised by its stamp and the signature of the sworn translator on the document.
I assume the majority of official documents requiring translation and certification falls within a fairly limited range – birth, marriage, death certificates, professional qualifications, etc., each of which will come in a reasonably standardized format. Once you’ve built up a certain level of experience, that must make your work extremely efficient. Can you throw some light on your translation process?
Today, we take care to treat each document in a personalised way, but it is true that some documents are similar and the procedure remains the same.
Once the document is received by email, we start the translation and send our clients a first version by email in PDF format with stamp and signature and then the originals by post.
What tools does your agency work with? Do you require your translators to work with a particular CAT tool, or on your own servers?
No. With us, translators work with the software they want and we focus on human translation, although we also use CAT tools. Here too, we make sure that the use of our software is free of charge for the translators working with us.
Do you use translation management software (such as Plunet)? If so, is this a real boost to your efficiency?
No. Not at the moment. We use classic management software that is not specific to translation.
What makes your agency stand out amongst the competition? What’s your USP?
Our DNA is truly a love of languages and a willingness to help people overcome their own culture. This is what our clients feel and love about us, especially as our rates are very competitive.
If you are looking to expand your team, what do you look for in the translators you work with?
We are currently looking for sworn translators. We are looking for people with the same vision as us on digital work, travel and cultural exchanges.
What’s better from your perspective: qualified translators who then specialise in a field such as legal translation, or lawyers who subsequently become translators?
This is an excellent question. It would be best to have both. Because if a lawyer understands the law better than a young translator, mistakes in the translation can be dramatic.
In the same way, it is impossible to translate a document well if you don't understand the content. So specialisation is above all a question of experience. With time, a good lawyer by training will become a good translator and conversely a good translator specialising in law will become a legal expert.
Where do you advertise your certified translation services? Which channels do you find most effective in bringing in new business?
We only work on the natural referencing of our site in order to gain visibility. As we do not have an advertising budget, we can guarantee more attractive translation prices.
On your website you advertise CAT tools as a way of saving translation time and therefore costs for your client. But I know a lot of freelancers would say that they are the ones buying the tools and investing the time to learn how to use them, so why should they “give away” this extra value to the customer? Or is the ability to offer a lower translation price simply the overriding factor when it comes to generating business?
That's a good question. It will depend on the project, its size, its difficulty and the number of repetitions. Some commercial texts contain a lot of repetition, up to 50%. In this case, we are obliged to take these repetitions into account in our budget.
Secondly, we make our CAT tools available free of charge so that translators do not have to buy them, and thirdly, we do a lot of work with former trainees whom we have trained in our tools.
What are your ambitions for Berlin Translate?
We aim to become the leading translation agency in Berlin for both companies and private individuals with our specialist and certified translation services.
We are still working on other projects such as our translation agency in Paris and Barcelona and we are working on a larger project: that of an online agency to help people who work online to become self-employed (Digital Nomad).
If you could go back in time to when you were just starting out in translation and give yourself or another young translator one piece of advice, what would it be?
My advice would be to travel and live abroad. It is not only an essential professional experience to master a language, but also a real life lesson. Moreover, the translation profession is perfectly compatible with digital nomadism. Today, I would dream of travelling around the world while working.
Secondly, finding your career path is first and foremost a personal matter: you have to find something you like and know how to do, meeting a need before you want to earn money. The rest comes by itself with work and time.
Many thanks for taking the time to speak to us, Florian. We wish Berlin Translate all the best!
If you'd like to get in touch with certified translation service provider Florian Ravaux, you can contact him via the Berlin Translate website.