This article offers 3 easy ways for translating a Word document from English to French while keeping (to the greatest extent possible) the formatting the same. It also attempts to give you an impartial response as to the benefits and limitations of automatic on-line translation solutions, by having you respond to several questions.
Should you turn to a professional translator or an on-line automatic translator when you want to share an English-language Word document with French-language audiences?
The best solution for translating your document from English into French will depend on your answers to the next few questions:
- What is the target audience for the French document translated from English?
- Is the document to be translated into French considered confidential?
- Do you speak French?
- Is the formatting of the English-language source file basic, or instead elaborate?
- Does the English text of the file to be translated deal with a general topic, or one requiring specialist knowledge, e.g., financial, legal, technical or scientific?
- How soon do you need the French translation of your English-language original?
- What budget are you willing to dedicate to the translation?
Who is the final target audience of the French document translated from English?
Is your translated document intended for co-workers or clients?
Is your source file in English a series of internal e-mails of little strategic importance, or quite to the contrary, a contract that will be binding on your company?
Translated documents are used for two broad purposes:
1. FIPO, For Information Purposes Only
2. For publication purposes, or in a strategic context (legal, financial, marketing)
As can be easily guessed, in the first instance, the aim is simply to get the gist of the source document. A few minor errors in translation, grammar, or punctuation can be overlooked, as can clumsily-structured sentences. If this is your case, you can opt for free automatic translation, as long as you are aware that the result will be far from perfection.
In the second instance, the translation is binding on a company or institution. The translation will thus need to have pinpoint accuracy. You will have to call upon a professional translator.
|Using the translated document||Type of translation possible|
|Document translated to enable a general understanding (FIPO, For Information Purposes Only as the English acronym goes)||Automatic translation possible|
|Translating a document for publication or in a strategic context (legal, financial, marketing)||Translation by a professional translator recommended|
Is the document to be translated into French confidential?
If your response to this question is YES, then it is essential that you steer clear of free on-line translators.
Even if your consent is not requested, by taking advantage of a free service, you are agreeing to share your source data and the translation results. Rather than writing, “if it’s free, then you’re the product”, a phrase that has become commonplace, though not always true, we’ll say, “if it’s free, then it offers no guarantees”… in this case, on confidentiality.
Consequently, if your source Word document is confidential (for instance, a contract, a charter or a strategy), go with the services of a professional translator. So yes, confidentiality does have a cost.
Do you speak French?
Un petit peu? But is it good enough?
The real question is not so much whether you speak the language into which the document will be translated, but rather whether you are proficient enough in it to critically proofread the French translation of a Word file that was originally in English.
Contrary to what is sometimes believed, in the field of translation,
professional translators always translate only into their mother tongue.
For all those amongst us who have written “fluent” in our résumés, to describe our mastery of the French language, we would likely be able to edit the document produced by an automatic on-line translator, from English into French, correcting its inaccuracies and imperfections.
For those whose proficiency in French is not quite up to snuff, the choice between professional translator and machine translator will be a closer call. The decision will depend on how you answered the other questions asked on this page, such as, “how will this translation be used?”.
For a translation with nothing riding on it, intended to convey information quickly and simply, a good on-line translator will do.
OK, but which one? More on this question below.
For a translation carrying higher stakes, you will need to tread more carefully. We recommend that you go to a professional rather than opting for an automatic translation proof-read by a friend who, as he assures you, speaks good French. You have no proof that your friend actually has the skills he claims, what’s more, in the specialised field with which your source document deals.
We are sometimes asked to have (poor) machine translations edited by one of our linguists. This is another miscalculation, as it is always quicker for a good translator to work from the source document – your original, in English – than to take apart a poor translation and put it back together, referring to your source. Make no mistake about it.
Is the formatting of the English-language source file basic, or instead elaborate?
Most automatic on-line translators, like our translator at Ubiqus IO, offers a Word file translation service (often restricted and limited), promising to maintain the same layout and formatting as the initial document. Depending on the on-line service you choose (see below), you will see that the free solutions work from your source document in the Word environment, but display the translation on-line, in HTML format.
By carefully copy-pasting this text into Word, you can hope to maintain the formatting…. Though there are no guarantees. This hope fades entirely when source file’s formatting in Word is elaborate.
Only a professional translator will be able to maintain the entirety of your formatting in the Word file.
Contrary to what one might think, this is not because the translator opens the English document in Word and translates it line after line, in that environment. In reality, like all specialised workers, translators use software specially-designed for their profession. The programme will preserve the entirety of the formatting in its memory, all the while enabling the translation professional to produce a document under optimal conditions. Once the translation is complete, the software automatically generates a Word file visually identical to the source, but translated into French. Like magic.
Does the English text of the file to be translated deal with a general topic, or one requiring specialist knowledge, e.g., financial, legal, technical or scientific?
The document’s content – general versus specialised – is truly the central factor in determining whether to use an on-line machine translator, or turn to a professional.
Even if you did answer “Yes”, to the question, “Do you speak French”, and you do so fluently, will you be as comfortable when it comes to reading a contract, a document replete with financial jargon, or medical terms?
The same goes for your office neighbour or Harry, in Accounting, who offered to help you.
Once again, if the purpose of translating your document into French is internal or just to give others the gist of what it says, automatic translation does seem to be a good solution. At first glance.
That is, if the artificial intelligence that provides the machine translation is, itself, specialised.
None of the solutions presented on this page can make that claim:
These on-line translators, intended for the general public, are designed to respond to generalist requests.
Serving the broadest possible audience. Not working on intricate technical subjects.
How can you be sure that this is the case?
None of the free engines, with the noteworthy exception of the one offered by yours truly, Ubiqus IO gives you the freedom to specify your source document’s field of specialisation.
To be specialised, a neuronal translation engine needs to have been trained with homogeneous data dealing primarily with the topics to be translated, such as legal, financial or medical.
To be sure to receive a quality translation, even “for information purposes only”, it is best that you call upon a professional human translator, when the document deals with a technical or complex topic.
How soon do you need the French translation of your document written in English?
Ever heard of Mo Selim?
He became famous by publishing a series of short videos comparing drawings of Spiderman produced in 10 minutes, 1 minute and, lastly… 10 seconds. Here is the video.
The result packs a real punch: to achieve a good outcome, you need to put in the necessary time.
The fastest solutions are often the least perfect.
Consequently, if you need your translation right here and right now, don’t expect qualitative miracles. The outcome will be fair to middling, with obvious flaws, and the only almost-instantaneous solution will be to use an automatic translation website offering English to French.
As we will see later, on-line services working from a Word file often place a limit on the number of characters accepted. Is your document longer than 8,000 characters (or approximately 700 words, i.e. just…two pages)? You will probably need to slice it up into different documents and enter them, one after the next, into the on-line translator. Not the greatest way to save time.
So, how about taking another look at that deadline? It is true that a Word document translated by an English-French expert will take time. In fact, until recently, it was the rule of thumb that a good translator can translate only 2,000 to 2,500 (source) words per day. In other words, no more than 4 to 5 relatively packed pages!
It often comes as a shock to our clients when they find out that a professional translator needs that much time to complete their job!
With the progress made by computer-assisted translation software, that daily word count can rise significantly. However, as Mo Selim showed in his entertaining comparison, a quality job demands time!
So, if you have a few days to spare, why not put your trust in a professional for your document translation?
Yes, but what if the document is dozens of pages long, and you have only a few hours? The solution will still be to work with a language services agency such as Ubiqus IO, as opposed to a single freelancer.
The translation agency will be able to assign multiple translators to the same document. Whereas if you have only one translator… Well, he’ll do what he can.
The linguists working for the professional translation agency will get to work simultaneously, and thus significantly shorten your turnaround time.
This time-saving solution might, as already stated (thanks, Mo Selim) negatively impact the quality of your translation. One of the risks is that your document, though translated from English into French, lacks terminological and stylistic consistency.
Some of the words repeated across the document may be translated differently, depending on each translator’s choices.
A brief talk with an on-line agency such as Ubiqus IO can help you limit, or even side-step that issue entirely, if you have a glossary ready or take the time to prepare one!
At Ubiqus IO, for instance, the time required to produce your translation is estimated on-line, live, using our automatic calculator. The result is often a good time/price balance. However, should you have tighter time requirements, just contact us and we can explore your needs together.
Ultimately, there are always solutions. However, all of them will require at least a little time! Let that be a word to the wise.
What is your budget for translation?
If your translated document is intended only to enable a general understanding, your response will surely be “nothing, niente, nada”! Your only option will thus be free automatic translation which we present below.
However, if your translation is destined for publication then the resulting document will represent your company or yourself. No hat tricks here: you will have to pay some amount to be sure that your translation is of adequate quality. Free on-line Word file translation solutions are not the thing for you.
I can sense the shivers going down your spine, as you wonder:
How much does it cost to have a Word document translated from English to French by a professional?
In most cases, professional translation agencies apply rates by source word, adjusted in the event of specialised content.
In this case, as the language pair is English-French, translation rates will vary from 10 to 20 cents per source word.
The difference in price per word from English to French will depend on:
- The agency you select;
- The speciality area with which your document deals.
Below is a grid showing, for guidance purposes, the price of translation per word, from English to French:
|Area of specialisation||Prices observed on the market, for guidance purposes||Price per word at Ubiqus IO|
|None (general content)||€0.10 – 0.14 per word||€0.10 per word|
|Finance||€0.12 – 0.18 per word||€0.12 per word|
|Legal||€0.12 – 0.18 per word||€0.12 per word|
|Medical and pharmaceutical||€0.13 – €0.20 per word||€0.13 per word|
|Scientific||€0.12 – €0.20 per word||€0.13 per word|
Note also that, if your document is very short (less than 200 or 300 words), most agencies will apply a flat-fee service charge, i.e., a minimum price beyond which pricing per word begins.
Conclusions from our Q&A
In conclusion, here is a brief summary chart of the questions you should have in mind before producing a translation of a Word file from English to French:
|Translation by a professional translator||Automatic on-line translation|
|Using the translated version||The translated document will be used for publication purposes, or in a complex context.||The translated document is used FIPO (for general understanding purposes)|
|Speed||A translator working alone will be able to translate around 4 or 5 pages per day; a competent agency will be able to set up a team of linguists to meet the client’s deadline||The translation is almost immediate, but often subject to a limit on the number of characters|
|Quality||The quality of the translation can depend on the quality of the agency; if it is professional, quality will be optimal||The quality of the translation will vary between good and mediocre, depending on the engine used and the degree to which the text is specialised|
|Word layout||Suited to all types of layout, basic to elaborate||For basic formatting, as automatic translators transpose Word into HTML (see below)|
|Professional translation from English into French, as carried out by companies, does have a price.
Ubiqus IO charges from €0.10 per source word.
|On-line translators are often free, but set limits on the number of characters you can have translated at once|
Free solutions for having a Word file translated from English to French
Are all free solutions for translating a word processing file from English to French created equal?
Free automatic text translators have become essential in the everyday. By and large, these are solid tools for general content translations, but unsuited when it comes to specialised translation. Hereafter, we present you with two little-known functions of the best-known translators.
#1. Microsoft Word’s translation function
The first free solution for translating a Word file from English to French is also relatively little-known: using Word itself.
To translate your document, just open Word, then click on “Revise” in the menu bar.
Click the button “Translate”, which will open up three options.
We will be using the first option, where you can (if you wish) choose the translation target language.
For the purists reading this, only American English is offered as a target language.
Rather surprisingly, the translation results are not displayed in the software itself. You will be asked for permission to export your data to Windows’ on-line translation software, Bing Translator. In the process, Windows will use the opportunity to open up its own browser, Internet Explorer, to publish your results. Even if that is not your default browser. Pretty sneaky!
Your translation into French will, to whatever extent possible, be shown in the formatting you originally chose for your prose, but will still have been converted into HTML format.
You will always be able to reimport the content into a Word document by copy-pasting it (ideally into the starting document, so as to keep the same layout and default styles as your source file).
In our test, only the first 1,500 words / 8,000 characters or our text were translated, i.e., a bit more than the 5,000-character limit usually set by this on-line translator.
As Bing is not a bad translator, the resulting translation will be mediocre to good, depending on the subject matter.
#2. Google Translate
Google Translate, known by its English-language name even in foreign countries, probably needs no introductions. Don’t limit your usage to the simplified interface displayed with your search results: “Translate xx into French”
It is recommended that you click on “Open in Google Translate”, or go straight to https://translate.google.co.uk/ where you will be able to translate 5,000 characters from one language to another. There is a vast range of language pairs offered, with nearly one hundred languages supported.
One little-known functionality of Google Translate is that it, too, can provide direct translation of a Word document.
The new interface, rolled-out a few months ago, is clearer about this than the previous one.
The “Documents” tab is now very prominently displayed: click on it and upload your file.
Select your language pair, in our example, English to French, and the automatic translation engine will also provide you with the results of your translation in French on-line, via a web page.
Here too, just like with Bing, the result is not a Word file so to speak. The on-line results broadly keep to your layout, all the while, nonetheless converting it into HTML web format.
A deftly executed copy-paste of the results page content into your Word document will give you something very similar to the source, with a few imperfections which you will have to correct.
The good news is that this new tab and Word file import option appears to do away with the 5,000 character cap. In our test, all 30,000 characters in our source Word document were translated in their entirety.
As to the translation itself?
The translation is the usual solid output for which Google is known, depending largely the subject matter.
See the response to previous questions, for counter-indications.
Note: the same type of service is available from another excellent on-line translator DeepL (by clicking on the link, “Translate a document”).
Note also that certain sites, like onlinedoctranslator.com, use Google Translate to recreate a Word document, with the original formatting of the Word file. A word of caution, however, as this (free) site is overrun by ads that make the user experience an unpleasant one.
Opting for professional translation of a Word document from English to French, with Ubiqus IO
our web translation application, Ubiqus IO, offers professional translation services by university-trained translators.
Compared to the two on-line services, Ubiqus IO does not offer instant output. However, as it is a fully on-line service, you can receive your estimate by uploading the source Word file, then place your order at any time of day or night. All the less hassle for you!
As a professional service, Ubiqus IO will need a bit of time to produce your English-French translation. The estimated delivery time for your document is offered to you automatically by the site, when you file (confidentially) your document. If you prefer a different deadline, just contact us and we will look together at what we can offer.
As specified above, yes, your Word file remains confidential, even once confidentially uploaded to our site. It is archived on the secure servers at Ubiqus Group.
The services provided at Ubiqus IO will be superior in quality to Bing or Google… And will thus not be free.
However, our site does offer some of the best rates on the market.
What’s more, Ubiqus IO will provide you with a Word document that is truly identical to the source file you provided, so that you will not be doing any copy-pasting.
The translation itself should also not require any re-writing from you. While there is no need that you speak French, if you do, you will not have to rack your brain to work out erroneous or convoluted translations as provided by on-line tools.
Our customer feedback speaks for itself:
Last and definitely not least,
Ubiqus IO is the solution for you when your source document does not deal with general content.
No non-specialised on-line translator will be able to provide a quality translation of a document in one of the areas found on our specialisation list: finance, legal, marketing, medical or pharmaceutical, scientific or technical.
So what are you waiting for? Request your on-line estimate at Ubiqus IO now for your Word document translation from English to French? It will only take a few seconds, the estimate being returned immediately, and does not require that you create an account (no e-mail address required).
The editorial team at Ubiqus IO thanks you for your attention.
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