BlogGeneral ArticlesWe’re sorry but we can’t translate that: here’s why

We’re sorry but we can’t translate that: here’s why

We’re sorry but we can’t translate that: here’s why

As a long-standing translation agency with over 35 years’ experience, you’d expect us to be able to handle anything you could send our way. Most of the time we do and we provide a great service.

There are however a few occasions when the team at MTT may not be able to help - and there are usually good reasons why that would be the case.

We pride ourselves on our track record and want to offer our clients only the best possible translation service.

So, if your project has any of the following issues, we may politely decline or offer to pass you on to a supplier who may be better placed to assist

Poor quality source documents

If your source document is badly handwritten it’s quite possible we won’t be able to read it clearly enough. It would be foolish to undertake a translation without being certain what we were translating, especially as we are often asked to provide certified translations or work with documents which may affect safety. The consequences could be significant if the contents of medical notes, technical manuals or datasheets were not clear!

This does not mean that we won’t work with scanned legal documents, or handwritten medical reports for example, however we reserve the right to mark text as illegible rather than guess at what it might say. In extreme cases we may refuse to work with a very poor quality copy and would ask you to obtain a better version.

Your options:

Obtain a better copy if at all possible.

Translate as is, with parts marked illegible if necessary

Impossible deadlines

There are many translation companies to be found on the internet who offer 24 hour turnaround for document translation (or even faster). While we can work quickly where needed, we will never compromise on quality.

There can be significant disadvantages to splitting texts between several translators, so if that is what’s needed to meet your deadline we’ll make sure you understand the risks.

If a deadline seems far too short, we will not be able to help but can suggest other companies who may be able to help in a different way, for example with machine translation.

Your options:

Extend the deadline if at all possible

Return the most important sections first, with less important parts to follow

Split the text between a group of translators

If a text is split, add proofreading by a single proofreader to improve consistency if there is time

Try machine translation to get the gist of a document and ideally follow up with a professional translation for a more realistic deadline

It’s a matter of trust

We have a large pool of professional linguists whom we have worked with for many years and trust.

If, however, the combination of languages and specialist subject is really rare, or we have no translator we feel comfortable with for a particular short-deadline project, we may have to decline the assignment.

You can be confident then, that whenever we do take on a project, you’ll be getting a translation from someone who is well qualified and experienced that we know will do a great job.

Your options:

Rather than entrust work to someone we don’t know who may not produce the quality we are looking for, we would prefer to suggest alternative companies who you could work with.

Budget too low

Many clients who are new to language services do not appreciate the skill and time involved in understanding a source text and producing a quality translation. Where a budget is too low for a particular project we may not be able to work with you.

At MTT we only use experienced professional linguists who are trained translators and interpreters, not underqualified students or people who just happen to speak two languages. Their time comes at a cost, which is more than justified by the quality of the translation provided.

If your budget is restricted, we will endeavour to provide a cost-effective quotation or to suggest that just the most important parts of your document are translated, for example.

Like most translation agencies, we also work with computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools which create a database of previously translated text. This helps to keep your costs under control and also helps with consistency, enabling us to provide a quality service that represents good value for money.

Your options:

Translate only the most important parts of your document

Illegal or immoral subject matter

It goes without saying that we do not work with subject matter which is illegal or immoral.

So, if MTT cannot help you, there’s usually a good reason and we’d be very happy to discuss that with you and explore the options available.

If you have something to translate, get in touch now on We’ll be delighted to see if we can help.

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