12 Steps to Translation Utopia
Translation and localization can be a daunting undertaking for the inexperienced. To help you navigate the perils and pitfalls, we have put together a concise 12 point check list to help you get started.
1. Choose your translation provider with care – and remember, you get what you pay for.
When choosing a translation provider it is important to consider all of the factors to make the relationship between your company and your translator a good one. Always start by being very clear on what the ultimate goal is, this will make sure that any requirements of your company can be met by the service provider. As the cost of the translation increases so should the quality – of service, know-how and breadth of solutions. Most companies would be happy to provide any potential customer with a short translation to demonstrate the type of work they do, it is also important to ask about the linguist who will be working your specific project to get a feel for their work. A short translation test will also allow for you to set any type of guidelines as to how the translation will happen. Will they be using any type of glossary or maybe a style guide? Obviously it is important to discuss the price and how long the project should take since efficiency can play a big role in translation. But it is most important to make sure that your company and the translation provider are on the same page about the desired outcome from the project.
2. Always use humans in the translation process, whether freelancers or agency-based staff.
While technology has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade, human translator involvement is still essential to the translation process whether it be translation, editing, or machine translation post-editing. When translating across languages, often the literal translation of words will not convey the overall meaning of the piece. So, it is important to have a human translator involved in the process, whose job it is to understand idiomatic and subtle differences in languages; the subtleties that are often missed by machine translation engines. This kind of work should be conducted by someone who is a native speaker.
3. Get realistic deadlines for your translation projects and plan ahead to prevent a last-minute rush.
If the deadline for a translation project is not set realistically, translators may find themselves in a place where they are forced to rush to be able to finish a project. A rushed translation will rarely be as good as a translation done with sufficient time, as is also true with almost anything. In terms of translation quality over quantity is always important, to end up with a good quality translation it requires multiple proofreading rounds and hours of work. The average translator can finish a page containing 250 words per hour and works generally 8 hours a day, this means that on average 2000 words can be translated per day. A good translation process should have a realistic deadline set before work has even begun by all of the parties involved. It is very important that the deadline for a project is decided on unanimously to insure cooperation from both sides of the deal. For a reasonable deadline to be set, it is important that the translation agency be honest about their capabilities.
4. Avoid using too many translators on the same project. It will lead to style and consistency issues.
By avoiding the use of multiple translators on one project, the risk of having an inconsistent style is reduced. Any kind of inconsistent style can lead to confusion within the translation, a helpful way to avoid that confusion is by using tools like style guides or glossaries which provide a standard for translators to work off of which aides in maintaining a uniform translation. By creating a glossary, translators can be sure that terms are being correctly translated into target languages across the board. Consistency is the key to creating and keeping your company’s reputation by allowing your company to maintain a constant stance across all markets in a variety of different languages. An Aberdeen Group Report done in 2016 found that companies with consistent localized content saw over double the amount of ROI than companies that were not consistent with their content.
5. Remember different languages take up different amounts of space.
When considering translation from one language to another, the difference between the length of the two languages has to be taken into consideration. A lot of the time text will be placed into graphics or online sites that are specifically tailored to the size of the original text. If your company wishes to keep those original formats, it’ll be crucial to consider the differences in sizing. For example, Chinese and English start out as very compact texts, but when they are translated into other languages, typically language expansion occurs. It’s important to keep this idea in mind when creating the content you wish to be translated because the more flexible and the more white space the graphics have, the easier they will be to adapt across languages.
6. Keep in mind that every word has many possible translations.
Every language is complex in its own ways, in some languages words may exist to describe somethings while in others that idea doesn’t exist. This can create a multitude of problems when it comes down to translating different pieces, not only would a translator need to consider the literal meaning of the word but also the cultural connotations to insure that cross cultural translation maintains the same meaning. For example the English word ‘peck’ has multiple meanings in English but considering the word ‘peck’ in terms of bird when translated into French would be the equivalent of ‘Donner de coupe de la bec’ which would be ‘Attack with the front of the beak’ in English. There is no word for ‘peck’ in French so instead it has to be translated into an entirely equivalent sentence to give the context so that readers would understand in French.
7. Make sure that you have multilingual glossaries and relevant style guides in place.
A style guide represents the tone, syntax, and grammar that a company wishes to use. They can be created to help target a specific community or group of people. By creating them in multiple languages it helps translators keep a consistent message across all languages; that way any targeted marketing is not lost when moving from one language to another. Since a lot of translation is outsourced to different companies, style guides and glossaries help to unify the message by giving a better understanding of the type of media that the customer is looking for.
8. Provide as much context as possible and answer questions from your translator.
Since in-house translation is expensive to maintain, the logical option for almost every company looking to translate content, is to hire an outside company to do that work for them. But when hiring an outside company, it is crucial to make sure that they fully understand the context of the content you want translated. So providing an ample amount of information in regards to the content is extremely important if you want to make sure that the message is received universally. The types of information that you could provide are the targeted audience, a comprehensive review of any products, or even access to any products so that the language partner can get a feel for what it is that you are trying to convey.
9. Remember that translation is a profession not a hobby.
Professionally translating content from one language to another is a complex undertaking. With this in mind, you sho
uld consider hiring professionals. Unlike company employees or students, professional translators and agencies provide additional value in terms of their linguistics education, quality processes, and technology. While it may seem like savings can be made by using in-house staff, ‘casual translators’ or even students, don’t forget to consider that the value of your brand is at stake.
10. Note that numbers, units, dates, and times require localization.
Everything has to be localized! In the United States a date is presented month, day, then year whereas in almost every other country in the world the date is day, month, year. The same goes for numeric systems, everywhere in the world uses the metric system except for the U.S.. Localization is not only about translating words, it also takes into consideration the idea of cultural context. If you were to present time in military time in the U.S. a large portion of people would have a harder time understanding than if you presented military time anywhere in Europe. By making small changes like that to content, it provides a more personal touch to the audience that you are trying to target.
11. Consistently use the same translation providers repeatedly to boost consistency and reduce costs.
By going back to the same translation provider you are creating a relationship between the two companies. With each project the localization company will better understand the needs and wants of your company and be better suited to complete your work. Also by using the same translation provider you are insuring that the translations of all your content have a similar feel to them since they are being produced by the same people. Not only will using the same provider help the quality of your content but it can also reduce price points, if new content is similar to previously translated content, translators can use translation memories, and benefit from previously created glossaries and style guides. This could potentially reduce both cost and time on any new projects as well as ensuring quality.
12. Take advantage of Translation Memory (TM) and other translation technology.
Assets such as TM store translations from previously completed translation projects. The TM is then applied against subsequent projects to find matches or partial matches within text and automatically translate them. This allows for a reduction in turnaround time on a project since parts of the content are already pre-translated in addition to price reductions depending on the quantity of matching content. In addition to TM, there are quite a few different translation technologies that integrate such as TermBase, Translation QA tools, Translation Management Systems, so it is best to consult with your language service provider to determine your options.