Quality in translations can vary more than ever. Computer assisted translation (CAT) tools, translation robots and Google Search drive translators to work faster and clients to shorten deadlines (or is it the other way around?). That growing trend towards digitization is not always translation quality’s best friend. Still, there are ways to ensure you get optimal quality when ordering a translation. Discover these 5 tips.
1. Commit yourself to the translation
As project owner, imagine you are about to send out a text for translation into a dozen of languages. Go through the source document first. Check out for parts that could lead to misinterpretation or be hard to understand. If needed, go back to the source writer and request some updates. The zero fault principle will save much time and efforts afterwards. It will reduce the amount of questions from the twelve translators. It will also lessen the corrections to apply once translations are almost ready. Besides, translation quality will be better: no more question of ‘shit in, shit out’.
2. Give a detailed briefing about your translation assignment
The better you inform your translation agency about the job, the more translators will commit to delivering quality. As far as possible, think of including the following information in your instructions:
a. Translation file format
Obviously, your translation agency will immediately identify the format of the received file. Still, you might not always expect the same file format in the delivered translations.
Next to traditional Office files (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), you might also send PDF documents for translation. In this case, try to also provide the source file and specify the file format you wish to get as deliverable. Make sure as well the PDF file is editable. That's easy to check: it will be editable if you can highlight text content.
b. Images containing text to translate
The following is also important. If your source MS Word, Powerpoint or PDF file contains images with text, verify if the embedded text is editable. Not editable? Specify if you want a translation of that image text and which format the image text translations should have. It’s a good way to avoid sending files back and forth after translation delivery and hence not to lose time.
c. Type of audience
Tell translators who will read your translated document: a public or internal audience? With which kind of profile? Translators will then have a clearer understanding of your message and be able to better finetune the translation’s tone of voice. It will also help you to be a satisfied client.
d. Expected translation style (formal, informal)
Some languages are more formal than others by nature. Compare English to German and you’ll get the message. Imagine you have an English document to translate into German. Telling the translator which degree of (in)formality you want him to use will by no means be a luxury. Specifying that you wish a marketing approach or a technical style will also help.
e. Translation context and use
When you brief your copywriter to create a piece of text content, you give him/her a max of details, right? Product or service information, target group definition, usage -- email campaign, web site, post mail, brochure, … you name it. Well, that information is also important for translators and will raise their commitment.
f. Translation, adaptation or transcreation?
Specify the type of translation that you need:
- a translation will generally apply to documents such as user guides, contracts, letters, data sheets, and so on
- an adaptation will be suitable when you need marketing collaterals in several languages, like a piece of email, a brochure, a web page or a flyer. That requires a marketing style together with some subtle changes of the content to match the target group culture
- a transcreation goes even further. It will be a perfect fit for advertisements, social media posts, banners, posters, speeches and other creative contents. Transcreating requires the translators to rethink and reformulate the message. It is as if they would produce it from scratch in the target languages, based on a copywriter briefing. The result will not correspond sentence by sentence to the original. It may instead have omissions or show a different ordering based on what the translator deems appropriate
g. Preferred terminology
Handling translators a list of terms used before in your literature will help them to give you satisfaction. That is especially true for technical content but also for marketing, legal or administrative stuff. You don’t have glossaries at hand? Well, it’s never too late to start building one. Ask your translators to do so as from their next assignment. There are enough digital tools available on the market to do the job fast and efficiently. Besides, it will be an excellent investment for the long term, with a fast ROI.
h. Translation deadline
You want your translations back asap and that's only normal. Setting a deadline is always preferable, as for any production project. Be realistic, yet. Quality takes time. Your deadline should be in line with the text volume to translate, but also with the degree of difficulty and the translation type. In proportion, it takes more time to transcreate LinkedIn posts than to translate a smartphone user guide.
i. Contact person
Good translators ask questions. They want to be sure they fully understand the source content before getting to work. They want to remove doubts. They want to get the right terminology. So, they need a knowledgeable contact person within your organization who will be able to give fast and accurate replies.
j. Reference material for the translation
Don’t ask translators to reinvent the wheel – if at least the wheel already exists. Give them reference material such as previous publications, web pages url’s, pictures and drawings of what the content is about. Do that not only in the source language but also in the target ones, if available. It will mean for translators a dependable source of inspiration, including background information, terminology, slogans and much more!
Extra piece of advice to obtain quality translations
Do you assign translation jobs on a regular basis? Make your life easier and create a form with all the briefing items listed above. Listing instructions for your translators will then be more efficient and more complete every time.
3. Include translation proofreading in the process
No one knows your products or services better than yourself and your colleagues. Translators will never be able to reach the same level of inside knowledge. Proofreading is a good way though to fill the possible knowledge gap between people in your organization and external translators. Identify within your company native speakers for each of the target languages and ask them to proofread the received translations. Of course, those colleagues should be knowledgeable about the translation topic. Direct contact between proofreader and translator will help accelerating and optimizing the process. It will also reinforce commitment of both proofreaders and translators.
Read more about the importance of proofreading: https://www.connexion.eu/blog/why-proofreading-translations-must
4. Give feedback about quality
Now that your translated content is final and ready to publish, you should have a rather precise idea of how the translation quality rates. Inform translators of how good or how bad a job they did. Translators are not omniscient, but they know how to learn from experience… fast. Give them the opportunity to improve their knowledge by providing as much feedback as you can, from the proofreaders or the final users. This is worth the effort in the long term because it will optimize the translation quality you receive from the same translators over time. Do you lack resources to give translators detailed feedback? Provide them the final version of your translated content. They will then be able to judge for themselves and use that final version for later reference.
5. Use a professional translation agency that fits your needs
There are plenty of translations agencies out there but probably much less that can really fit your needs. How to screen them knowing that translation quality remains subjective? Experience in your field is a first criterion. Translation professionals who have already worked for your competition will understand your business better. Their learning curve will also be less steep. The use of digital tools is also key. An agency employing the latest digital technology for translation memories, glossaries, translation tools, workflow management and administration should be more time- and quality-efficient. Service remains one of the priority criteria. Behind the digital translation tools, you should be able to find service-minded human beings you can easily talk to. People who commit to the job.
You don’t always get optimal translation quality overnight
Building a trusted relationship with translators takes time. It requires them to get familiar with your business, people, style and preferred terminology. It requires you to ease their learning curve by providing them with detailed briefings and regular feedback about their translation work. It’s a small price to pay if you want to obtain the expected translation quality in the long run.