Quality in translations can vary more than ever. Today, such things as Computer Assisted Translation (or CAT) tools, translation robots and, among others, Google Search, all 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 five tips.
1. Commit yourself to the translation
Imagine you are a project owner about to send out a text for translation into a dozen 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 approach will save much time and effort afterward. It will reduce the number 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
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 add the source file and specify the file format you wish to get as a 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 relevant. 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.
As a result, no fuss with emailing files back and forth after translation delivery and not time loss.
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 they will be able to 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: product or service information, target group definition, usage like email campaign, web site, post mail, brochure, you name it. Well, that information is also instrumental for translators and will raise their commitment.
f. Translation, adaptation or transcreation?
Specify the translation type that you need:
- a translation will generally apply to documents such as user guides, contracts, letters, datasheets, and so on.
- an adaptation will be suitable when you need marketing literature in several languages, like a piece of email, a brochure, a web page, or a flyer. That requires a marketing style plus subtle changes in the content to match the target group's culture.
- a transcreation goes even further. It will be a perfect fit for advertisements, social media posts, banners, posters, speeches, and other creative content.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 marketing, legal or administrative stuff. No 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, as a legitimate expectation. Setting a deadline is always preferable, as for any production project. Be realistic about that, yet. Quality takes time. Your deadline should be in line with the text volume to translate, the degree of difficulty, and the translation type. In proportion, it takes more time to transcreate LinkedIn posts than 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 within your organization a knowledgeable contact person 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 page URLs, pictures, and drawings related to the content. Do that not only in the source language but also in the target ones, if available. It will provide translators with 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 regularly? 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 the right method 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 to accelerate and optimize the process. It will also reinforce the 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 the translation quality rate. Inform translators of how good or how bad a job they did. Translators are not omniscient, but they know how to learn from experience and to do it fast. Allow them to improve their knowledge by providing as much feedback as possible from the proofreaders or the final users. It 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 translation agencies out there, but probably only a few that can fit your needs. How to screen them knowing that translation quality remains subjective? Experience in your field is the 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 of great importance. 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 find service-minded human beings you can easily talk to. Business professionals 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 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.