The Translation People have been helping companies engage with clients in their own language for over 40 years, so it’s no surprise we have learnt a thing or two along the way. We have summarised in eight quick points some of the main areas where companies can really focus to improve their translation workflows, reduce costs and streamline processes.
1. Identify any content that already exists in the target language(s)
The first thing we ask companies when request a translation is whether they have had anything translated before, either by another agency, employees or local sales agents.
That’s because just like in English, there are many different ways of saying the same thing in another language, and it’s unlikely that the same thing would be translated in the same way twice. So to avoid having two different translations of the same content within your portfolio of translations, it’s key to pass over whatever you have to your chosen Language Service Provider (LSP) so they can match the tone and style. Approved, signed off translations are gold dust and should be used as a basis for style guides and Termbases (more about that later).
Almost as important as this is the cost factor. If you’ve had a manual, training course or report translated before, these previous translations can be used to reduce costs of new pieces containing similar content. The translation agency can add these translations to a Translation Memory (TM), which can then be used to identify anything identical or similar in new projects. The agency will (or should) charge you on a sliding scale based on these similarities.
Of course, previous translations aren’t always that useful – they may not be of the highest quality for a start – but managing this previous content carefully will allow you to identify where you can improve quality and reduce your costs.
2. Consider the market and how you may need to adapt the content accordingly
Another element which needs careful consideration is whether the content that you need translating is appropriate for your target market.
This is especially true of marketing material, where it is key to adapt the message and the style of the translation for the target market. If you don’t adjust the content in line with country preferences and use the same piece for all markets, chances are that it won’t be as effective from a marketing point of view, even if there is nothing wrong with the translation.
In addition, some countries are much more fact-driven in their marketing material than others, where more creative language may be preferred. Your translation partner should be able to help with this, but it’s also important for the company producing the material to consider whether a different message for the different audiences is required, based on their own market research.
You should also consider whether product names will remain the same in target countries, and whether technical standards and news stories that are referenced need adjusting or even deleting if they are not appropriate.
3. Create a Style Guide and Termbase
One of the key reasons for dissatisfaction with translations is that the ‘style’ or ‘tone of voice’ is not what the recipient is expecting. As mentioned in the first point of this guide, translation can be very subjective, especially when it comes to creative content, and what works for one person may not work for another. Of course, it is not always possible to create a translation that is written exactly as others would like it, but if you do have contacts who know your company and the market particularly well, they can be a great reference point to validate Style Guides and Termbases before translation takes place.
A Translation Style Guide will describe the level of formality required, the target audience and the key message you are trying to convey. Your Language Services Provider (LSP) will work with you to collate this information, which will then be passed to the translators to use as a reference.
Likewise, a Termbase is an extremely useful tool for improving satisfaction with translations. It is, in essence, a bilingual glossary that contains individual terms or phrases and the corresponding translations in a different language. If you already have sales staff who are selling your products in your target markets, chances are they will be familiar with the exact terms that need to be used in your foreign language content and can provide input that will help the LSP achieve maximum impact.
4. Consider how to handle complex file formats
The days of writing documents in MS Word alone are long behind us. Nowadays, companies often work directly in Content Management Systems (CMS), software authoring tools and InDesign files, or may require translation of a piece of video or audio.
A good translation agency will have access to technology that enables them to quickly retrieve the content that needs translating from the original format, translate it into another language and then return it to its native format, even if the content contains tags or coding that must not be altered.
With regard to website translation, tools exist that enable companies to identify any new or updated content which can then be pushed immediately into the translation agency’s systems and then, once translated, reintegrated back into the CMS.
These ways of working enable huge time and cost savings to be made, as well as avoiding potential mistakes if translated text is manually copied by a non-linguist, so if this sounds like the kind of content you produce or will produce in the future, make sure you ask your prospective agencies what workflows they propose for their translation.
5. Consider how to manage your translations and Translation Memories
Many people see the benefits of Translation Memory (TM) technology encompassed in two phrases: increased consistency and reduced costs. This is of course true, however if you do not manage the translation process correctly, TMs can become unwieldy and contain translations that haven’t been approved. If you are working with a good LSP, chances are that all the translations they do for you are collated into a TM. Any changes after the translation has been delivered, no matter how minor you think they are, should be passed on to the LSP to update the TM to ensure it is fully up to date (although careful consideration should be given to who should approve the translations – see point 6 below!)
Some LSPs will provide access to a cloud-based system, where reviewers can log on to review and approve translations, updating the TM in real time. The systems used vary from complex Translation Management Systems to simple review portals but there is certainly an argument for working in this way where there is a solid feedback loop in place.
Whichever option you choose, give some thought to the overall review process before commencing translation to make sure your TMs remain up-to-date.
6.Consider how to get the most from the review process
Involving local staff or agents in the translation process can be invaluable – they will know your company and the market better than most people. However, it can sometimes be more complex than you bargained for. Company politics can sometimes mean that reviewers’ opinions may be unjustifiably swayed. Alternatively, you may find different reviewers have different ideas of what is expected of them. Some may just read through the translation and make a tweak here or there, some may rewrite the translation because it’s not exactly as they would write it. So the key element here is to give clear instructions to the reviewers on what their scope is so that you can get a consistent level of review across all your languages.
Sometimes, two or more different reviewers can be allocated the task of reviewing translations: these individuals are likely to have different perspectives on what constitutes a good translation, so in scenarios such as this, it’s key that the reviewers work together to ensure that the Translation Memories are consistent in terms of their updates, otherwise the process can soon become redundant, with different translations in the Memory for the same terms.
However, there are other measures you can take to make the review process as painless as possible. Asking reviewers to collaborate on glossary creation and style guides before the translations start in earnest (see point 3) can ensure that the translations that are delivered are in line with the reviewers’ preferences.
Lastly, even if your translation has been professionally translated, reviewed by another translator and then reviewed again by your designated reviewer, it is often useful to have a final review before publication, especially if the translation is a key piece of content. Sometimes if content is transferred into a final format by someone who hasn’t been involved in the translation process, mistakes can occur and not be picked up, or sometimes an image associated with the text is added at the last moment, which means that the translation needs to change. It’s not always the case, but it’s certainly worth considering for key material.
7.Don’t judge an LSP on cost alone
Cost is important, of course, however it should not be looked at in isolation, especially as you often get what you pay for. Excessively low costs can be reflective of the use of non-professional translators or a process involving Machine Translation. This may fit your needs for some projects, but if you are translating key pieces of material such as marketing collateral or instruction manuals, the potential cost savings you could be making may be far outweighed by the adverse impact of a poor translation. That’s not to say that expensive translation agencies always get it right, so one of the best ways to work out if a company will produce the best quality for you is to ask for references. Find out who their top clients are and how long they have been working for them. Chances are if a company has been spending tens of thousands of pounds on translation services for the past ten years with an LSP, then they are doing something right!
8.Think about life after translation
So your translation is done and has been published – what next? If your translation helps you become a success, then chances are people will start interacting with you in their language – whether it’s prospective buyers who have seen your translated website or local employees who’ve just taken part in the code of conduct e-learning course you’ve translated – and in order to capitalise on these interactions, you need to have the infrastructure in place to respond quickly to your contacts. Whether you decide to have multilingual staff on hand to respond to queries or decide to ask your translation partner to help answer your social media notifications, translation is just the first step towards building successful multilingual campaigns.